Seabed mining applications spike in the Northern Territory

 The Northern Territory has received a number of proposals for exploration of the seabed off the coast.

Applications has grown in the last year, according to the ABC, 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."

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

“Nautilus Minerals, based in Singapore, which has the world’s first seabed mining operation controlled by robots, in the ocean south of New Ireland, plans to extract minerals that are going to make somebody somewhere very wealthy and dump tailings straight into that marine ecosystem. The threats of that form of process are global," Brown said.

However, Joe Mifsud, an Australian environmental scientist at COOE (Care Of Our Environment)  recently commented to Australian Mining that “the facts coming out of that work (in Japan) indicate that subsea mining may be less harmful on the environment than terrestrial mining.

“However, a detailed seabed organism inventory and a map of their extent over several hundred square kilometers is needed to ensure that there is sufficient "organic resource" to avoid any extinctions. Subsea habitats can cover very large areas and may be more resiliant than coral reefs and rainforests, so if it is a choice between clearing rainforest or damaging coral reefs I know what my choice will be.”

Seabed mining is currently looked to as the way forward in the Arctic regions as shrinking sea ice opens up new areas which were previously inaccessible.


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