Seabed mining ban could be lifted before 2015

Northern Territory Mines and Energy Minister says the moratorium on seabed mining could be lifted before 2015.

Northern Territory Mines and Energy Minister says the moratorium on seabed mining could be lifted before 2015.

Willem Westra Van Holthe and the Chief Minister Terry Mills are visiting Groote Eylandt to talk with traditional owners about their concerns over seabed mining applications.

After a spike in the number of seabed exploration applications off the Northern Territory coast, the state banned seabed mining until at least 2015, during which an assessment on the impact of underwater mining will be carried out.

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

Van Holthe said he expects an agreement will be negotiated with traditional land owners before the three-year moratorium expires.

"Currently the moratorium exists for three years and I would expect that we would be able to negotiate through this and come up with final resolutions before the expiration of three years," he said.

"But certainly for the moment the moratorium stays in place until we can conduct all of the inquiries that we need to in coming for a final decision."

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.

The land owners, the Anindilyakwa Land Council, say operations between the island and mainland threaten sacred sites, with The Northern Land Council 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, who have reportedly already received approval by the Federal Government for exploration off Groote Eylandt.

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.

Last month, Van Holthe declared the state was 'open for business', stating that the Government was fully supportive of the development of new mines.

The minister promised to streamline the approvals process, stating that it had been too slow in the past.

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