The federal government insists Australia will stand against any mining, at any time in Antarctica.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt played down speculation that China is interested in mining oil, gas and minerals there.

China and Australia have an agreement that commits both countries to full, peaceful co-operation in Antarctica, and to an absolute ban on mining on the frozen continent.

“We are completely, absolutely and utterly opposed to any mining in Antarctica, ever,” Mr Hunt told reporters in Tasmania on Wednesday.

He signed the deal, under which China recommits to the Antarctic Treaty and maintains a demilitarised Antarctic zone, with a senior Chinese official last November.

China unveiled its fourth Antarctic research station last year.