NZ: Is this the end for seabed ironsands mining?


Pattrick Smellie | Yahoo Finance

A certain sort of fog of war tends to reign in battles between industrial developments and environmentalists.

Both sides are inclined to talk up their prospects and overstate their positions. Often what’s happening is that both sides are simply preserving their positions with supporters.

The most recent example is the triumphal reception given by the lobby group Kiwis Against Seabed Mining to the announcement by Trans-Tasman Resources that it is dropping its appeal against the rejection of its bed to mine ironsands off the seabed floor in the Exclusive Economic Zone.

KASM called the decision a “victory for commonsense”, but failed to notice that all TTR has announced so far is the abandonment of an appeal, not the abandonment of the project.

In fact, what TTR has said is that it doesn’t see the point of pursuing the appeal because even it succeeds, it will take too long to reconvene hearings with the original decision-making committee, appointed by the Environmental Protection Authority.

It would rather preserve its cash and consider launching a fresh application altogether. From TTR’s perspective, that may be preferable anyway, since it was very surprised and unhappy with the conclusions of the original committee, which found too many uncertainties about the environmental impacts of the project to allow it to go ahead.

At least with a fresh committee, the issues would be considered anew and with fresh eyes.

Of course, TTR could just as easily be bluffing. While it has an unspecified amount of cash in the bank and looks capable of mounting another application, it’s hard yakka being the first applicant under a new regime trying to undertake a controversial new type of economic development.

TTR will be watching very closely the decision now pending on the application by Chatham Rock Phosphate for a marine consent to mine phosphate on the Chatham Rise. If the CRP bid fails too, it would have to be an odds-on bet that seabed mining efforts will go on the backburner for quite some time, if not permanently in New Zealand.

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Filed under Environmental impact, Financial returns, Human rights, New Zealand, Pacific region

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