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James Davies, a former Geology student at the University of Leicester, talks about his current placement on the Cook Islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean

Posted by lcb14 at Mar 11, 2014 01:35 PM |
James Davies, tell us more about what it's like working on the Cook Islands.
James Davies, a former Geology student at the University of Leicester, talks about his current placement on the Cook Islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean

James Davies in the Cook Islands

Where are the Cook Islands?

The Cook Islands is a Pacific Island country, composed of 15 islands, and associated state with New Zealand. I am based on the largest island, Rarotonga, which is only 34km all the way around, and has a population of around 15,000 people.

What am I doing here?

I am currently working for the Cook Islands Seabed Minerals Authority on manganese nodules within the country's "exclusive economic zone". The exclusive economic zone extends about 200 nautical miles outside of any ocean-bound country's land area, and is used to mark a country’s marine resources. This usually relates to fish stocks (and other resources), but nowadays it is also incorporating deep sea oil and gas, and deep sea mining zones. Although deep sea mining is not currently a commercial operation, it has the potential to be a large industry in the next couple of decades. Manganese nodules are rock concretions on the seafloor, about the size of golf balls. They tend to form around a central object, such as a fish tooth, and contain elevated levels of important elements such as cobalt, nickel, copper, platinum and rare-earth elements. They form at great depths, around 5000m, over millions of years.

I am currently working on analysing the nature of the sediment that enclose the nodules. As with all deep sea mining activities, environmental impacts are a key issue. If the sediment is not cohesive, then placing a mining machine on the seafloor will disturb the sediment, causing plumes and other problems which need to be accounted for.

How did I find out about this opportunity?

It’s all about the contacts, chasing leads, and (I have to admit) a lot of luck was involved as well! A former lecturer at the University of Leicester took up a role in Fiji, working for an organisation called SOPAC. I emailed him about possible work experience in the Pacific Islands, and he spoke to a few of his connections and managed to organise a placement with the Cook Islands Seabed Minerals Authority. So yes, I have been incredibly fortunate!

If you want to ask me any questions, then feel free to drop me an email.

James graduated last year in Geology at the University of Leicester.

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