Seabed mining in rough waters as traditional owners oppose

The Northern Territory Government is facing stiff opposition to seabed mining from the Groote Eylandt traditional owners.

The local Anindilyakwa Land Council asked Chief Minister Adam Giles yesterday to permanently ban seabed mining.

The government and the council have a regional partnership agreement for expanding local businesses and youth services, but traditional owners said answers are still pending on the future of seabed mining.

The ABC reported community leaders have told the Territory Cabinet the local community wants to develop sea-based businesses on its own.

They said they want to establish ventures like sea cucumber (trepang) aquaculture so they are not reliant on royalties for their future when production on the mine finishes in 30 years.

The Territory Cabinet is conducting two meetings at Groote Eylandt.

Council chairman Tony Wurramarrba told the state’s chief minister Adam Giles the community is completely opposed to seabed mining in waters around the island.

The previous Labor government in the Territory enforced a three-year moratorium on extending manganese mining into the sea due to traditional owners’ fears of cultural and environmental effects.

But Lloyd Jones from Northern Manganese said other opinions need to be heard before extending the moratorium. His company wants to carry out seabed exploration around Groote Eylandt.

“Groote Eylandt are one group,” he said.

“We have had, and are in, ongoing discussions with the community of Blue Mud Bay, who are 100 per cent supportive of our applications.”

Groote Eylandt’s economy almost completely depends on production and royalties from the large Gemco land-based mine.

Gemco exports around five million tonnes of manganese a year, which is used to make steel.

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