Rock phosphate plan closer

Seabed mine developer Chatham Rock Phosphate is a step closer to starting its project, having just filed its draft marine consent application to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).

Chatham wants to use a suction dredge, in depths up to 425m off the Chatham Rise, to vacuum up the top 300mm of seabed sand and pebble-sized phosphate, estimating it can supply up to 1.5 million tonnes per year.

During the past four years Chatham has spent more than $27 million in shareholders funds on the project and was considering a private placement to raise more capital, subject to the company establishing a secondary listing on the London Stock Exchange's AIM Board.

Chatham managing director Chris Castle, of Wellington, said the marine consent was the only major licence Chatham now required.

He said Chatham's environmental impact assessmentformed the centrepiece of the marine consent application, which will be considered under the Exclusive Economic Zone environmental consenting regime, as part of the EEZ and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) legislation, which came into force last June.

''Having done our homework, we know this project stacks up technically, environmentally and financially,'' Mr Castle said.

Once the EPA accepted Chatham's application as complete, Mr Castle said information in the environmental impact assessment would be publicly available, submissions would be taken, and there would be public hearings in coming months. Chatham expects an EPA decision by November.

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