NT rules out seabed mining until 2015

The Northern Territory has banned any seabed mining off its coast until at least 2015.

 The Northern Territory has banned any seabed mining off its coast until at least 2015.

The moratorium now means that any applications for seabed mining will not be granted for another three years, during which an assessment on the impact of underwater mining will be carried out, the ABC reports.

It comes after a spike in the number of seabed exploration applications in the territory, with Northern Manganese reportedly already approved by the Federal Government for exploration off Groote Eylandt.

However even before the moratorium miners had hit a roadblock from the Territory Government as it carried 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. We are talking broad-scale mining on a very, very sensitive environment.

"Mining that may affect sea grasses, wildlife, dugongs, dolphins, turtles, we are very unsure about it."

These applications have also seen fierce opposition from local Indigenous groups, which have gathered to stop the proposed exploration.

According to the Territory Government, the moratorium does not include petroleum or gas exploration and production.

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

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

Last year Greens leader Bob Brown called for an investigation into seabed mining after Japan and Papua New Guinea looked to change their resources laws to allow for subsea exploration.

Japan considered changing its laws before discovering a massive potential seabed rare earths deposit approximately 100 times larger than those on land.

The enormous rare earths minerals are estimated to be as large as 100 billion metric tons.

The deposit lies approximately 3.5 to 6 kilometres under the sea and cover an area of more than 11 million square metres

 The deposit lies approximately 3.5 to 6 kilometres under the sea and cover an area of more than 11 million square metres

 

 Image: Nautilus Minerals

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