Tuvalu reverses controversial decision to sponsor seabed mining


Tuvalu’s government has rescinded its support to explore deep sea mining in the country’s waters.

The government had sponsored mining firm Circular Metals Tuvalu last December to apply for an exploration permit with the International Seabed Authority.

But Foreign Minister Simon Kofe said the government has now reversed the sponsorship.

“After concerns by the by the government as well as within particularly the foreign ministry, we’ve had to rescind that support that we had initially given last year,” Kofe said.

Kofe said the seabed mining sponsorship was a result of legislation passed by the former government, which allowed a seabed minerals authority to support Circular Metals Tuvalu’s bid.

But, the minister said his government was now “standing firm” in its opposition to the activity.

“We think that it’s the best way to approach the seabed mining issue, particularly in the areas beyond the jurisdiction of Tuvalu is not just to ignore it,” Kofe said.

“I think the part that we can play is to ensure that we set very high standards or the environmental issues that are involved in requirements, which could then hopefully discourage companies from from pursuing it, because it’ll be very costly.”

Meanwhile, Minister Kofe said the Tuvalu government was against a proposed security treaty between Solomon Islands and China, which could establish a Chinese military presence in the Pacific.

“We hope it doesn’t go ahead,” Minister Kofe said.

“But, at the same time, we don’t want the Pacific to be a pawn in the geopolitics of the region.”

Tuvalu is one of the few Pacific countries that maintains a diplomatic relationship with Taiwan.

Solomon Islands had a similar relationship with Taiwan — which is considered a rogue breakaway province by Beijing — but in 2019 the government severed these ties in favour of China.

“It’s concerning to us, particularly because of our affiliation with Taiwan,” Kofe said.

“But having said that, we do respect the sovereignty of Solomon Islands and the sovereign decision to enter into arrangements with China,” he said.