25, Aug, 2016

Marine Mining re-applications because government is changing law to exclude minerals and mine wastes from “dumping”

Category: ECO Inc

Renewed applications for seabed mining, by TransTasman Resources and another pending from Chatham Rise Resources, probably reflect environmentally harmful changes to the law that the Government is proposing to pass soon, says the Environment and Conservation Organisations’ policy Vice-chair Cath Wallace.

“Marine mining activity waste – from exploration, mining and processing – would be explicitly excluded from the definition in law of dumping.   This would happen if amendments before Parliament are passed.  We think this is one strong reason why mining companies are reapplying for minerals licences that have already been refused by the EPA, says Wallace.

“This is a blatant case of the government changing the law to suit the mining industry at the expense of the environment.  It is inexcusable for the Government to propose such a change, one of several that will make it much harder to protect the marine environment,” says Wallace.

“We have asked the Minister for the Environment and the Select Committee to remove this provision from the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill.  It is a huge Bill, with lots of changes to law including many changes to the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf Act (EEZ&CA).   We have not heard back yet.  The changes to the EEZ &CS Act and to definitions are numerous and would be damaging if passed, says Wallace.

“Definition changes, if passed, would allow major damage from smothering and poisoning from dumping wastes.  It is designed to help those who dump mining wastes at sea.   The exclusion of mineral industry wastes from the definition of marine dumping is explicit and unreasonable.  We hope the Local Government and Environment Select Committee will strike it out.

Other changes are also very much designed to allow projects through more easily.  The same Bill would remove the decision process from the independent Decision Making Committees appointed by the EPA, and replace them with a Board appointed by the Minister – who can then stack the Board with politically favourable appointments who are more likely to approve environmentally damaging projects.

We hope that the Select Committee turns down these proposed changes.



New Section 4.1.b presents a range of exclusions from the definition of dumping. The scope of these is wider than previously.

4.b.i excludes from the definition of dumping the disposal into the sea of water or other matter that is incidental to or derived from the normal operations of ships, aircraft, structures at sea and their equipment, unless these are waste disposal craft;

4.1.b.ii excludes from “dumping” placement of matter for reasons other than mere “disposal” unless the placement is contrary to the aims of the 1996 London Convention. 

4.1.b.iii excludes from “dumping” the abandonment of matter in the sea which is put there for reasons other than disposal.  Thus we can anticipate that much matter will be abandoned at sea for an array of reasons other than disposal such as to decorate, commemorate or otherwise enhance the seabed.  As above, we consider that text is needed to require decommissioning and removal at the end of life of such projects.

4.1.c  Widens the scope of exceptions from “dumping” via new  S 4.1 (c) to EXCLUDE “the disposal or storage of waste or other matter arising directly from, or related to, exploration, exploitation, and associated offshore processing of seabed minerals resources. 




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