Jacqueline Breen | ABC News | 16 May 2018
The Northern Territory Government has quietly extended a moratorium on seabed mining.
- The moratorium on seabed mining was implemented in 2012
- It will now remain in place until 2021
- The extension was never publicly announced by the NT Government
The ban, prompted by concerns about potential environmental impacts, was put in place for three years by the-then Country Liberals in 2012 and extended for another three years in 2015.
It put a pause on growing interest in deposits of manganese along the coast of Arnhem Land and the Gulf of Carpentaria.
The ABC confirmed that the moratorium, which was due to expire, will now remain in place until 2021, although there has been no public announcement.
A report into the impacts of excavating the seabed for minerals is still not complete five years after it was first commissioned, and a spokesman for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said it had requested more time.
“Seabed mining is a highly complex activity and [the department] wants to be certain that any report it prepares is fully considered,” the spokesman said.
The spokesman said the department and the Environment Protection Authority aimed to provide a final report to the Northern Territory Government early next year after a public consultation process.
Doug Daws is the former chairman of mining company Northern Manganese, which had tenements revoked when seabed mining was banned permanently around Groote Eylandt in 2013.
He said he was unsurprised that the issue had not progressed.
“The Northern Territory Government is a basket case,” Mr Daws said.
“I’d venture to suggest that despite their promises they were going to do studies to find out what could or couldn’t be done, they’ve probably done absolutely nothing.”
There are 14 applications for exploration permits currently lodged with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Extension ‘good news’ for traditional owners, recreational fishers
News of the moratorium’s extension has been welcomed by groups with concerns about seabed mining, but environmental campaigners continue to call for a permanent ban.
A seabed mining industry would threaten marine life, water quality and culturally significant sites, said Adele Pedder from the Australian Marine Conservation Society.
“Seabed mining is like bulldozing the marine floor,” she said.
“We know that there’s many places across the Territory coast where seabed mining has already been approved or where applications to mine exist.
“This moratorium will only delay dealing with those, when we believe we should have a permanent ban on seabed mining and that’s the only way we could protect those areas.”
An extension was a common-sense decision, said Joe Morrison, CEO of the Northern Land Council.
“Obviously there needs to be further detailed work in understanding the nature of the risk, but also the impacts on sacred sites,” he said.
Anglers were opposed to the prospect of seabed mining but would engage with the Government’s process, said David Ciaravolo, CEO of the Amateur Fishers’ Association NT.
“We benefit enormously from having an intact ecosystems and high-quality environment, not least of which is our fisheries,” he said.
“We would hate to see that put at risk for any short-term gains in terms of exploring those mineral resources.”