Indigenous councils to fight NT seabed mining

Indigenous groups have gathered together to stop proposed seabed mining exploration off the Northern Territory’s top end.

It comes as the Territory sees a spike in the number of applications for exploration, with manganese exploration pegged for the coast along Arnhem Land and in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Northern Manganese has reportedly been approved by the Federal Government for exploration off Groote Eylandt, although it still needs Territory and indigenous approvals to go ahead.

The seabed holds extremely high grade minerals; however the technology for mining these deposits is still in its infancy.

The Territory Government is currently carrying out investigations into the potential impacts of subsea mining.

"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," Territory resources minister Kon Vatskalis said.

"There are a lot of application for undersea exploration and mining in the Northern Territory.

"We are currently exploring to see what happens elsewhere.

"I want to be satisfied that, when I approve something, it is not going to be adverse to the environment, both social and physical."

The Northern Land Council has now met with the traditional land owners of Groote Eylandt to learn of their worries over seabed mining, the ABC reports.

The land owners, the Anindilyakwa Land Council, say operations between the island and mainland threaten sacred sites, with NLC head Kim Hill adding that there is a lack of research regarding the method.

"It is an international concern and it is a concern for all Australians," Hill told the ABC.

"Importantly, it is a concern for traditional owners."

The two groups have formed a confederation to stop Northern Manganese’s proposal.

NLC chairman Wali Wunungmurra explained that it was critical the groups band together.

"Cultural integrity is paramount to both land councils and protecting the songlines, dreamings and traditional values of our TOs (traditional owners) will always come before anything else," Wunungmurra said.

Seabed mining is a contentious issue, and has seen issues arise over its potential impact on the environment and of sovereignty regarding ownership of seabed minerals.

Recently the UN International Seabed Authority granted the Chinese permission to begin exploratory work 1700 metres below the sea in the Dragon Vent in the Indian Ocean, which has drawn protests and petitions from public groups to force its withdrawal.

Seabed minerals have also heated up nationalistic battles between China and Japan following the discovery of massive rare earths deposits.

Australian company Nautilus Minerals has already been granted applications to mine the seabed off Papua New Guinea.


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