28 Jun 2017

Testing the seabed bungee cord: call for a seabed mining moratorium

From The House, 12:30 pm on 28 June 2017

New Zealand is among the first countries to consider seabed mining. But leading the world means you don't get to learn from other's mistakes.

This field is so new that the International Seabed Authority (which is responsible for regulating mining beyond the continental shelf), hasn't finished writing its regulations yet. As yet there is no-one to learn from and nowhere to see the likely impact and outcomes.

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  Phil McCabe describes the interaction of a nursing blue whale and calf, while Duncan Curry looks on. One proposed local mining area included a blue whale nursery. Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

Seabed mining is not the same thing as oil or gas extraction. Phil McCabe, the founder of KASM (Kiwis Against Seabed Mining) describes it as open-cast mining, but under the sea.

KASM have given evidence to the Local Government and Environment Committee in support of a petition to Parliament asking for a five-year-long moratorium on seabed mining applications in New Zealand.

There have been two local mining applications so far, both of them unsuccessful, with a third one underway. Phil McCabe said that participating in the process to propose or oppose applications was prohibitively expensive.

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Labour MP Meka Whaitiri listens to the KASM submission. Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

He argued that the unsuccessful applications had demonstrated that, as yet, there was no effective way to mitigate against the adverse impacts of seabed mining, and rather than continue on with expensive hearings the whole process should pause and wait for science to catch up.

Phil McCabe agreed that the potential for making money from the sea floor was enticing, but noted that the resource wasn't going anywhere, but we should be patient and wait until we could realize it without causing devastation.

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