The moratorium, which bans exploration and mining in the NT’s coastal waters, must continue to operate past its current scheduled expiry this Friday. The wording of the moratorium states (among other things) that “[s]eabed mining is a new and evolving worldwide industry with a minimum number of generally accepted practice standards. The methods applied in seabed mining are rapidly changing. Limited information is available on: (i) the actual or potential impacts on the environment and other resource industries; and (ii) methods for managing the impacts of the extraction of minerals from the seabed.” Those factors remain unchanged.

The moratorium bans all mining activities in Northern Territory coastal waters, regardless of the amount of disturbance they will cause. EDO Principal Lawyer, David Morris, called on the Government to once again demonstrate its commitment to environmental protection over business interests, as it did when it introduced a reservation of land which banned mining around Groote Eylandt on 17 January 2014.

“Chief Minister, Adam Giles, in making the decision to ban mining around Groote Eylandt, listened to the voice of the community and recognised the current inadequacy of the science around seabed mining and took a precautionary approach. I doubt very much that Territorian’s want the NT’s pristine coastline to be used as a guinea pig for this kind of operation.”

The EDO calls on the Government to use the powers available under the Minerals Titles Act 2010 (NT) to reserve coastal land from seabed exploration and mining indefinitely, as is the case around Groote Eylandt. “The provisions in the Minerals Titles Act are there to provide for scenarios such as this, to protect the public, the environment and the NT’s wonderful cultural values in the face of a threat which right now we don’t really understand. The Government should be looking to extend the moratorium or, preferably, reserve the NT’s coastal land from this process indefinitely.” Said Mr Morris.

The moratorium’s raison d’etre is very clear. It is there to protect the NT’s coast until such time as an inquiry is completed and the impacts of seabed mining are fully understood. To the EDO’s knowledge, no inquiry has been undertaken.

Additionally, It is obvious that, like ‘fracking’, this type of controversial process requires an informed and supportive community. Right now that is undoubtedly not the case.

The current moratorium ends on 6 March 2015. The current NT Minister for Mines and Energy is the Hon. David Tollner MLA.

Media contact: David Morris (08) 8981 5883 – 0402 778 997