Tenders open today in the Cook Islands for exploratory seabed mining in the country's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Ten blocks, each covering 11,000 square kilometres, are available for exploratory licences in the Cook Islands two million square kilometre EEZ.
The country's Sea Bed Mining Authority says it has had serious expressions of interest from Japan, Korea, China, the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom.
The Authority's head Paul Lynch says while companies would be making commercial decisions the government would be basing its decision on social and environmental factors.
He says it will take up to five years for companies to conduct scientific surveys of the seabed to assess if mining would be commercially viable.