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A decision sure to anger environmentalists has been released by government permitting agency New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals (NZP&M), which has granted Trans-Tasman Resources a 20-year permit to extract ironsand from the seabed off Taranaki's coast.
The proposal sparked widespread condemnation from environmentalists and some local communities and thousands protested seabed mining.
Trans-Tasman Resources could not move directly to mining, as it now had to apply for a marine consent from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), NZP&M acting national manager for minerals, Heyward Bates, said in a statement.
Similarly, separate seabed miner Chatham Rock Phosphate is also seeking a marine consent from the EPA, to suction-dredge phosphate off the seabed floor, near the Chatham Islands.
NZP&M operates under the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). Trans-Tasman Resources wants to extract ironsand from a 66sq km area of seabed in New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone, off the coast of Patea.
''It [EPA] must consider a broad range of factors when making marine consent decisions, including weighing up potential impacts on the environment and existing interests,'' Mr Bates said.
Trans-Tasman Resources had submitted a marine consent application to the EPA and public hearings were under way. The EPA was expected to release a decision by June.
''Though it would be several years before mining commenced, if a marine consent is granted, it is clear this project has considerable benefits,'' Mr Bates said.