NZ: Too precious to mine

Mining has a significant and inevitable impact on our natural places, and current laws gives inadequate protection of our wildlife & wild places. 

Stockton Mine on the West coast of the South Island

Stockton Mine on the West coast of the South Island

Mining has had a substantial impact on New Zealand’s precious biodiversity and wonderful natural places. The main impact has been through habitat destruction – the removal of plants and soil to access minerals. Other impacts include assisting the passage of pests and weeds into natural areas, and the pollution of air, water and soil.

While some mining methods have changed and the Resource Management Act has strengthened some environmental rules,  however modern mining – which is often on a very large scale – continues to cause inevitable environmental damage.

In addition, New Zealand has a legacy of scarred landscapes and contaminated soil and water from past mining. Some places can be remediated or restored, although at significant cost and often to the taxpayer; but many of the places will never again be home to the native life that once lived there.

Forest & Bird is not opposed to all mining – our economy, society and even environmental work relies on minerals – but most of the large-scale mining being promoted today is unnecessary and has too high an environmental cost. For example, most gold is used in non-essential items like jewellery and wealth storage, and energy from coal can come from renewable sources.

The costs of mining can include habitat loss and damage, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, landscape scars, reduced ecosystem services, as well as impacts on public access, recreation, tourism and New Zealand’s all important “clean green” reputation and brand.

Some of the impacts of mining, especially at sea, are unknown and a precautionary approach is required.

Because of the inevitable impacts of mining on our environment, New Zealand has developed laws that protect our most precious places from mining, control access to public conservation land, and require environmental consent to minimise impacts on the environment. However, these rules are weak and incomplete.