PRESS RELEASE 21/06/2023
If Tonga consents to deep sea mining, it is important for the people and the government to know what are the risks and liabilities involved, says US lawyer, Lori Osmundsen.
Osmundsen, who authored the Civil Society Forum of Tonga commissioned report titled, “Tonga and Deep Sea Mining: An Evaluation of Legal Frameworks, Obligations, Liability Risks, and Measures for Strengthening the Kingdom’s Capacities with Regard to Environmental Impact Assessment”, said Tonga needs to understand its responsibilities with regards to its national laws and international laws.
“It is important to learn from Nauru’s experience, particularly, the technology utilised in order to understand how DSM might impact Tonga should it consent,” Osmundsen said.
The report which was launched in Nukualofa, Tonga on the margins of the Fifth PSIDS Regional Training and Capacity Development workshop organised in the context of the Abyssal Initiative for Blue Growth, 20-22 June 2023, Tanoa International Hotel, Nuku’alofa, Tonga reviewed legislations and environmental impact assessments (EIAs) done by the Nauru Government on technology used by the deep sea mining company, NORI.
“The lessons learnt from Nauru’s experience were, there were a lot of problems with the process in the conducting of the EIA. The EIA was conducted by the government of Nauru and NORI, and not by an independent body,” she said.
She said there was lack of transparency, not enough public engagement and consultations, very little opportunities for people to join to hear about what will be done and there was insufficient information in the report from the deep sea mining company with regards to the impact on the deep sea ecosystem.
“In addition, there was not enough time to go through the reports to make an informed decision, but rather it was rushed into. Those problems can be expected to happen in Tonga”, Osmundsen said via video during the launch. Ms. Osmundsen said there is only one deep sea mining contractor in Tonga which is Tonga Offshore Mining Limited (TOML), but it is Tonga’s responsibility to be aware of what the company is doing.
“If TOML fails to meet any regulations or in the case of fraud, Tonga will be responsible for the damages caused and any liability caused by the contractor.” CSFT board chairman, Drew Havea said the report will be an importance reference also because it outlines options and recommendations to help improve Tongan laws to safeguard the environment and people in light of DSM operations.
“CSFT is particularly happy that the report outlines ways in which the process of conducting EIAs can be improved if DSM commences in Tonga,“ Havea said.
The launch was attended by approximately 30+ representatives from communities, secondary and tertiary schools, non-governmental organizations and faith-based organizations at Tanoa Hotel.
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(Lomi e la’itaa ke faka’ata lahi)