Quarrying & Mining Magazine

At last – a vision for minerals

The Government’s new vision for the minerals sector aims to increase national and regional prosperity, provide the minerals needed for new technology and the clean energy transition, and double the value of minerals exports.

Resources Minister Shane Jones launched a draft strategy for the minerals sector at a community meeting in Blackball on the West Coast back in May.

“Today, in the heart of mining country, I am telling Kiwis they are back in business. No longer will these communities with rich histories intertwined with mining be told they cannot utilise the rich mineral endowments contained in their land,” said Jones.

“My vision is that we change the prevailing mantra about mining to one that doesn’t begin and end with extraction, but one that focuses on our mineral needs, economic opportunities, and our ability to deliver on this while benefitting our environment and communities.”

The Draft Minerals Strategy, which is open for consultation until the end of July, proposes producing a critical minerals list and doing a detailed stocktake of the country’s known mineral potential.

“The minerals sector is a small but productive part of the economy, worth $1.03 billion in mineral exports in 2022 (about the same as the contribution made by fishing/aquaculture and seafood processing combined), providing more than 5000 direct jobs, supporting local businesses, and generating substantial revenue that funds infrastructure, healthcare, and education,” says Jones.

“We are aspirational for the sector, aiming to double mineral exports value to $2 billion by 2035. With the right direction and settings, mining will continue to boost regional opportunities and jobs, increase our self-sufficiency, and be a critical part of this Government’s export-led focus, especially as we take advantage of the global opportunities for new minerals uses.

“I consider the minerals sector to be critical to the economic prosperity of New Zealand – it has been a transformative agent for our country in the past, and I expect it to play a transforming role into the future.”

Jones says barriers to the Government’s strategy include the length of time it takes to deliver mining projects, which inflates costs and delays and threatens our international business reputation.

“Much of this relates to the state of the Resource Management Act, but we have also suffered from negative signals through changes to Crown Minerals laws and unclear positions on conservation laws.

“The past several decades have seen mining promoters sidelined or stigmatised. It is high time that the tables were turned and facts replaced tales of woe and exaggeration. We all want wealth and resilience. Trade-offs are necessary. Mitigation is key to achieving balance.”

Jones adds that it is high time for our country to have an honest debate on mining and acknowledge the criticality of minerals and the costs of importing materials we can adequately supply ourselves.

“Some people argue against minerals extraction, but gladly rely on the conveniences of modern society that are enabled by those resources … we are relying on other countries to meet many of our minerals needs, and their supply can be fragile, volatile, unreliable, and sometimes without the regulatory rigour we apply to our own operators.”

Jones says his initial focus is growing our country’s wealth on the back of our minerals and not just existing minerals like gold and coking coal, but new minerals important to the clean energy technologies. “On top of this we expect increased domestic refining to add value to our raw minerals.

“My goal is for the sector to double its export value to $2 billion by 2035, provide more than 7000 direct jobs across regional New Zealand, and support other sectors through the stable supply of essential minerals.”

Having lacked clear policy direction on minerals extraction, making it harder to create enabling policies and creating investment uncertainty, the Government will develop a long-term strategic approach for minerals that sets clear policy direction, identifying the actions needed to secure and increase minerals supply and to maximise economic and Crown benefit from our mineral estate, he says.

“This strategy will include actions to clarify where mining can occur. I’ll say this now, Schedule 4 land is off the table under my watch – but not all conservation land is equal.

“I support sustainable and environmentally approved mining on stewardship land and other categories of DOC land. A major priority is to clarify access arrangements for mineral extraction.”

Jones says his last focus area for the minerals sector is to increase our contributions to global supply chains.

“The International Energy Agency estimates that to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, the world will need six times more minerals for low emissions technology than are currently being extracted. I want New Zealand to be part of the solution.

“There is no energy transition without minerals – no batteries, no electric cars, no wind turbines and no solar panels. New Zealand has a choice to contribute to and benefit from this growing market, or to become the recipients of other people’s economic effort and output.

“The transition to a low emissions economy provides us with an opportunity to trade our mineral reserves, but we need to act now.”

Our trading partners are also asking us to contribute to secure, resilient, and sustainable global supply chains, because current supply chains are vulnerable to disruption, he says.

“This fits with our history as a nation; New Zealand is a small country whose prosperity has always been driven by exports. We have strong potential to continue in this vein by developing minerals critical for low emissions and digital technologies …. We cannot afford to ignore this potential. We are at an inflection point. Developing greater resilience means moving away from hysteria and fear-mongering.

“I consider the resources sector to be critical to the economic prosperity of New Zealand. The sector has been a transformative agent in the past, and I expect it to play a transforming role into the future.

“I’m looking forward to being the steward for the sector that will bring wealth to our economy in a responsible and enduring manner.”

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