The focus on proposed seabed mining now shifts from Taranaki
to the Chatham Rise, as the Environmental Protection
Authority (EPA) considers its second ocean mining
This week, the EPA's maiden decision declined a proposal by
Trans-Tasman Resources to mine iron-sand off Taranaki's coast
- throwing the focus on to a separate proposal by Chatham
Rock Phosphate to take phosphate from the sea floor of the
The Taranaki proposal galvanised thousands of people to
protest the project for a variety of environmental concerns,
including thousands of submissions to the EPA, while the
EPA's decision angered business and mining lobby groups.
Trans-Tasman has a 15-working-day appeal period, but can only
appeal a point of law.
The EPA decision said ''the major reason was uncertainty
around the scope and significance of the potential adverse
environmental effects, and those on existing interests, such
as the fishing interests and iwi''.
In an entirely separate seabed mining proposal, the EPA has
just called for public submissions on Chatham Rock
Phosphate's proposal to vacuum dredge sediment off the
Chatham Rise sea floor, to extract phosphate nodules. Chatham
has spent about $25 million in researching the project,
including its environmental reports for the EPA.
Forest and Bird's advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell said the
EPA's permit denial for Trans-Tasman was a ''positive
precedent'', meaning the Chatham Rise proposal to mine was
''unlikely to ever be approved''.
He said dredging in Taranaki was at depths of only between
20m and 45m, while the Chatham Rise was more than 400m deep.
''That would make it the deepest seabed mining operation in
the world, destroying habitats and species science knows even
less about,'' Mr Hackwell said.
Chatham Rock chief executive Chris Castle said the EPA's
decision against Trans-Tasman could not be compared to
Chatham's application as it involved mining a different
mineral, a different marine environment and different
''We remain very confident we have submitted a robust and
comprehensive application which will meet the legal tests
under the relevant New Zealand legislation,'' Mr Castle said.
Business New Zealand chief executive Phil O'Reilly said the
EPA's Taranaki decision was a ''blow for prospects for new
industries and growth in the exclusive economic zone'',
noting Trans-Tasman had spent $60 million in research during
the past seven years.
''No doubt the EPA has carried out its mandate in good faith,
but business will be wondering about the effect of the
decision on other new and emerging industries,'' Mr O'Reilly
Resource lobby group Straterra's chief executive Chris Baker
said the EPA decision was a ''shock and surprise'' and
''sends an unfortunate signal to potential investors''.
''Modern society needs these resources, as does the New
Zealand economy, and it is difficult to imagine that the
environmental impact of the proposed mining could not be
managed in an acceptable manner.
''I'm sure the company [Trans-Tasman] could have worked with
conditions that required review over time,'' Mr Baker said.
Trans-Tasman's chief executive Tim Crossley told the Taranaki
Daily News the company was ''extremely disappointed'' with
the decision, having put a significant amount of time and
effort into developing the project, including consulting iwi
and local communities and providing detailed scientific
research to assess environmental impacts of the project.
''We will be carefully analysing the decision over the next
few days and will take our time to consider what this means
for the South Taranaki Bight project and for the company.''
The EPA said it was ''not satisfied that the life-supporting
capacity of the environment would be safeguarded or that the
adverse effects of the proposal could be avoided, remedied or
mitigated, given the uncertainty and inadequacy of the
As with Trans-Tasman, Chatham Rock already has the requisite
mining permit for its Chatham Rise proposal, but it, too,
must gain an EPA marine consent. Public submissions for the
marine consent are open until July 10, with public hearings
to be scheduled later.