Mining to fund NZ conservation

NEW Zealand mine royalties could soon be used to directly fund conservation under a new policy proposed by the New Zealand government.
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Solid Energy's Stockton mine

Angie Tomlinson

NZ Prime Minister John Key told Parliament yesterday the government planned to establish a new Conservation Fund, potentially drawing on royalty revenue from mining operations on Crown land, to fund conservation projects in the country.

“The Conservation Fund would resource special conservation projects around the country. That means that if there is an increase in mining activity, New Zealand's natural environment would also be improved,” he said.

Coal producer Solid Energy has backed the government’s proposal.

“Smart well-managed use of our natural resources, combined with a conservation fund to create long-term environmental gain will allow us to have both,” Solid Energy chief executive Don Elder said.

Key said the government would shortly release a document for public consultation on potential changes to Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act.

Schedule 4 prohibits mining or prospecting on specified areas of Crown land.

The discussion document will recommend that some areas of Crown land be removed from Schedule 4 and some areas currently not in Schedule 4 be added to it.

“Notwithstanding the public consultation process, it is my expectation that the government will act on at least some of these recommendations and make significant changes to Schedule 4,” Keys said.

“This is because new mining on Crown land has the potential to increase economic growth and create jobs.

“I know some people have expressed concern about increased mining but I can assure New Zealanders that any new mines on conservation land will have to meet strict environmental tests.”