Cook Islands is stepping up its seabed minerals bid as it will host international agencies at the annual Underwater Minerals Conference (UMC) on Rarotonga next year.

Prime Minister Mark Brown made the announcement at a face-to-face debriefing last week following his attendance at the 2023 UMC conference in Rotterdam, Netherlands earlier this month.

The Underwater Minerals Conference (UMC) is an annual international forum, with representatives from over 25 countries that since 1970 has brought the marine minerals community together. UMC is the world’s largest gathering of ocean mineral stakeholders, including government, academic, and commercial sector.

Brown said it will be the first time the conference has been hosted in the Pacific and there had already been a lot of interest from people wanting to attend the conference here next year.

Topics considered for inclusion in the conference include geological and biological studies of marine minerals deposits and their associated biological communities, regulatory considerations related to mineral resource and environmental impact assessment, technological considerations related to scientific survey objectives and commercial recovery objectives, and general policy considerations related to the long-term development of these resources.

The seabed minerals theme continued with Brown, in attending an invite only meeting with the International Energy Agency in France, confirming the theme was the supply of critical metals needed for the transition to green energy.

“This was an invitation only conference, so I was fortunate to receive an invitation from the executive director, based on particularly, our seabed minerals programme which we have running, and the importance of critical metals for the world’s supply.

“We had at this conference countries that are heavily involved in the supply of critical metals and mining, we had huge mining corporations like Rio Tinto, BHP, we had various ministers from governments around the world, African companies represented, Asian countries, the Americas at this, and we were the only Pacific country that was represented there, and the only country that was talking about minerals from the seabed perspective.”

Brown said the majority of discussions in the lead up to the event centred around climate change, and the need for countries to reduce carbon emissions, “the need for countries like ours to build resilience against the impacts of climate change”.

The Prime Minister also attended the Green Climate Fund (GCF) Pledging Conference in Germany.

“They are looking to replenish their funds, so they had a target of $10 billion to be raised, they got to $10b, but they expect to exceed that amount of money with pledges to come in from the likes of the United States, Australia yet to make an announcement, and a number of other countries,” Brown said.

“It’s to help the GCF help countries at risk of climate change, help countries roll out into renewable energies, solar, wind and so forth.”

Brown also said his attendance of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, was an historic occasion, as he was able to speak behind our name, the Cook Islands, and behind our flag, which “was recognition of the independence of our country”.

From there, it was formal recognition of diplomatic relations with the United States which went a long way to removing any uncertainties about the Cooks relationship with the U.S, he said.

“Now the Cook Islands can deal directly with US agencies, with U.S companies in the private sector, without what was previously the understanding of what was the status of our independence as a country, so that has been put to rest.

“This recognition by the U.S now means the top 10 countries in the world recognising the Cook Islands and having formal diplomatic relations with the Cook Islands.

“It’s a huge step towards our recognition in the United Nations General Assembly, time will tell, whether we get out flag to be flying in the General Assembly Hall as well, said PM Brown.