Would-be seabed miner Chatham Rock Phosphate appears to be
coming under pressure from the Environmental Protection
Authority (EPA), which this week requested additional
information in support of its application for a marine
While Chatham Rock has a mining permit from New Zealand
Petroleum and Minerals, its final hurdle is to gain a marine
consent from the EPA, which it applied for in May.
Public hearing dates were announced this week by the EPA,
starting in Wellington on September 4, then for a week on the
Chatham Islands, beginning October 6.
Chatham Rock proposes to use a suction dredge to lift a 300mm
layer of silt and phosphate nodules from depths of up to 400m
from the sea floor of the Chatham rise, separate it aboard
ship and return the silt to the ocean.
The EPA's project leader covering the Exclusive Economic Zone
(EEZ), Kim Morgan, requested a raft of ''further
information'' from Chatham Rock this week, including
questions on commercial viability, the benefits to New
Zealand and the impacts on commercial fishing and the
At its annual shareholders' meeting this week, Chatham Rock's
presentation included a summary of its marine consent
application to the EPA, the culmination of four years' work,
which highlighted its delivery of more than 450 pages of
overview, and 35 scientific and technical reports in support.
The company was ''confident we have done the science and
identified issues by talking to stakeholders'', the
Expectations were that Chatham Rock would be granted its
marine consent in November.
Chatham Rock was contacted yesterday and asked if it intended
responding to the EPA requests, but it did not respond or
post a sharemarket update.
Ms Morgan said while Chatham Rock had responded to an earlier
EPA request for more information, it had been unable to
provide any information on similar suction dredging
operations around the world in the depth range of 250m-400m.
''[However] it would be helpful to the DMC [decision-making
committee] to see the reports and studies on such mining
projects, including if possible environmental impact
assessments and commentary on the efficacy of mitigation
strategies that were implemented,'' Ms Morgan said.
The commercial fishing sector had in recent months been
railing against Chatham Rock's proposal, and the EPA had
asked what research underpinned
its conclusion that its project would have ''little or no
impact'' on commercial fishing on the Chatham Rise, and a
''worst case scenario'' of the impact on the value of fish
Within the three main areas of concern to the EPA, there are
nine, wide-ranging questions on the project, generally
seeking evidence of Chatham Rock's conclusions, including its
science, commercial operations and environmental statements.
Ms Morgan said it would be ''helpful'' if Chatham Rock could
provide the information by August 4.