It’s taken nine years, but Australia’s Northern Territory (NT) Government has finally decided to permanently ban seabed mining in Top End coastal waters.
The news comes as a relief to recreational fishing interests, as well as commercial fishing and tourism. The region is home to diverse fishing habitats and some of the best sport fishing in the world.
Seabed mining targets mineral deposits on or under the seabed, often using hydraulic or mechanical dredgers. A moratorium (legal delaying process) on the controversial practice has been in place since 2012. It was renewed in 2015 and 2018 and was due to expire next month.
Up to 14 applications to mine minerals or sands had been lodged, but Environment Minister, Eva Lawler, said the Government had considered a report from the NT Environment Protection Agency and listened to community feedback before imposing the ban.
The case was supported by the NT Minerals Council, which says there is no scientific proof that seabed mining is harmless. The ban is not immediate because the Government has to extend the moratorium by six months before it is enacted to allow consultation with stakeholders. However, Minister Lawler said the Government would fight any challenge to its decision.
Adele Pedder of environment group, Keep Top End Coasts Healthy said: ‘Across the Territory – scientists, recreational fishing, the commercial fishing industry and tourism –everyone has expressed concern with seabed mining.”