NT sinks seabed mining plans

The Northern Territory Government has decided not to lift a ban on seabed mining in its waters following a public consultation last October.

The territory has kept a moratorium on seabed mining activities since 2012, which was due to expire on March 5, but will now be extended for up to another six months.

There are very few seabed mining projects globally and the mining activity has never been undertaken in the Northern Territory.

The Northern Territory Government said that due to the limited activity, there was not enough information available to identify the best practice environmental management and rehabilitation for the marine environment.

After the public consultation period, considerations by the Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA), the government has not been swayed to lift the ban.

This was based on potential impacts to the environment and sacred sites, and impacts on other industries like fishing, aquaculture, pearling and tourism, as well as community concerns and lack of knowledge on rehabilitating the seabed.

Northern Territory Minister for Environment Eva Lawler said that the territory’s natural environment was one of its best resources for locals and visitors, so keeping the waters shallow, clean and mostly intact was essential to protecting the local economy and jobs that relied on the ocean.

“Our natural environment is one of our best assets and it’s a large part of what makes living in the territory so special,” Lawler said.

“It is important that our unique environment and the jobs that rely on it are protected and this is exactly what this government is doing.”

Greenpeace welcomed the decision, describing it as “a win for our oceans and common sense”.

“The seas surrounding the Northern Territory are home to coral reefs, seagrass meadows and mangroves – all crucially important for supporting marine wildlife like turtles, whales and dolphins,” Greenpeace Australia Pacific spokesperson Nelli Stevenson said.

“Oceans store enormous amounts of carbon dioxide in the seabed and disrupting this by opening up mines on the sea floor will make the climate crisis worse.

“The ocean must remain off-limits to the mining industry to prevent further biodiversity destruction and potentially damaging a critical carbon sink.”

Northern Territory miners had intended to target aggregate sands, minerals sands containing gold, diamonds and rare earth minerals, offshore salt deposits, manganese, phosphate and bauxite through seabed mining.

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