Parliament has removed any obligation on the Government to promote the mining industry.
It says this will help its programme on climate change.
But the mining industry thinks this action is a misguided attack on an industry that can actually help in the fight against climate change.
The law in question is the Crown Minerals Act 1991 (CMA), which was amended in 2013 to require the Government to promote the industry in international forums and elsewhere.
It has now been changed under urgency to give the Government "flexibility", according to the Minister of Energy and Resources, Megan Woods.
“We have modernised the CMA for consistency with the goal of contributing to net zero carbon emissions by 2050,” Megan Woods says.
“It doesn’t make sense to have a net zero goal in one law and a requirement in another to promote mining fossil fuels that takes us away from achieving that."
This change was long pushed by non-government organisations. But the mining industry had strong reservations, saying it could harm, not help, the environment.
The mining lobby Straterra is saying little now that the law has been passed. But during consideration of the law by a parliamentary select committee, the head of Straterra, Josie Vidal, made her feelings clear.
She said the Bill conflates mining and greenhouse gas emissions, when New Zealand produces minerals for roads and concrete, and metals for electronics and electricity generation and storage.
"In addition, New Zealand has significant prospectivity in a range of minerals that are not currently mined, that will be important for New Zealand’s future and the low-carbon economy."
She also defended the mining industry as a whole.
"It is one of the most productive sectors in New Zealand.....the average annual wage in mining is $102,600 compared with $64,000 for the economy. Mining is concentrated in small parts of the country so its impact on the economic development of certain regions is significant.
"The consequence of amending the CMA will be to shrink the contribution of minerals activities to the New Zealand economy over time, leading to further reduction in New Zealand’s already low productivity.
"At the same time there will be no benefit to the global climate or the New Zealand environment because of “carbon leakage” and the fact that mining occupies such a small area of our country’s land area."
But Woods says she is pleased she no longer has to promote the exploration of fossil fuels in onshore Taranaki. She concedes, though, that some fossil fuels will be needed for the transition to a low-emissions future, but that will be temporary.
And Woods adds minerals are also needed for technology such as wind turbines, solar panels and batteries, and the latest law would give the Government a greater role in managing these resources.
An extra change strengthens the need for miners to engage with iwi and hapu.
“This is a significant step towards a sustainably managed crown minerals estate to provide for future generations," Woods says.