Legal battle looms over seabed mining

Simon Hartley | Otago Daily Times | 16 August 2017

The gloves are coming off as mining interest groups and environmentalists prepare for a legal battle over consenting issues.

Similar legal challenges to Bathurst Resources’ coal mining consents on the West Coast dragged on for two years and the global coal price collapsed, forcing Bathurst to mothball much of its proposed operations.

Mining industry lobby group Straterra has applauded the granting of marine consents for Trans Tasman Resources to move towards ironsand extraction from Taranaki’s seabed.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) granted the consents last week, but environmental groups vowed to lodge appeals within the 15-day appeal period.

Submitting group Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) had said it would appeal and yesterday said its lawyers were working on an appeal, spokeswoman Cindy Baxter said.

”Apart from the fact that we consider this decision very flawed, and that such a huge operation with potentially devastating consequences only got the go-ahead because the chair of the committee had two votes, we have to look at the precedent it sets,” she said in a statement.

Straterra chief executive Chris Baker said the EPA’s decision making committees’s decision sent a strong signal to extractive sector investors ”that New Zealand is open for business”.

”The [decision] committee had to satisfy itself, on best available information, that effects can be well managed,” Mr Baker said.

Ms Baxter said after Trans Tasman’s first application was refused in 2014, many of the companies with permits on North Island coasts subsequently dropped them.

She said Trans Tasman’s application failed on several fronts, saying there were no surveys or studies on any marine mammals, penguins, fairy prion petrels or bottom dwelling organisms, nor measurement of existing ambient noise; which was an issue for marine mammals.

”They made no effort to undertake any baseline monitoring of the seabed, despite the lack of it being one of the grounds the EPA refused their first application,” Ms Baxter said.

Mr Baker noted more than 100 conditions were imposed on Trans Tasman, including a two-year monitoring plan before mining could take place.

Trans Tasman’s two applications and ongoing research and development costs are now understood to have cost it a total about $86million.

Trans Tasman wants to suction dredge about 50million tonnes of sands from the seabed annually, to extract 5million tonnes of ironsands, for the next 35 years.

More than 13,000 people opposed the application. Much of the opposition centres on the effects from the ”plume” of sands when being returned to the seabed.

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Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, New Zealand

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