09 February 2010

Ask not what can you do for conservation...ask what can conservation do for mining

John Key's statement to Parliament proposes more economic growth through more mining in conservation areas. He states that mining uses only 40 square kilometres of land which is less than 0.015 percent of NZ's total land; that new mining will meet strict environmental tests and that increased mining will improve the natural environment via an "off-setting" conservation fund. I have included his words at the end of the post

I immediately sent this email to John Key.


Dear Mr Key,

I have just read your Statement to Parliament about economic goals. I am absolutely shocked and disappointed that your Government intends to increase mining on conservation lands via a review of Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act. That policy is completely contrary to the statutory conservation management purpose of those lands.

I am astounded that you as the Minister of Tourism cannot see how damaging this is to 'Brand New Zealand', our clean and green image.

I am also completely unconvinced by your assertion that mining will have to meet strict environmental tests and your comment that mining only occupies 40 hectares of land in the whole of New Zealand. The area of land occupied is not a good indicator of the level of adverse effects of mining. Have you not heard of acid mine drainage, the water pollution from heavy metals which flows out from mines and into rivers? Does your quoted return per hectare from mining include rehabilitation of water ways?

It is clear to me that of all land uses in New Zealand, mining has the highest adverse environmental impact per hectare. It is simply nonsense to suggest that this damage can be either mitigated or compensated for.

I urge you instead to do two things.

The first is to provide statutory protection from mining for all conservation land as if Schedule 4 included all conservation land.

Secondly I urge you to follow up on the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment's recommendation that current mines on conservation land be required to replace their antiquated mining permits that have no environmental safeguards with adequate consents with up to date mitigation conditions.

Yours sincerely

Here are the paragraphs of his statement concerning mining in conservation areas.

"There is also extraordinary economic potential in the mineral estate residing in Crown-owned land. Mining in New Zealand uses just 40 square kilometres of land, less than 0.015 percent of our total land area. The export value of that land however is $175,000 per hectare, which makes mining an extremely valuable use of land.

The Government will shortly be releasing a discussion document for public consultation on potential changes to Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act. Schedule 4 is the part of the Crown Minerals Act which prohibits mining or prospecting on specified areas of Crown land.

The discussion document will recommend that some areas of Crown land be removed from Schedule 4 and in addition that some areas currently not in Schedule 4 be added to it.

Notwithstanding the public consultation process, it is my expectation that the Government will act on at least some of these recommendations and make significant changes to Schedule 4. This is because new mining on Crown land has the potential to increase economic growth and create jobs.

I know some people have expressed concern about increased mining but I can assure New Zealanders that any new mines on conservation land will have to meet strict environmental tests.

Moreover, the Government is also proposing to establish a new Conservation Fund, potentially drawing on royalty revenue from mining operations on Crown land. The Conservation Fund would resource special conservation projects around the country. That means that if there is an increase in mining activity, New Zealand’s natural environment would also be improved."

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