Plans to harvest mineral riches from the ocean floor have been scrapped amid fears of epic extinctions and the destruction of the Northern Territory's pristine coastline and cultural sites.
Conservationists have today claimed a win for the coasts of the NT, marine life and fishing following a landmark decision to ban seabed mining.
A moratorium on seabed mining - labeled a "controversial industry" by the Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority last year - was due to be lifted in March.
Adele Pedder a spokeswoman from environmental lobbyist group Keep Top End Coasts Healthy said the government's decision confirmed the evidence. "Seabed mining is like bulldozing the seafloor,' she said.
"We commend the Gunner Government for listening to the evidence, and the people of the Northern Territory, and acting to ban this destructive activity.
"Mining corporations were lining up to mine some of our most precious places like Fog, Anson and Blue Mud Bays, the Wessel Islands and Limmen Bight.
"Traditional Owners, environment groups, commercial and recreational fishers, tourism operators and scientists have raised concerns about the ecological, cultural, social and economic impacts of seabed mining in the Top End."
Last year, documents obtained by the Australian Marine Conservation Society and the NT Environment Protection Authority under Freedom of Information laws showed seabed mining would have an "unacceptable" impact on the Top End's unique coastal waters, culture and fishing lifestyle.
The bodies commissioned a number of reports on seabed mining processes and potential environmental impacts from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Advisian reports.
The documents formed the basis of a report called Seabed Mining Threatens Top End Treasures, which suggested economic benefits would be relatively small and turtles, dolphins, dugongs and migratory shorebirds, already under threat, would suffer from habitat removal and coral reefs and estuaries would be "devastated".
"Healthy coasts and rivers are central to our Top End way of life, our economic success and our culture," Ms Pedder said.
"They underpin one of the most important economic and cultural pursuits - the Top End fishing experience.
"They contribute $2 billion to the Territory economy each year, supporting more than 6,000 jobs and are a powerful drawcard for tourists from around the world."
The NT Government's moratorium on seabed mining was extended twice since it was first initiated in 2012, as the NT EPA warned of insufficient knowledge of the potential impacts and the lack of impact-mitigation measures.
In a statement released today, NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the moratorium will be extended for "up to another six months", following the NT EPA's final report, handed to the government today.
Mr Gunner said the six month extension will allow the Environment Minister to consult on the draft prohibition declaration.
Mr Gunner said potential impacts on the environment and sacred sites, and impacts on existing marine based industries were the main factors at the centre of the decision.
"Our natural environment is one of our best assets and it's a large part of what makes living in the Territory so special," Mr Gunner said.
"It is important that our unique environment and the jobs that rely on it are protected - and that is exactly what this Government is doing.
"The Territory Labor Government remains focused on being the comeback capital of Australia through a diverse range of existing and new job-creating industries in the Territory, while also protecting our environment."
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