Newsletter Digest: Mining, oil spill, and the Australian ETS delay

Sustainable mining? – SMC Briefing

Hidden beneath New Zealand’s stunning landscapes — and formed by the same relentless geological forces — minerals like gold, coal, iron and other industrial and precious metals lie undisturbed.

The government’s proposal to withdraw some high-value conservation land from its current protection and open it to mining has been controversial from the start.

With the news that the deadline for public submissions has just been extended by 3 weeks, we expect we haven’t seen the last of media coverage on this divisive issue.

For our briefing Monday 3 May 11 am, we’ve assembled a panel including a geologist, an Australian expert on sustainable mining and a resource economist to provide some research-based perspective on the debate.

For more information, see the SMC’s briefings page

Gulf coast oil spill

Oil leaking from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead in the Gulf of Mexico south of Louisiana is now beginning to wash ashore, with no clear solution in sight.

The slick — five times larger than first estimated — is spreading towards the coastal ecosystems, threatening hundreds of species of fish, birds and other wildlife.

The spill is likely to eclipse the Exxon Valdez to become the worse US oil spill on record, and may soon far surpass it.

Our colleagues at the UK SMC have gathered the following comment on the disaster:

Dr Martin Preston, Senior Lecturer in Marine Pollution, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool said:

“This is already a bad spill and has the potential to be much worse if the oil continues to escape. The great depth of the leaks make it a huge technical challenge to deal with. The variability of the weather patterns means that it is going to be very difficult to predict where the oil will come ashore and therefore to be able to prepare defences against it. There are some very important and vulnerable habitats along the coastlines at risk and I think that it is inevitable that some serious and potentially long-term damage may occur. I am not convinced that burning the oil is the right strategy to adopt because it can leave a very persistent residue that can be more resistant to natural breakdown and is also impossible to treat in other ways. Continuing to use chemical dispersants would be a better option provided that there is a sufficient supply and means of delivering them. However there are some suggestions that the supplies of dispersants are running low.”

Scientists on Aussie ETS delay

The Australian Government admitted this week that the introduction of the country’s Emissions Trading Scheme could be delayed beyond the 2013 election, as Australia waits for ”credible action” on emissions cuts from the likes of China, India and the US.

The news has led to much commentary in the New Zealand media as to whether New Zealand should be pursuing an ETS as its major trading partners struggle to gain support for such schemes.

But as the New Zealand Herald points out in its editorial today:

“One way or the other, we have to pay. This is not a case of simply ignoring the Kyoto commitments and they go away.”

Our colleagues at the AusSMC wrapped up comment from scientists on the ETS delay.

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg is Director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland ask

“The question that should be posed to the government (and this goes for the opposition as well), is: if not the ETS, then what? What firm action is the government going to take to deal with this problem? (Perhaps a good place to start is the fact that we supply the world with 30% of its demand for coal. Shouldn’t we rethink that?)”