Miner's suction-dredging application accepted

Seabed mine developer Chatham Rock Phosphate's application to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for marine consent to suction dredge the Chatham seabed has been accepted as complete.

Acceptance of the application, lodged on May 14, means that after public scrutiny, the EPA will probably make a decision by November or December.

Listed Chatham Rock has spent more than $25 million during the past four years on science, feasibility and seabed tests.

Chatham's 18.7% shareholder Boskalis is contracted to suction dredge up to 1.5 million tonnes a year of phosphate nodules from the Chatham Rise's top 300mm of seabed, at depths of up to 425m, returning sediments to the ocean after screening on ship.

Chatham becomes the shore-based phosphate marketing company.

Chatham got its separate mining permit from government permitting agency Petroleum and Minerals in December, and in coming months the EPA will publicly notify the application, take submissions, hold a public hearing and appoint a committee to make the final decision.

Chatham's managing director, Chris Castle, said the acceptance was ''another significant milestone'' and the EPA had a process that enabled anyone with an interest in the project to have input.

He believed the Chatham phosphate resource could replace all imports, was of a higher quality and had less environmental impact, and could also become an export earner.


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