24 May 2024

Resources Minister Shane Jones unveils mineral mining strategy

9:38 am on 24 May 2024
Shane Jones

Resources Minister Shane Jones Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Resources Minister Shane Jones has released a draft strategy for mineral mining, aiming to double the sector's export value to $2 billion by 2035.

The strategy led by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment also included boosting the workforce from 5000 to 7000 regional jobs, producing a "critical minerals" list for New Zealand, and completing a stocktake of the country's mineral potential.

It highlighted areas that could be mined:

  • Heavy mineral sands in the waters off the Bay of Plenty and West Coast
  • Antimony and gold in Reefton
  • Rare earths in the waters off the West Coast
  • Lithium in Northland and Waikato
  • Hydrogen in Waikato, Tasman and Southland
  • Vanadium and titanium in the waters off Taranaki
  • Potash in Canterbury and Otago
  • Rare earth and phosphate mining in the Chatham Rise

The strategy also noted New Zealand's "significant amounts of different types and grades of coal deposits", and said it recognised the interests of Treaty partners in the protection and management of mineral resources.

"No longer will these communities with rich histories intertwined with mining be told they cannot utilise the rich mineral endowments contained in their land," Jones said in a media release.

"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 benefiting our environment and communities."

Jones' foreword for the strategy argued New Zealand's production was limited to a handful of minerals and metals, with "our vast mineral reserve" remaining largely unexplored.

The announcement came alongside a speech he delivered in Blackball on the West Coast, saying mining could be a "vehicle for New Zealand's transformation".

"So often natural resource debates are captured by resource management insiders. They conveniently overstate risk, understate cost, and rarely generate solutions for economic growth," he said.

He argued the industry had "robust environmental protections" as a business as usual approach, and extraction was being sidelined and stigmatised.

"Some people argue against minerals extraction, but gladly rely on the conveniences of modern society that are enabled by those resources," he said.

"As long it's not in my backyard, it appears. The problem with that is 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."

He said the strategy would clarify where mining could occur, with schedule 4 land "off the table under my watch - but not all conservation land is equal".

ACT's Simon Court arrives at Wellington Airport on 16 October 2023 following the election at the weekend.

ACT's Resources spokesperson Simon Court welcomes the draft strategy. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

In a statement, ACT's Resources spokesperson Simon Court - also in Blackball - welcomed the draft strategy.

"A high-wage economy depends on affordable and reliable energy. In other words, we need to drill, baby, drill," he said.

"Taking full advantage of the resources at our disposal will allow us to get electricity prices under control and ease the cost-of-living crisis for the families who are struggling most."

Labour's climate change spokesperson Megan Woods questioned how Jones would support coal workers "when the world inevitably transitions away from fossil fuels".

"In his speech today, Shane Jones attempted to greenwash the public into thinking coal mining is good for the environment and that conservation land is great for mining. Coal mining has no environmental benefits - especially when it's on land that should be set aside for conservation. Coal mining locks communities into dependence on a declining industry."

She said Labour had already been doing work on critical minerals when it was last in government.

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