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Subsea Mining Banned in NT Until 2015

|Mar 7|magazine7 min read

In response to a big uptick in mining applications, the Top End’s Government is banning subsea mining off its northern coast until at least 2015, Mining Australia reported today.

According to ABC, the Environment Protection Authority will spend at least the next three years assessing the environmental impacts of underwater mining and exploration before the NT Government may grant any new mining applications.

“There are a lot of applications for undersea exploration and mining in the Northern Territory,” Territory resources minister Kon Vatskalis told the website. “Until I am absolutely satisfied that it is not going to have an adverse affect on the environment, I am not going to approve it.”

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The application suspension will not include petroleum or gas exploration and production, the NT Government said. The high grade minerals found in the seabeds off the NT’s coast lie approximately 3.5 to 6 kilometres under the sea and may extend across an area of 11 million square metres, according to Mining Australia.

“We are talking broad-scale mining on a very, very sensitive environment: mining that may [affect] sea grasses, wildlife, dugongs, dolphins, turtles,” Mr Vatskalis told ABC.

In addition to appeasing environmental concerns, the NT Government is also in conversation with the Aboriginal land owners of the Groote Eylandt mining area. The mine here produces more than 3.8 million tonnes of manganese annually, totalling approximately 25 per cent of the world’s total. The land owners, the Anindilyakwa Land Council, cited a lack of research in regards to the mining operations here as an ongoing threat to their sacred sites on the mainland.

“It is an international concern and it is a concern for all Australians,” Northern Land Council head Kim Hill told ABC.

Until 2015 – and potentially beyond – these sacred sites will remain undisturbed by subsea mining operations.