Sydney - Despite the current global appetite for minerals, which has underpinned two decades of economic growth in Australia, the country currently has no plans to allow any mining in Antarctica, a lawmaker said on Friday.
“One of the great achievements for the Labor government was to be able to preserve the Antarctic for future generations,” member of Parliament Tony Burke told reporters after an award ceremony in Sydney.
“Anyone that wanted to challenge there being a pristine environment in the Antarctic would find a very strong opponent in Australia,” he added.
Australia has a claim to 42 percent of Antarctica.
In 1989, Bob Hawke, then Prime Minister of Australia, led the international push to reject mining in Antarctica in favour of keeping the fragile continent as a natural reserve.
The Hawke government's actions initially proved unpopular with the 33 Antarctic Treaty nations who, in June 1988, had already signed the Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities.
While Antarctica is known to have sizeable mineral deposits including coal and iron ore, and possibly oil and gas, mining is thought to be economically unviable due to distance and the harsh climate.
Despite economic constraints, oil exploration has already begun in Arctic regions, with huge oil finds in places such as Norway's Barents Sea. Russia's discovery of oil in their part of the Barents Sea could also fuel a boom and a race to tap potentially huge resources. Despite the potential for mining in the Arctic region, Australia is confident it can preserve Antarctica for future generations.
“We have a strong opposition to the industrialisation of Antarctica in any way,” Burke said.
“There is no stage where we feel any pressure under our position. We want to preserve a pristine environment.” - Reuters