regulation of seabed mineral activity
The primary piece of national legislation regulating Seabed Mineral Activity is the Seabed Minerals Act 2009, which came into force
1 March 2013.
Environmental considerations are currently covered by the Environment Act 2003, with further regulations planned in order to align it with seabed mineral activity.
review of 2009 sbm act
The Authority in conjunction with relevant agencies are currently reviewing the SBM 2009 Act. Extensive public consultations have been carried out across Rarotonga and throughout the outer islands updating the people of the Cook Islands on the SBM sector. Feedback on the Bill was collated, reviewed and filtered into the final draft of the SBM Bill 2019. The SBM Bill was passed during a Parliament sitting on June 13th 2019.
Please find the SBM Act 2019 below as well as the explanatory note which explains the draft bill. Summary report on the consultation process can also be found below.
relevant sbm documents
Other relevant Cook Islands legislation.
united nations convention on the law of the sea (unclos)
UNCLOS relates to the international agreement which defines the rights and responsibilities of nations in their use of the world's oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources.
The Cook Islands is a contracting party to UNCLOS and, as a coastal state, enjoys certain rights to explore and exploit the mineral resources of the seabed. The nature and extent of the rights enjoyed in these zones differs and is determined based on the distance of the area of seabed from the coast of the Cook Islands.
Of particular relevance is the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). This is where the bulk of nodules are located. The EEZ is the area of sea, seabed and subsoil from 12 to 200 nautical miles offshore. In the EEZ, the Cook Islands enjoys 'sovereign rights', conferred for the purposes of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing natural resources of the waters, seabed and subsoil.
UNCLOS not only confers rights to natural resources but also imposes certain obligations. These obligations are couched in a general duty owed to the international community to "protect and preserve the marine environment". This duty is meant to ensure that the measures a coastal state adopts to regulate and control activities likely to affect the marine environment are consistent with the purposes of UNCLOS.
The draft National Seabed Minerals Policy places an emphasis on ensuring that the principles and measures adopted by Government should be reflective of international regulatory best practices and recent developments in the seabed minerals sector. For example the principle relating to environmental management calls for the application of "internationally accepted principles and standards of environmental protection including the precautionary principle". This reflects on a policy level the Cook Islands intention for the regime to be compatible and consistent with the provisions of UNCLOS.
Furthermore, the Seabed Minerals Act makes provisions for the protection of the marine environment and refers to the Environment Act 2003 and the Marine Pollution Act 1998.
Last updated: 6 May 2019