Monday, February 26, 2024

Mining Act changes signal end for ‘promotion’ of Crown-owned minerals

The Government is proposing changes to the Crown Minerals Act 1991 (CMA) that will end the active “promotion” of prospecting, exploration, and mining of Crown-owned minerals.

Energy and Resource Minister, Megan Woods said the proposed changes support more environmentally conscious management of resources and create more certainty around engagement between industry, iwi and hapū.

“Requirements in the CMA for the Government to actively promote fossil fuel exploration are out of date. It’s time we changed our laws so that they are consistent with our climate change commitments to phase out polluting fossil fuels and transition to net zero by 2050,” Minister Woods said.

The National Government added the legislative requirement to promote mining activities in 2013, but this is now out of step with the direction the world is going, she said.

“The CMA sets out how the Government allocates rights to mine Crown owned minerals for New Zealand’s economic benefit. While this role won’t change, these amendments will bring the Act up to date, allow us to respond to the evolving needs of Aotearoa, and give the sector greater certainty about the future of minerals decision making. Fossil fuels will be phased out in a way that ensures energy remains secure, reliable, accessible, and affordable for all New Zealanders.”

The Bill also proposes changes to strengthen engagement between permit holders, iwi and hapū to ensure Māori cultural interests in minerals and mining activities are understood and respected.

“The proposals mean the CMA would be amended to explicitly provide hapū and iwi opportunities to review and discuss annual iwi engagement reports, and to enable regulations to specify minimum content requirements for those reports,” said Dr Woods.

Energy Resources Aotearoa Chief Executive, John Carnegie said the proposed changes were disappointing.

“Throughout the world, countries are competing with one another to shore up their energy security. We are in a global contest to attract inward investment and skilled individuals that work to keep the lights on,” said Mr Carnegie.

He said there was increasing recognition, both internationally and domestically, that natural gas is a key resource that enables renewable energy.

“Today’s announcement comes at a time when we need more investment in gas supply – not less – to support our increasingly renewable electricity system when the wind doesn’t blow, or the sun doesn’t shine.”

“New Zealand’s energy system requires ongoing investment to ensure it remains affordable and reliable. If the Government is no longer willing to promote that investment through the Crown Minerals Act, how does it suppose we meet New Zealanders’ energy needs?”

Mr Carnegie said the argument that fossil fuels need to be phased out to meet the nation’s climate goals was “simplistic and misguided”.

“We are now in a very strange situation where the Government argues in court that the granting of new permits under the Crown Minerals Act is not in conflict with New Zealand’s climate change goals, but also issues press statements saying that they are.”

“This is a terrible signal for investors looking to bring their skills and expertise to New Zealand to ensure we have a robust, diverse, and affordable mix of energy options for New Zealand businesses and households.”

“The Crown owns these minerals on behalf of all New Zealanders, and it is in the interest of all New Zealanders that it promotes their development,” he said.

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