After its U-turn on mining in conservation land the Government is now working with iwi leaders about the possibilities of mining on Maori-owned land.

Prime Minister John Key and Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee met the Iwi Leaders Group last night to discuss the opportunities for mining.

The Government last year proposed opening up 7000 hectares of conservation land in the Coromandel, Great Barrier Island and Paparoa National Park to prospecting for valuable minerals.

The land is protected against mining under schedule four of the Crown Minerals Act, and the proposals provoked furious opposition from the public and conservation lobby groups.

In July the Government announced they would not mine on schedule four land.

Mr Key said Maori were already involved in the many mining activities already going on around the country.

"It's not as if they're not participants already, the question is whether they can, or would want to, play a bigger role."

It was up to Maori whether they decided to engage in mining and with what, or how much land, Mr Key said.

"I wouldn't say there was a universal desire for Maori to be engaged in mining but there's the potential and they at least want to have the discussion. Given the nature of their engagement, we thought it was a good idea to have that discussion."

He said he was also aware that the Iwi Leaders Group did not speak for all Maori and Government would be talking with other groups as well.

While the Government had made it clear it would not mine in schedule four land, it was interested in expanding other mining activities, Mr Key said.

It was conducting aero-magnetic surveys and having talks with interested parties.

He said he thought New Zealanders recognised that there was a big mineral and resource base in New Zealand and "that done the right way it can be exploited for the benefit of all New Zealanders and can add significantly to both economic growth and the revenue of the Crown".

The economic advantages had to be balanced with the environmental impact, Mr Key said.

Mr Key also discussed the replacement foreshore and seabed legislation with the Iwi Leaders Group at the meeting.

They voiced their concerns, he said.

"They want more and the Government's position is clear, that we've laid our best cards on the table and either they'll accept it or they won't."