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Moratorium on bulk marine sediment mining

How do we establish a moratorium?

There are two legal mechanisms for establishing a moratorium on bulk marine sediment mining. Either the Minister of Mineral Resources may prohibit a specific mining activity or the Minister of Environmental Affairs may prohibit the granting of environmental authorisations for a specific activity. Section 49 of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, 2002 (MPRDA) empowers the Minister of Mineral Resources to prohibit or restrict a category of mining activities. This is to be guided by the ‘national interest’ and ‘the need to promote the sustainable development of the nation’s mineral resources’. There are no limitations on the discretion in terms of the time period and conditions of a moratorium. The Minister has used this power in the past to declare a nationwide moratorium on all mining and prospecting applications in South Africa (started September 2010 – April 2011) while a full audit was conducted on mining and prospecting rights issued since 2004. The Minister also used this power for a moratorium on fracking.

Section 24(2A) of National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (NEMA) empowers the Minister of Environmental Affairs to ‘prohibit or restrict the granting of an environmental authorisation by the competent authority for a listed or specified activity in a specified geographical area.’ Such powers should be used in accordance with a ‘risk averse and cautious approach” and to ensure the “protection of the environment, the conservation of resources or sustainable development’.

Bulk marine sediment mining warrants the use of these powers, particularly in light of the lack of knowledge and significant and irreversible impacts associated with it. The Safeguard our Seabed Coalition is pursuing both of these channels in order to achieve a moratorium.

Conditions for a moratorium

  1. Alternatives to bulk marine sediment mining have been openly considered
  2. A strategic environmental assessment on bulk marine sediment mining has been conducted
  3. Relevant policies, strategies, laws and regulations have been formulated and implemented
  4. Adequate baseline information has been collected
  5. A representative network of well managed marine protected areas (MPAs) has been established
  6. A network of no-go-areas for mining have been established
  7. Standards to minimise damage of mining operations have been promulgated
  8. Liability for environmental damage is assigned to mining operators, appropriately assessed and financial provision is strictly collected and ring-fenced