Northern Territory environmental organisation, Keep Top End Coasts Healthy, has welcomed the announcement that a permanent ban on seabed mining is in the offing, saying it’s a win for marine life, fishing and culture.
The Territory Government first declared a three-year temporary ban on seabed mining in March 2012 and has since extended it twice under both the Country Liberal Party (CLP) and Labor Governments.
With the temporary ban due to expire this March, many organisations and individuals have made it clear that they want a permanent ban. Currently most Australian states do not permit the controversial practice.
Temporary ban extended for another six months
The temporary ban has now been extended again for a further six months to comply with certain legal requirements, but with the NT Government confirming its intention to make it permanent after that.
“It’s great to see today the Government listen and act on this important issue,” Keep Top End Coasts Healthy said in a statement. The organisation is an alliance between the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Environment Centre NT and The Pew Charitable Trusts.
“We commend the Gunner Government for listening to the evidence, and the people of the Northern Territory, and acting to ban this destructive activity,” said spokesperson Adele Pedder.
“The Top End has some of the last healthy tropical coasts in the world. Seabed mining is like bulldozing the seafloor. It would decimate our marine life, pollute our waters, threaten our fishing and destroy places of cultural significance.”
Mining companies lining up to mine ‘precious places’
Pedder said mining corporations had been lining up to mine “some of our most precious places” like Fog, Anson and Blue Mud Bays, the Wessel Islands and Limmen Bight.
Traditional Owners, environment groups, commercial and recreational fishers, tourism operators and scientists had all raised concerns about the ecological, cultural, social and economic impacts of seabed mining in the region.
“Healthy coasts and rivers are central to our Top End way of life, our economic success and our culture,” she stated.
Healthy coasts and rivers underpin fishing in the NT
“They underpin one of the most important economic and cultural pursuits – the Top End fishing experience. [This contributes] $2-billion to the Territory economy each year, supports more than 6,000 jobs and is a powerful drawcard for tourists from around the world.”
The NT’s environment minister, Eva Lawler, said the decision to ban seabed mining was made after considering a report from the Northern Territory Environment Protection Agency on the practice, and on community feedback.
According to Lawler, up to 14 applications to explore for minerals or sands in NT waters had been lodged. Deposits of manganese off the coast of Groote Eylandt and in the Limmen Bight were the main areas of interest for mining companies.