Resource Management Act: RMA Link: Topics: Details

The RMAlink project aims to make community participation in all Resource Management Act processes more straightforward and less time-consuming. More effective participation from those with a concern for the environment will contribute towards improving environmental outcomes nationwide.

Topics: Details

Hosted by:

Wellington Community Network
Subject Mining, Mineral Extraction

Text Mining

The environmental effects of all types of mining, mineral extraction and quarrying in New Zealand are regulated through the Resource Management Act.

Prior to 1991, mining activities were controlled through the Mining Act 1971, the Petroleum Act 1937, and the Coal Mines Act 1979. They were largely exempt from any local authority planning controls under the Town and Country Planning Act 1977, which has resulted in a number of environmental issues at problem sites which are still being dealt with today, after mining has ceased.

The Crown Minerals Act 1991 deals with the management and extraction of Crown owned minerals. Through a system of Minerals Permits and Access Agreements, rights are allocated for mining and quarrying in return for the payment of royalties to the Crown.

Minerals such as gold, silver, metals, fuel minerals (coal, gas and oil) industrial rocks and clays, stone used for building (schist, Oamaru Stone) are all classed as Crown-owned minerals, and are covered by the Act unless it can be determined that they are privately owned. A person or firm wishing to mine must obtain a mining permit from the Crown, which will set the amount of royalties to be paid. They must secure an access agreement with the landowner (if the land is not theirs), which will involve payment. They need to obtain any other necessary permits or authorities, e,g, authority to modify archaeological sites under the Historic Places Act 1993, the consent of the Minister of Conservation if the site is within the conservation estate, and building consents under the Building Act where structures are required. All mining operations require a resource consent.

Gravel, sand, shingle and low-value rock of the type used in building construction, concrete and road building are not usually Crown-owned. Operations for quarrying and extracting these need a resource consent only.

Environmental effects of mining
The Crown Minerals Act does not deal with the environmental effects of mining these come within the scope of the RMA. District plans will contain rules that regulate mining or quarrying activities, and manage impacts such as noise, earthworks vegetation clearance. Regional plans will deal with water use, and set minimum standards for discharges of pollutants to water and air. Consent conditions will be imposed to avoid, remedy or mitigate adverse environmental effects, and ensure that restoration work is carried out.

Opencast mining results in large scale alteration to the landscape, with removal of vegetation, the need for restoration of landforms, and revegetation of large areas. Coal mining can result in acid drainage water, high levels of sediment and heavy metals entering streams and rivers. Cyanide and mercury are used in gold mining to extract gold from hard rock. Mining operations need to be engineered to contain these substances securely within the site, both during mine operations, and in the years after mining ceases. During the resource consent procedure, risks must be properly assessed and clearly communicated to communities. Measures to avoid, remedy or mitigate risks must be robust, and liability issues clarified. Bond payments are a common instrument used by local and regional authorities to deal with risks of this nature. Effective monitoring programmes are also essential.

A useful summary of mining issues and impacts can be found in Chapter 10 of Forest and Birds Handbook of Environmental Law. (see reference list)

Sustainable Management of Minerals
There is no provision in New Zealand law for the sustainable management of minerals, as, by definition, mineral resources are finite. However, there is a sound basis in economic theory for arriving at a depletion rate policy. Such policy reflects an ethic of setting aside a share of a finite resource for future generations. At a time when sustainable management of all types of resources is becoming an accepted priority, this aspect of our minerals regime deserves further consideration. This point is discussed briefly in the publication Environmental Law for a Sustainable Society, p32 and 43. (see reference list). More information can be found in texts on environmental economics.



Harris, R.(ed)(2004) Handbook of Environmental Law
Royal NZ Forest and Bird Protection Society Inc. Wellington. ISBN 0-9597851-8-3
Chapter 10 p278-304. The Law and Mining, by S.Christenson
Description: A summary of mining-related legislation, environmental impacts of different methods, and suggestions for effective public involvement to ensure best practice is followed to minimise environmental damage.

Williams, D. A. R. (1997) Environmental and Resource Management Law, 2nd Edition
Butterworths, Wellington. 694p ISBN 0-409-79014-1
Description: Chapter 6, p213-240 Mining, by P. Majurey. Detailed explanation of the provisions of the Crown Minerals Act 1991, and a short reference to the RMA.

Langer, E R. Davis, M. R. Ross, C. W. (1999) Rehabilitation of Lowland Native Forest After Mining in Westland
Science for Conservation Series no 117., Department of Conservation, Wellington.

PCE (1997) Long Term Management of the Environmental Effects of Tailing Dams.
Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Wellington. ISBN 0908804776
Description:Covers environmental effects from disposal of tailings, methods of assessing short and long term risks, liability issues, concerns of iwi and hapu, the polluter pays principle and options for implementing it.

PCE (1992) Environmental Management of Coal Mining
Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Wellington.
Description: Results of an investigation into the governments system of agencies and processes established for managing the environmental effects of mining operations. Compares mines in Waikato, Southland and West Coast. Found problems with West Coast mines due to terrain, high rainfall, and local authoritys performance with compliance. Makes recommendations for improved practice.

Barker, R and Hurley, G (1997) Mining and the Environment, 2nd ed. Mineral Resource Series No. 2.
Pagez Productions, Auckland
Description: Small but useful booklet provides an overview of mining in New Zealand. Explains simply and clearly several types of mining operations, including coal mining, and gold mining using chemical extraction. Describes impacts, site rehabilitation, and monitoring techniques.

Bosselmann, K. and Grinlinton, D. (2002) Environmental Law for a Sustainable Society
NZ Centre for Environmental Law, Auckland University. Monograph Series, vol. 1. ISBN 0 473 086468
Description: A review of environmental law in New Zealand, and discussion of changes that are required to bring our statutes in line with the principles of sustainable development.

Journal Articles

Gibbs, M.(2003) The fate of existing mining privileges.
Resource Management Journal, March 2003. Vol 11, no 1.

Web-Based Resources
Organisation: Site of the NZ Minerals Industry Association.
Resources:Background information on all types of mining and mineral extraction in New Zealand.
Organisation: Site of the Ministry for Economic Developments Crown Minerals Office.
Resources: Information on this site is oriented towards utilisation of mineral resources, obtaining permits etc.


Relevant Case Law