The Deep Pacific: Island Governance and Seabed Mineral Development, AAG TPA 2014.

2014 Sammler, K. The Deep Pacific: Island Governance and Seabed Mineral Development. Association of American Geographers, Tampa, FL 8–12 Apr.

SESSION TITLE: Interdisciplinary perspectives on the governance of Islands I-III

SESSION ORGANIZER(S): Elaine Stratford, University of Tasmania

ABSTRACT: Only within the last few years have economic motivations and technological advancements made deep seabed mining a realistic possibility. Seabed mining uses untested technology to remove precious metals from the sea floor, with the potential to increase toxicity and turbidity in the water column. The UN Law of the Sea’s extension of national territory 200 nm into the ocean created a new space for exploitation, extraction and accumulation. Pacific island nations are presumed gain the most from developing their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), as it increased small island territories by orders of magnitude. Papua New Guinea, first to issue a permit for EEZ mineral development, has subsequently been in a legal battle with the Nautilus Corporation over their mining contract and more than 20,000 citizens near the site petitioned to halt the project. New Zealand recently approved the first step towards mining its seabed ironsands, while in the meantime amending a bill to allow their Defence Force to arrest and detain anti-mining protesters in their EEZ. Clearly stakes are high for state and corporate interests, but also for those trying to maintain the legitimacy of these resources as a public asset, rather than a private commodity. Institutional nascence and untested mining technologies come together to produce a dangerous socio-ecological experiment.

In the face of myriad management challenges posed to Pacific island nations by seabed development: How are conventional environmental governance schemes being reconfigured to confront ocean resource governance? To what extent are issues of economic fairness and environmental impacts being addressed?


Graduate and Professional Student Council, $500.