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Les ressources minérales profondes en Polynésie française / Deep-sea mineral resources in French Polynesia

Pierre-Yves Le Meur
Pierre Cochonat
Carine David
et al.

English Version


Lionel Beffre, Édouard Fritch et Jean-Paul Moatti

Texte intégral

1Deep-sea mineral resources have become a major international issue, especially in the countries and territories in the Pacific Ocean. Given the sheer scale of the French Polynesian exclusive economic zone (5 million sq. km), scientists and public decision-makers have begun to look more closely at the full extent and likely value of the resources.

2This potential needed to be evaluated more precisely in light of the scarcity of certain metals essential to our high-tech world and the depletion of mineral resources on the land masses.

3Against this background, in 2015, the French government and French Polynesia entrusted the IRD (Institut de recherche pour le développement) with an inter-national, multidisciplinary expert group review on deep-sea mineral resources and the conditions under which they could be exploited.

4This review describes the current state of knowledge about the resources and analyses the economic opportunities in full scientific objectivity.

5It highlights the world-class exploitable potential of the cobalt-rich crusts (which should not be confused with “rare earths”) in French Polynesia.

6For all that, there is still a long way to go before the resource can be commercially developed and there will first be a necessary exploratory phase. In their review, the experts have set out the different stages on the road to industrial processing of the mineral assets.

7What is more, the set-up of an economically viable sector must go hand-in-hand with guarantees to preserve the ecosystems and protect socio-economic and cultural uses of the marine environment.

8These are all key issues to be addressed by the partnerships and initiatives duly implemented by French Polynesia, with the French government’s backing.

9The IRD is honoured to have been entrusted by the French government and French Polynesia with its fourteenth expert group review on the theme of deep-sea mineral resources in French Polynesia, a sensitive topic critical to the country’s development.

10French Polynesia is endowed with an enormous exclusive economic zone, alone accounting for half of the vast French maritime area. The issues involved in the conservation and sustainable exploitation of oceans, seas and marine resources are many and significant, and they are reflected in goal 14 of the new UN agenda for sustainable development. There is a need for deeper knowledge and more innovative technology in order to provide development solutions tailored to the cultural, socio-environmental, economic and political context of French Polynesia. The expert group review was conducted in this spirit.

11It is pleasing to see that this demanding exercise was completed with such diligence and enthusiasm by a multidisciplinary panel of experts including anthropologists, economists, biologists, geographers, legal experts, and specialists in geoscience and technology. They have once again demonstrated the rich possibilities of an interdisciplinary approach and the wealth of information afforded by a formalised, collaborative review surveying both established facts and the scientific uncertainties that remain for a given topic.

12The dual request for this expert review from the French government and the country is itself a sign that we are coalescing around a shared vision and I am delighted by the joint approval of the conclusions and recommendations that lay the foundation upon which informed public policies can be discussed and built.

13Many thanks to the sponsors and the contributors for this constructive collaborative effort, which once again proves that when science and public policy join in dialogue, they can effect change and make a decisive contribution to sustainable and human territorial development.

© IRD Éditions, 2016

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