Phosphate dredging reaction

Submissions for Chatham Rock Phosphate's proposal to suction-dredge phosphate from the Chatham Rise sea floor appear to have generated less opposition than the separate proposal to dredge iron sands off Taranaki's sea floor.

Trans-Tasman Resources' (TTR) Taranaki iron sands proposal attracted 4702 submissions, with 99.5% opposing it, which was then rejected last month by the Environmental Protection Authority, a decision which is now under appeal.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is now considering Chatham Rock's proposal, with the submission deadline having closed, and attracting about 240 submissions. Public hearings will be scheduled.

Chatham Rock Phosphate managing director Chris Castle said while final analysis of the 240 submissions, both for and against, would not be available until next week, he claimed ''a healthy proportion'' were in favour, including from people with relevant expertise and/or with substantive arguments favouring Chatham's proposal.

''Further, only a few dozen submitters wish to be heard at the hearing,'' Mr Castle said in a market update yesterday.

Chatham Rock wants to suction dredge about 300mm of sea floor, in depths up to 400m, to extract phosphate nodules aboard ship, and return the sediment to the ocean, targeting eventual full production of 1.5 million tonnes a year.

While Chatham already has a mining permit, its marine consent application was filed to the EPA in May, with a decision expected in November.

''We've designed the way we plan to mine and how we monitor and mitigate any effects by building in the input of the many interested parties with whom we have consulted, to ensure their concerns are addressed,'' Mr Castle said.

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