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27, Jun, 2011

ECO calls on government to heed IUCN call for a ban on minerals activities in World Heritage Areas


Category: ECO Inc

The Environment and Conservation Organisations (ECO) welcomed the call by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to all Governments to stop mining in World Heritage Areas.  IUCN is an organisation of 200 government and 800 non-governmental organisations.

ECO co-chair Cath Wallace said that under the Schedule of the Crown Minerals Act not all high conservation value land is protected from minerals activity.  Schedule 4 protected land does not prevent mining in World Heritage Areas and other specially protected areas like ecological areas and marine mammal sanctuaries.

World Heritage areas not covered by the 4th Schedule include over 320,000 hectares on land in the West Coast and Southland in Te Wāhiponamu World Heritage Area and most of the marine areas in the Sub-Antarctic World Heritage Area.

Cath Wallace said the international community is looking closely at what the New Zealand Government is doing.  “Proposals to include World Heritage areas in exploration, prospecting or mining will further alarm the international conservation community.”

IUCN has called on the mining, oil and gas industries, as well as governments who licence mineral extraction, to follow the example of business leaders who have already committed not to undertake mining and oil/gas projects within World Heritage sites.

Cath Wallace said this statement was made at the latest World Heritage Meeting in Paris.  “New Zealand has international obligations as a member of the World Heritage Convention.”

IUCN’s position was that ‘mineral and oil/gas exploration and exploitation should not be permitted within natural World Heritage Sites. Further, Mining and oil/gas projects that are located outside World Heritage Sites should not, under any circumstances, have negative impacts on these exceptional places. Moreover, boundary changes to these sites should not be used as an easy way to facilitate mining activities.’

“Crown Minerals has already granted or has applications for prospecting and exploration licences for coal and gold which cover Te Wāhiponamu World Heritage Area.  Licences granted include the state owned miner Solid Energy.”

Cath Wallace said that in New Zealand mineral activity has a privileged status and is not subject to the usual provisions that apply to other activity in Conservation areas.  That must be changed so all activities are judged by the same standards and to allow public input.”

“Tourism activity, hut building, and roading is subject to the concessions provisions of the Conservation Act, which includes environmental impact assessment and public processes, but miners currently gain access under the weaker and secretive provisions of the Crown Minerals Act.”

For further information, contact Cath Wallace or Barry Weeber via the ECO office: eco@eco.org.nz

Notes:

1. ECO – the Environment and Conservation Organisations was established in 1972 and represents 65 groups with a concern for the environment.

2. IUCNs statement at the latest World Heritage Meeting in Paris can be found at http://www.iucn.org/knowledge/news/focus/world_heritage/press_world_heritage_2011/?7742/Mining-threats-on-the-rise-in-World-Heritage-sites

3. The Fourth Schedule of the Crown Minerals Act was passed by a National Party Government in 1997 under section 3 of the Crown Minerals Amendment Act (No 2) 1997.  This prohibits mineral activity on conservation land gazetted as national parks, nature reserves, scientific reserves, wilderness areas, marine reserves, forest sanctuaries, wildlife sanctuaries, wetlands of international importance, and the Coromandel Peninsula, Hauraki Gulf, and associated offshore islands.

4. The Fourth Schedule does not stop mining in World Heritage Areas, conservation parks, most ecological areas (especially on the West Coast of the South Island), and marine mammal sanctuaries.  This Schedule does not prevent miners operating mines under, for example national parks, or clearing native vegetation for service or emergency adits.

5. The World Heritage areas not covered by the fourth Schedule include over 320,000 hectares on the West Coast both north and South of Haast in Te Wāhiponamu World Heritage Area and all the marine areas in the Sub-Antarctic World Heritage Area apart from the area covered by the Auckland Islands marine reserve.

6. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, a body of 200 governmental agencies and 800 non-governmental organisations, has passed resolutions calling on all countries to stop mining on category I to IV protected areas, which applies to nearly all categories conservation land.

7. According to IUCN companies such as Shell and the financial services firm JP Morgan, as well as the International Council on Mining and Metals, which brings together many of the world’s major mining companies, have recognized the importance of conserving World Heritage Sites and have committed not to undertake activities that would damage them.

8. Examples of minerals permits which include World Heritage Areas include:

  • Solid Energy’s exploration permit application for coal in Southland. Permit number 52362.
  • Waiau Gold Prospecting permit for gold in Southland. Permit 52409 granted 23/11/2010.
  • ZeaEx Petroleum Exploration licence application, Solander Basin, permit no 53599.
  • Solid Energy Petroleum Exploration licence, Solander Basin, permit no 52359, granted 20/11/2010.

9. The adverse effects of mining and exploration in protected areas include:

  • significant damage for forests and other native vegetation,
  • scarring from hard rock sampling,
  • damage from hard rock mining;
  • the release particularly into water systems, of heavy metals, arsenic, cadmium, lead, zinc, and other substances found with gold and silver mineralisation.
  • Acid mine drainage can occur with gold and silver mining as well as with coal mining.

10. Around 8% of the world’s protected areas are World Heritage Sites—places recognized as having ‘outstanding universal value’ because of their natural or cultural significance. There are:

  • 911 places are listed as World Heritage sites
  • 34 sites are included on the ‘World Heritage in Danger’ list
  • The Great Barrier Reef is the largest natural World Heritage site
  • New Zealand has three world heritage areas – Tongariro,  Te Wāhiponamu and Sub-Antarctic