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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Northern Territory leads the way with experimental sea bed mining ban


No mining or exploration permits will be issued for the Territory’s sea bed until 2015 after the NT Government announced a temporary ban.
The moratorium, announced today, means exploration permits and mining permits for bulk materials in coastal waters will not be granted for the next three years.
The moratorium will allow a comprehensive assessment on the potential impact of sea bed mining by the Environmental Protection Agency.
There had been a surge of applications to explore for minerals off the Territory coast.
Traditional owners in East Arnhem Land and the Northern Land Council joined forces to oppose seabed mining in particular off Groote Eylandt where the Anindilyakwa Land Council strongly opposed an undersea manganese mining project.
The moratorium does not include petroleum exploration and production and port development.
Minister for Resources Kon Vatskalis said the NT Government wanted to determine the impact of exploration and mining activity associated with bulk commodity sea mining.
“The assessment process will involve the Environmental Protection Agency and the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority who will be tasked with reviewing various issues around sea bed mining,” he said.
“We will also be seeking to work with the other states and territories on developing a nationally consistent approach to sea bed mining.”

Experimental seabed mining moratorium makes room for science

By Liz Trevaskis

The ocean floor could be the next frontier for Australian mining, but seabed mining won't begin for at least another three years in the Northern Territory.
Yesterday, the Northern Territory Government announced a moratorium on seabed mining.
It's a move that's been welcomed by Aboriginal land councils, but has come as a shock to some in the mining industry.
But a CSIRO scientist says its a good window of opportunity to learn more about what lies deep beneath the ocean surface.
Earth science and resource engineer Dr Chris Yeats says there's not a lot of seabed mining happening around the world at the moment.
And he says the operations that are occurring are generally in shallow waters.
"In terms of Australia there's only a couple of seabed mining operations, and they're both sand mining operations.
"There's also quite a lot of exploration of the deep ocean floor in the South Pacific, they're actually looking primarily for metals, things like copper, zinc, gold, silver."
"We know more about the surface of Mars and Venus than we know about the deep ocean floor, broadly speaking it is a great unknown."
However he concedes when it comes to seabed mining, it's not a question of if, but when.
"Obviously we want to do this in the most environmentally responsible way possible.
"And I guess these are the questions the Northern Territory Government is trying to have answered through their moratorium.
"We don't really know enough about the ocean floor to make an informed decision as to whether mining the sea bed in Australia is a good idea."

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