In New Zealand, there have been mixed reactions to a recent speech by the Energy, Minerals and Economic Development Minister, Gerry Brownlee.
In the opening session of the New Zealand Minerals Conference, Mr Brownlee told delegates that he is hoping to make changes to the Crown Minerals and Resource Management Acts that will enable greater exploitation of the country’s plentiful resources (with estimated worth upwards of US$ 150 billion) and easier access to mining permits. He further acknowledged the heavy costs – both literal and environmental – associated with transporting aggregates over long distances, putting this forward as one motivation for opening up new quarries.
The Aggregate and Quarry Association of New Zealand (AQA) has welcomed these remarks. In a statement on the Association’s website, AQA president James Boyce said: “Our Association has been advising for years about the high costs incurred when aggregates have to be transported over long distances because of a lack of a local quarry. For every 30 km aggregates and sand are transported, the costs can double, which is a huge disadvantage to infrastructure development.”
Development vs. conservation
It is in the spirit of infrastructure development that Mr Brownlee has promoted advocacy for the mining industry. However, many are fearful that the pursuit of this stream of revenue would mean the end of another: the tourism industry in New Zealand is worth approximately NZ$ 20 billion p.a., and it thrives on the country’s image as ‘100% Pure’. Much of the land under discussion currently belongs to the Department of Conservation and critics are concerned that development of this land for mining would leave tourists with nowhere to go.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key has told 3 News: “As Minister of Tourism I’m not going to do something silly with the DOC estate…I recognise the importance it has to the New Zealand economy.” However, he has consented to a ‘stock take’ to establish exactly what resources are available.
Far to go
Whatever the decision, any action is likely to be a long way off. Anti-mining groups would no doubt challenge the proposed change in the law and the process of appeals could last for several years. Furthermore, in line with the Treaty of Waitangi, Tribes have ownership claims over both conservation land and mineral wealth, which could extend the process even further. In the meantime, according to AQA, consent for new quarries is urgent. The Auckland area has approximately 12 years of consented aggregates remaining and the clock is ticking.
Read the article online at: https://www.worldcement.com/asia-pacific-rim/01102009/new_zealand_government_considers_increasing_mining_activity/