The people of Tonga is echoing a strong stance of saying no to deep sea mining and asking government to save the ocean, their people and their children.
Using the Civil Society Forum of Tonga (CSFT) network, the people are raising concerns on government’s decision to issue the exploration license to Tonga Offshore Minerals Limited (TMOL) without any proper consultations with the people whose livelihood will be affected.
The island wide zoom consultation, orchestrate with the theme “Fofola e Fala- Roll out the mat let’s sit down and Talanoa- Save our Ocean” held on the eve of our National Day, was significant in commemorating the country’s 145 years old Constitution.
While there’s no clarity whether the government has yet or have signed the Contract with TMOL, this negotiating business have a disadvantage on the people.
The Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, Tonga Council of Churches, Pacific Council of Churches, Pacific Island Association of Non-Government Organizations and CSFT jointly creating awareness, highlighting the concerns of the people on seabed mining and amplifying their voices to the national level.
The Honorable Prime Minister of Tonga, Rev. Dr. Pohiva Tui’onetoa has confirmed government’s commitment to conserve the ocean as source of livelihood to the people of Tonga at the same time, welcome the UN calls for the Decade of Science and the moratorium on Sea bed mining.
Rev Dr. Tevita Koloa’ia Havea, Secretary General of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga reminded the Government of our custodian responsibility as steward of the Land and our Ocean wealth.
“The Ocean was created for you and me,” Rev Dr Havea said.
Rev. Dr. Sela Manu Director of the Women’s Department of the Free Wesleyan of Tonga, cautioned the government that ‘not all things that glitters are gold’ and to be mindful that foreign companies are not forcing us into a situation that will hurt us in the future.
Message, from the consultations was loud and clear that Deep Sea Mining should not be considered as an economic investment.
The people says “It is not made for opportunist politician or profiteering investors who will become richer at the suffering of the people of Tonga now and the future.”
The island wide zoom resulted in all the islands saying NO to Deep Sea Mining both in Tonga’s EEZ and the AREA (International waters).
The Islands, according to Mr. Drew Havea have drawn the red line No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! in line of respect for their people, their lives and their sovereignty.
There’s also a unanimous call from the people of ‘Eua Islands to the Government of Tonga that summed up the emotions of the people saying to Deep Sea Mining “NOT on my island, NOT on my region and NOT on my world”.
Young participants also questioned government whether their lives and the lives of their children matter, adding they are the generations that will suffer and be affected by Deep Sea Mining.
TOML is a subsidiary of DEEP GREEN, a company sponsored by the Government of Tonga to explore and eventually, when International Seabed Authority (ISA) regulation passed, extract an annual 3 million tons of mineral ore from the bottom of the ocean. Representative of Deep Green and Ministry of Lands & Natural Resources also claim their proposed actions would merely to pick nodules off the ocean floor without disturbing the environment.
However, The CEO for Environment and Climate Change warns of the irreversible nature of Deep Sea Mining, saying “the ocean makes us one.”
According to the Deputy Chief Executive Officer and heads of Geology Division the contract with TOML will pay Tonga USD$2 per ton of mineral ore, an income of USD$6 million annually.
But the Vava’u outer Island women are shocked, that the government is selling one ton of their wealth for the price of a green coconut.
“The Government is gambling with the riskiest business in our ocean, the very source of our people’s livelihood and gambling with our life,” CSFT Board Chairman Drew Havea said.
They said decisions to explore and the potential of mining does not add up. The Ministry of Fisheries data shows Snappers brings and annual revenue of USD$1 million and Tuna USD$7.5 million, and that’s with a small fleet of fishing boats. Beche-de-mer is a multi-million-dollar export with potential to be more.