“I recently spent eight days holidaying on your beautiful island and was privy to two very public conversations which were deeply disturbing to me,” wrote John Hansen in a letter to the editor of CINews on Monday.
“After much consideration, I feel I have a responsibility to alert you to the contents of those conversations, which took place on Thursday, November 15 (two people) and Saturday, November 17 (the same two people plus one other).
“The discussions concerned the mining of nodules on the seabed surrounding the island of Rarotonga and how they could best proceed to obtain approvals, and then how to tie up the rights.
“The obvious leader of the group consistently said that they (the group), were to work with only those government officials and individuals that offered the least line of resistance, and to avoid headlines and people who opposed the idea of mining the sea floor.
“The leader believed that from a public relations viewpoint, the push should be to positively highlight the benefits and wealth this mining of the sea bed would bring to the islands and to this and future generations.”
Hansen, who comes from Australia, says one of the group asked what the lifespan and viability of the project would be and the leader answered, “20-25 years at best”.
“That’s roughly half of one generation!” says Hansen.
He says the group leader added that once tacit approval was evident, top negotiators would be sent in to ensure the best deal could be done in their favour.
“To maximise their position, he (the group leader) said these people were experts at dealing with government.
“The leader went on to say once they get the go-ahead they will import seabed legal experts to tie up the legal rights so they will have total protection from government or any other competitors.
“The discussion then led to the viability of the project. The leader stated that the current price of $45,000 to $50,000 per tonne was profitable at the current prices. He said if the price was back up around $75,000 to $80,000, the place would be swarming with other potential prospectors trying to tie up the rights.”
Hansen says the Cook Islands and its waters are pristine, and he has a warning for this country.
“Nature has taken millions of years to make it that way. The lure of big dollars and an economic windfall for the nation is attractive.
“Mining worldwide has destroyed the environment in which it operates- just look at Nauru and Christmas Island. Their economies are in tatters and the islands are totally degraded.
“Cook Islands, think hard and long before you allow the mining.
“These people espousing the benefits will take their profits and be long gone before the whole thing implodes.”
Meanwhile a story in CINews last week which revealed opposition to seabed mining at one of the consultation meetings, has drawn criticism from deputy prime minister and minerals and natural resources Mark Brown.
In an email to CINews editor Cameron Scott last week, headed “Biased reporting”, Brown said he was disappointed at the “negative” reporting by CINews at the Titikaveka seabed minerals meeting.
“A secret recording was taken of the meeting with the intention of CINews trying to sabotage government attempts at an informed public debate,” wrote Brown.
“At least try to give both sides of the debate. And why use a secret recording, is this some sort of conspiracy that the media is hatching?”
CINews pointed out to Brown that it had previously covered the government’s side of the debate on several occasions, and that readers were entitled to know both sides of the story.
The newspaper’s coverage of the Titikaveka meeting is also known to have annoyed Seabed Minerals Commissioner Paul Lynch.