Quarrying & Mining Magazine

Minerals are essential to the nation

Leading up to the 2020 Minerals Forum in Hamilton this month (October) Straterra has produced Briefing Document: Mining in New Zealand – 2020.

“The purpose of the document is to inform MPs and officials about mining,” says Chris Baker, CEO of Straterra.

Included is background information on minerals, mining and aggregates, discussion about the role of resources in New Zealand and commentary on various issues facing the sector.

“We are bombarded with false information in society today and our sector gets more than its share of attention.

“Our intent is for this document to inform and influence policy development and implementation in a positive way, and at the same time debunk some of this false information.

“The document argues that with sensible policies, the mining and extractive sector will play an important part in the economy and can help us recover from the financial costs of Covid-19.

“Global demand for minerals is strong, the price of gold is at an all-time high and we mine in New Zealand to standards that are the equal of anywhere in the world.

“A key point we make in the briefing document is that the RMA, for all its faults, provides the legislative framework that protects the environment and ensures mining can make a positive contribution to the environment and to the economy.

“The evidence for this is clear and anyone interested can start by reading our briefing document.

“Politicians who understand that we have to earn money to spend it invariably point to the need to increase productivity – mining is the most productive sector in New Zealand, as measured by output per hour worked.

“Minerals are vital to meet our vision for a low-carbon economy; wind turbines, solar panels, batteries, infrastructure, electric vehicles – the list goes on.

“We hope that the document is received positively by MPs and makes a constructive contribution to the debate.”

In his introduction to the 29-page document, Chris says the world is demanding more mining, not less, for reducing poverty and in transitioning to a lower-emissions economy.

“New Zealand can be a part of that reality, or not.”

As a small export-dependent nation, being part of that reality makes sense anytime, but more so as we look to the challenge of post Covid-19 pandemic economic recovery, he says.

Like all land uses, mining entails trade-offs, he adds, and, over recent decades, the Resource Management Act has been the main mechanism to consider and deal with these trade-offs (and more recently the EEZ for offshore activity).

“The RMA provides a case-by-case adversarial examination and assessment of the environmental, social, and economic impacts of a proposal. This is widely regarded as being difficult, challenging, and sometimes tortuous however, under the RMA regime, resource investment and development has occurred; jobs have been created societal needs met, export revenue earned.”

Chris points out that mining occurs on just 0.04 percent of the conservation estate and all consents to mine are granted with conditions that require rehabilitation and compensation. “A mining project, when all conditions are considered, should make a positive contribution to the environment, and to society.”

Mining opponents have, with alarming success, he says, framed the argument as ‘mining or the environment’.

“Recent policy proposals, and court decisions, reflect this binary and polarised construct. Preservation is the mantra, with little or no consideration of how many New Zealanders earn their livelihoods, or how our country makes its way in the global economy. In addition, ‘green creep’ in regulation progressively and incessantly increases the barriers to development.”

There are many unintended consequences of this ‘green creep’ including increased cost of aggregates and other minerals for domestic industry, he says, increasing our reliance on imports of minerals, and adversely affecting the potential for export earnings.

“New Zealand can produce minerals at a lower carbon footprint than is often the case overseas, and our export coals lead to lower Co2 emissions than would otherwise occur – points that further tip a weighing of the trade-offs in mining’s favour. Emerging climate change policy ignores these considerations.”

A mature, informed conversation is needed on managing our resources for conservation, for economic development and other outcomes, he says.

Meanwhile, the 2020 Minerals Forum will proceed in person in Hamilton, as lockdown levels come down. The two-day forum is being held between October 12 and 13, at Claudeland’s in Hamilton.

Programme: https://www.mineralsforum.co.nz/page/programme-2020.