The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has been
criticised by marine consent applicant Chatham Rock
Phosphate, for releasing a staff report on its application.
Chatham wants to mine up to 1.5 million tonnes of phosphate
nodules, by vacuum dredging the seafloor on the Chatham Rise
at depths of 400m, and during the past four years has spent
more than $26 million on research, development and permit
While public submissions have just closed on Chatham's
application, and public hearings are yet to begin, the EPA's
170-page report gives a mixed message that staff cannot grant
a marine consent, but its view could be changed by more
information, which is about to be provided by Chatham.
Chatham managing director Chris Castle said the report's
release was ''premature'' and should not have not have been
issued until extra information requested of Chatham by the
EPA was provided.
''In order to be a fair and balanced report, it should have
taken account of information we either recently provided or
is still yet to be prepared,'' Mr Castle said in a statement
The report's summary said: ''Chatham Rock Phosphate's
proposed mining activities would have significant adverse
effects on a biologically diverse benthic community.
''Significant gaps in the information remain, and there is
uncertainty about the ability to avoid, remedy or mitigate
the adverse effects of these proposed mining activities.
''The EPA staff are not currently able to recommend granting
this marine consent on the face of CRP's application as it
stands, but recognise that there is more information to be
provided, which may change our view.''
The report went on to say if the EPA did grant the marine
consent, the staff had therefore included in the report a
''preliminary set of draft conditions ... as a starting
Mr Castle said Chatham would not expect a report, at this
stage in the process, to recommend approval.
''Otherwise, what is the point of all of the additional
information, the caucusing of expert witnesses, and the weeks
of hearings ... still ahead?''
He said that while there were ''uncertainties'' to seafloor
mining, that was what the marine consent process was
''designed to identify and clarify''.
''We remain confident we have done the work to show we can
undertake our mining operations in a sustainable way, and we
believe the marine consent process will demonstrate this,''
Mr Castle said.
Following the criticism, EPA general manager of applications
and assessment Sarah Gardner said the staff report was not a
decision on the application.
The decision-making committee, appointed by the EPA board to
hear and decide the application may make a different decision
to that recommended by EPA staff.
• The EPA, which regulates the vast offshore Exclusive
Economic Zone, has already declined consent to an unrelated
proposal by Trans Tasman Resources to dredge ironsand from
the seabed off Taranaki; now subject to an appeal.