The Northern Territory's moratorium on seabed mining in coastal waters expires early next year.
The public have been asked whether they want the ban lifted or not.
The NT EPA today released its investigation into seabed mining and, while pointing out the obvious risks, said some risks could be managed and ultimately the decision was up to the NT Government.
The some times shallow coastal waters of the Territory potentially contain mineral resources that could be exploited through seabed mining.
The EPA says the likely target for seabed mining in the Territory include aggregate sands or gravels, mineral sands containing gold, diamonds and rare earth minerals, offshore salt deposits, and mineral deposits (manganese, phosphate, bauxite) that are extensions of known onshore resources.
Methods most likely to be used in coastal waters of the NT involve scraping or excavating the seabed using hydraulic or mechanical dredges, the EPA said.
The NT's moratorium on seabed mining was first introduced in March 2012 as a response to public fears about potential environmental impacts.
With the release of the EPA review today, the public has until November to comment.
Interestingly today's review referred back to the Pepper Scientific Inquiry which saw the moratorium dropped on the development of an onshore gas industry back in 2018.
The suggestion was made that a Pepper-style review, which came up with a roadmap and 135 recommendations to allow gas to be mined, could also work for seabed mining.
The EPA's review concludes that current knowledge gaps result in uncertainty about the:
- condition of the existing environment
- extent of impacts from seabed mining
- ability of industry to manage impacts
- ability of the environment to recover from impacts.
The NT EPA finds that improved systems of data sharing and management are key to addressing information gaps, and enabling informed decision-making by the NT EPA and the Northern Territory Government.
Seabed mining "is considered a relatively new and controversial industry in Australia, and other countries", the EPA said.
"There is a long term moratorium on seabed mining in NT coastal waters following community concerns and in acknowledgement of the limited information and knowledge about the environmental impacts of seabed mining and their management".
Read the draft review and comment on the plans here.
EPA chairman Dr Paul Vogel said the review "describes the environmental values associated with the coastal waters of the Northern Territory that may be impacted by seabed mining, including biophysical, cultural, social and economic values".
"The coastal waters of the Northern Territory are highly valued by Territorians for their environmental, cultural and recreational importance and the role they play in natural resource-based industries such as commercial fishing, aquaculture and tourism," Dr Vogel said.
"The review describes the range of potential environmental impacts, risks and uncertainties and the management measures that could be used to manage impacts from seabed mining on the Territory's coastal waters.
"We encourage everyone to read the draft review and take the opportunity to provide feedback."
There are currently 14 existing applications for exploration activities around the NT coast.
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