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The National Offshore Minerals Committee set up by the Government of Vanuatu is preparing to resume consultations on the Seabed Mining Policy draft at the end of April. These nationwide consultations will continue until the end of June or early July, 2015, according to the Acting Commissioner of Mines at the Geology and Mines Unit, Brooks Rakau.

First consultations on the Seabed Mining Policy draft were held during the Vanuatu Deep Sea Minerals Conference at the Chiefs’ Nakamal in Port Vila on October 7, 8, and 9, 2014.

At that time, the organizers were privileged to bring in members of the Malvatumauri council of chiefs to have consultations with them on the Seabed Mining Policy draft.

Rakau said that during that consultation they also invited members of Parliament, NGOs, church leaders and by bringing in these people they tried to take an inclusive approach in the consultation process.

“We were also fortunate to bring in an expert on contract law from the US, Christiana Ochoa from the Indiana University Maurer School of Law; Richard Johnson, an Applications Manager, EEZ, of the Environmental Protection Authority of New Zealand who approved a license for proposed phosphate mining in NZ, to give his story; an expert on Deep Sea Mining from SP Commission, Alison Swaddling, the SPC-EU DSM Project Environment Advisor, representatives of the two licensed companies in Vanuatu — Nautilus and Bismarck, and a consultant from PNG among others to give their perspective on the subject of deep sea mining,” the Acting Commissioner of Mines said.

“It was a good consultation because we had experts with us and they contributed to the consultation and any queries we had we were able to raise these with them.”

The Pacific Institute of Public Policy (PIPP) was requested and they agreed at short notice to produce an outcome document. They have produced a draft and during the month of November last year, the National Offshore Minerals Committee that drafted the Seabed Mining Policy and is coordinating the public consultations has commented on the Chiefs Nakamal DSM consultation outcome document draft and was sent back to PIPP for finalization.

Rakau said they are yet to receive the final document that will be circulated to the public.

“One thing that came out of the consultation is that the chiefs of Malvatumauri asked us to take the consultation down to the community level. The challenge now is funding, but we are working to secure funding,” he added.

In an earlier email message Rakau put the costs of the consultations at Vt10 million.

“While we are talking about Deep Sea Mining Policy, our friends at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are talking about a National Oceans Policy. And what the Oceans Policy wants to look at is to take a holistic approach to get legitimate users of ocean their views. For example if we find that there is a fishing ground, then there is no need to issue a mining prospecting license over that area,” he continued.

It is intended that when they go to consult for deep sea mining policy they will also talk about oceans policy draft, so that they make use of their limited resources and carry out two consultations simultaneously.

Now, they want to give enough time for the drafting of the Oceans Policy to complete, while they put together materials and avoid cyclones before starting from end of April and run to end of June/July.

“We don’t want to start now during cyclone season and get stranded halfway due to weather conditions that can affect our programs. It will be a nationwide consultation and will be expensive but we will select some sites to hold the consultations,” Rakau added.

After they get back to Port Vila they plan to convene a big summit in October this year to finalize everything.

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