World Heritage should be protected by Schedule 4 of Crown Minerals Act
The Government should take action to protect World Heritage and other specially protected areas from mineral activity the Environment and Conservation Organisations (ECO) said today.
ECO co-chair Cath Wallace said the Prime Minister’s statement on Monday that mining would not be allowed in World Heritage areas is welcomed but legislative action to make this certain, is now urgent, and other areas also need protection.
Cath Wallace said sensitive areas of Northland, the West Coast and elsewhere are all at enhanced risk of minerals activity. “Exploration and mining are inconsistent with World Heritage Status and with ecological areas, marine mammal sanctuaries and other protected status categories not covered by the 4th Schedule.”
“The government needs to extend protection to all these areas. Moreover, we need an absolute assurance that no prospective areas are reclassified to take them out of protected status, as happened in Australia where a uranium mine in Kakadu was allowed when the land defined out of protective status.”
“The Government is continuing to subsidise the mining industry with multimillion dollar surveys of tens of thousands of hectares of conservation land including those covered by internationally recognised World Heritage Status on the West Coast. Other areas will be at risk if this subsidised work continues.”
Cath Wallace said the international community was looking closely at what the New Zealand Government was doing. “Proposals to survey World Heritage areas will further alarm the international conservation community.”
“Mining already has a privileged status and is not subject to the usual provisions that apply to other activity on Conservation areas.”
Cath Wallace said while ECO had earlier welcomed the Government’s decision to introduce a public process for mining on conservation areas, this legislative change had not been introduced. “This promise needs to be honoured now and we need to remove the privileged place miners have in access to conservation areas to judge all activities by the same standards and to allow public input.”
“While tourism activity, hut building, and roading is subject to the concessions provisions of the Conservation Act, which includes environmental impact assessment and public processes, miners currently gain access under the secretive provisions of the Crown Minerals Act.”
Cath Wallace said The Minister of Energy should not have a role in permitted mining in conservation land.
“Rather than subsidising miners New Zealand should be spending money on conservation. ECO noted that the Department of Conservation has lost over $54 million in the last 4 years, and faces a further cut of over $8m in future years as well.”
“We are losing natural capital and subsidising wealthy companies: this is nutty.”
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Notes:1. The Prime Minister said on Radio NZ on Monday 25th June that "In 2010 I spelled out very clearly that we wouldn't be going into Schedule 4 land or World Heritage sites.”
2. The Fourth Schedule of the Crown Minerals Act was passed by a National Party Government in 1997 under section 3 Crown Minerals Amendment Act (No 2) 1997. It 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.
3. 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.
4. The World Heritage areas not covered by the 4th Schedule include over 320,000 hectares on the West Coast both north and South of Haast in Te Wāhipounamu 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.
5. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), a governmental and non-governmental body, has passed resolutions calling on all countries to stop mining on category I to IV protected areas (see 2.82 Protection and conservation of biological diversity of protected areas from the negative impacts of mining and exploration, 2000), which applies to nearly all categories New Zealand conservation land. The IUCN specialist group the World Commission on Protected Areas has expressed concern at the proposed review.
6. The Conservation Act (section 17O(3)) exempts mining from the concessions provisions (Part 3B) which applies to all other commercial activity on conservation land and marine protected areas.
7. The adverse effects of mining and exploration in protected areas include:
- Damage to marine mammals, other sea creatures and marine communities from acoustic and seismic testing, sedimentation, dredging, vacuuming or otherwise removing minerals, testing and digging;
- significant damage from clearance of forests and other native vegetation, from sampling, drilling, bulk sampling, access roading, and processing.
- scarring from hard rock sampling, particularly high volume bulk sampling;
- damage from hard rock mining and the dumping of huge volumes of overburden, waste rock and tailings, which are chemically, biologically and physically unstable ;
- the release particularly into water systems, of heavy metals, arsenic, cadmium, lead, zinc, and other substances found with gold and silver mineralisation.
- Sedimentation of water ways and potential collapse or movement of dams;
- Acid mine drainage can occur with gold and silver mining as well as with coal mining.
- Industrialisation of the landscape;
- Displacement of and destruction of bird, insect, reptile, vegetation and other elements of terrestrial ecosystems, and damage, pollution and smothering of marine ecosystems and communities.