Manganese nodules are potato-shaped rocks that sit on the seafloor surface at water depths generally between 4000m to 6000m below sea level. These nodules are rich in nickel, copper, manganese and cobalt; metals which are essential to everyday life and building vital infrastructure in developing countries.
Marawa's proposed scientific research and exploration program will involve seafloor mapping, manganese nodule sampling as well as environmental baseline studies and environmental impact assessments in international waters.
Marawa's exploration application has been made in the Clarion Clipperton Zone ("CCZ") of the North East Pacific Ocean. Kiribati has naturally been interested in the CCZ exploration activities given that this region extends into Kiribati's own Exclusive Economic Zone, and the ISA Contractor/Reserved Area blocks are situated only 80 nautical miles from Kiribati's EEZ boundary; making Kiribati the closest State in the world to these ISA blocks, and giving Kiribati a heightened interest to ensure that the activities in the CCZ are carried out in an environmentally responsible manner to ensure no adverse impacts are caused to Kiribati's own marine environment. Indeed, the manganese nodule belt in Kiribati waters is an extension of the deposits found in the CCZ, and increasing the knowledge of the minerals and environment in the CCZ will simultaneously increase Kiribati's knowledge of the minerals and deepsea environment within its own EEZ. By joining other States in the deep sea exploration effort, Kiribati intends to advance its knowledge of deep sea manganese nodules as well as contribute to the advancement of scientific knowledge in the international seabed area.
To undertake the at-sea program Marawa will adopt world's best environmental practice.
Kiribati's offshore minerals strategy places special emphasis on environmental protection and reinforces the Government's commitment to pursue offshore activities utilizing the precautionary approach and environmental best practice principles.
Kiribati's commitment to environmental protection is further exemplified by its creation of the world's second largest Marine Protected Area encompassing over 400,000 square kilometers, safeguarding coral reefs and other marine habitat and biodiversity in the Pacific Ocean. In 2008, Kiribati became a global conservation leader by establishing the world's largest Marine Protected Area (today the second largest Marine Protected Area after the UK's Chagos Protected Area). The Phoenix Islands Protected Area ("PIPA") conserves one of the Earth's last intact oceanic coral archipelago ecosystems, consisting of eight coral atolls and two submerged reef systems in a nearly uninhabited region of abundant marine and bird life. The 410,500 square kilometer (158,453 square mile) protected area also includes seamounts and other deep-sea habitat. Kiribati first declared the creation of PIPA at the 2006 Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Brazil. On January 30, 2008, Kiribati adopted formal regulations for PIPA that more than doubled the original size to make it the largest Marine Protected Area on Earth at the time.