Tag Archives: EPA

Taranaki iron sand seabed mining consent reduced Māori interest to lip service, court told

Ngati Ruanui iwi went to Parliament to voice its protest against the Trans-Tasman Resources’ plans to mine iron sand off the Taranaki coast. (File photo: Monique Ford)

Stuff | April 16 2018

Māori interests were not properly considered in the decision to allow iron sand seabed mining off Taranaki, a court has been told.

They went to the High Court at Wellington on Monday seeking to overturn environmental permission for the project.

A lawyer for Māori and fishing interests, Francis Cooke, QC, said as far as they were aware this was a world first for deep sea iron sand mining to be allowed to be undertaken.

Ngati Ruanui protested against Trans-Tasman Resources’ bid for marine consent to mine the seabed for iron sand. More than 6000 people signed the petition calling for a moratorium on seabed mining. (File photo: Monique Ford)

The permission, though, had split the Environmental Protection Authority decision making committee, and the outcome depended on the chairman’s vote.

Cooke said the majority decision of the committee had reduced to an “interpretive gloss” the strongly-worded direction to take into account the interests of Māori, and give effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Instead the interests of Māori could be said to be reduced to lip service, he said.

The highest concentration of suspended sediment would occur in coastal marine area offshore from the Ngāti Ruanui district, and fish were expected to avoid the area, with severe effect on seabed life within 2km of the operation, and moderate effects up to 15km of the mining area.

Cooke said an earlier decision for the same activity, the same parties, in the same area had been declined, on different evidence. One of the later committee’s alleged errors was not taking into account the first decision to decline the application.

Even the committee that gave consent described some of the effects as perhaps being catastrophic from Trans-Tasman Resources’ mining, Cooke said.

The company has allegedly spent about $80 million preparing for the mining.

The decision making committee said that when extraction finally ended the effects would be long term, but not permanent.

Cooke said the committee appeared to have applied a standard that allowed the environment to be harmed provided it ultimately recovered.

It had misunderstood, and misapplied the law, he said. The committee never identified the standard against which it judged the environmental effect.

At the start of Monday’s hearing some members of the public could not find seats in the crowded courtroom and had to listen to proceedings via a link to a court foyer.

In August, the authority’s committee granted Trans-Tasman Resources 35-year marine and discharge consents to annually mine up to 50 million tonnes of iron sand in the South Taranaki Bight.

A remote-controlled dredge will vacuum sand from the sea bed between depths of 20 metres and 42m, at a rate of 8000 tonnes an hour, to a processing ship. The dredging is earmarked in an area 22 kilometres to 36km off the coastline from Patea.

The decision committee said the company proposed extracting seabed material and processing it on a vessel. Approximately 10 per cent of the material would be processed into iron ore concentrate and the rest would be discharged to the seabed. It was expected much of the concentrate would be sent to China for steel making.

Taranaki iwi, Greenpeace, Kiwis Against Seabed Mining, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, the Taranaki-Whanganui Conservation Board, Cloudy Bay Clams, the Federation of Commercial Fishermen, Southern Inshore Fisheries Management Company, Talleys Group, Te Ohu Kai Moana Trustee Ltd, and Trustees of Te Kaahui o Rauru, have appealed against the authority’s approval.

Trans-Tasman Resources is supporting the committee’s decision.

The hearing is expected to take about a week.

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Kiwis Against Seabed Mining promises to take case to Supreme Court if necessary

KASM chairwoman Cindy Baxter says the previous government’s support for the iron sands project was “very clear’ to the Environmental Protection Agency. Photo: Pullar-Strecker

Tom Pullar-Strecker | Stuff | April 16 2018

One of the lobby groups fighting a decision to approve iron sands mining off the Taranaki coast says it is prepared to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in August approved an application by miner Trans Tasman Resources (TTR) to dredge a billion tonnes of iron sands from the South Taranaki Bight, in a split decision that swung on committee chairman Alick Shaw’s casting vote.

A total of 11 groups with environmental, fishing and Maori interests are appealing the decision at the High Court in Wellington. They are concerned about issues such as the plume from waste material that will be returned to the seabed.

Some have also warned the project would set a precedent for seabed mining elsewhere in New Zealand waters and beyond. 

Cindy Baxter, chairwoman of Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) – speaking outside the High Court before proceedings began –  said it was very clear the former National government supported the mining venture. 

She believed that had not been lost on the EPA, which is an independent body.

“The Government changed the legislation to make it easier for it to get through and Callaghan Innovation suddenly gave TTR a big grant when it wasn’t even a New Zealand company,” she said.

The 66 square kilometres off the South Taranaki coast (shown in dark green) where Trans Tasman Resources has applied to mine iron ore.

“This is a company that brought 35 per cent of its shares across from Holland three weeks before its application so it could claim it was a Kiwi company.”

Baxter said she couldn’t say whether the EPA was influenced by the former government’s support for the venture. But “it certainly got that message” and the process it had gone through to approve the mining application was flawed, she said.

Even so, two of the commissioners still voted to reject the mining application, issuing a “strongly dissenting opinion”, she noted.

Baxter said she believed the new government was trying to be “hands off” and was waiting for the outcome of the court challenge.

“I think they are letting the legal process go through. They don’t really want to talk to us about it at the moment – although certainly the Green Party does.”   

Baxter said KASM was prepared to take the court challenge as far as it needed to.

“If we have to, we will take it to the Supreme Court. This is a precedent-setting case. 

“It is the first seabed mining application that has been approved in New Zealand and it would open the flood gates for others around the country.” 

Opponents of the Taranaki iron sands project gather outside the High Court. Photo: Pullar-Strecker

TTR has been contacted for comment. It has previously said the Taranaki Iron Sands project would be “a sustainable and world leading development” that would have little environmental effect and directly employ 463 people, generating about $7 million of royalties for the Crown.

Baxter said seabed mining was basically new internationally, though diamond giant De Beers has vacuumed diamonds from 6000 square kilometres of sea floor off the coast of Namibia.

There are proposals to mine a large area about 500 miles south-east of Hawaii called the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone which Japanese scientists are reported to estimate contains up to 100 billion metric tons of rare-earth deposits.

Southern Cross Cable, which has surveyed a route for a new internet cable between New Zealand, Australia and the United States, has been re-surveying its route to avoid that mining zone.

Greenpeace campaigner Michael Smith said the South Taranaki Bight was a “vital ecosystem” that was home to endangered blue whales and Maui dolphins.

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Who is standing up for the seabed in NZ?

Paul Brooks | Wanganui Chronicle Editorial | 24 August, 2017

THE SEABED mining dispute in South Taranaki has many of us wondering exactly what constitutes the role of the Environmental Protection Authority and its large staff of former politicians, accountants and the odd person actually versed in environmental matters.

Its decision to allow seabed mining of ironsands in an ecologically sensitive area highlights its political — as opposed to its environmental — nature. Its title is an oxymoron.

It is also worth noting that the decision by the committee appointed by the EPA was split, two for approving the application and two against it, with the casting vote made by chairman Alick Shaw, a former politician and professional committee member.

To quote from the EPA website:

“Mr Shaw is currently a member of the Housing New Zealand Board and the New Zealand Parole Board (until the end of September 2016). He completed two terms as a board member for the New Zealand Transport Agency. Mr Shaw has held numerous positions on a variety of governance boards, and is a former Councillor and Deputy Mayor of Wellington City Council.”

And his knowledge of the seabed and consequences of its destruction come from … ?

It was his decision to allow seabed mining to go ahead.

That decision went against the wishes of the people who live in the affected area, the people who are protesting and putting a legitimate case against the mining proposal. To suggest their petitions and submissions were taken into account before the decision was made is, in the vernacular, bollocks. The decision was political.

It was made by a committee appointed by an agency run by a Government which has systematically withdrawn funding from environmental protection and conservation.

That decision was a foregone conclusion despite the well-paid months the committee sat and pondered.

The promises of jobs and local prosperity, even if true, mean nothing in comparison with the environmental damage to the region and the pillage of valuable breeding grounds.

But who is listening?

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Taranaki seabed mining decision delayed by a week

Ngati Ruanui, of Patea, protest in Parliament grounds, Wellington, against the mining application. MONIQUE FORD / Fairfax NZ

Andrew Owen | Taranaki Daily News | July 25 2017

The decision on a controversial application to mine thousands of tons of iron sand off the Taranaki coast has been put back by a week.

The Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) decision-making committee is considering an application by Trans-Tasman Resources Ltd (TTR) to extract billions of dollars in iron ore in shallow waters about 25 kilometres off the coast of Patea.

The 20-year project would involve extracting about a quarter of a cubic kilometre of iron sands, weighing a billion tonnes, from under the sea within the South Taranaki Bight. Iron ore would be separated out on a ship before 90 per cent of the material was piped back onto the mined seabed.  

A hearing on the application took place earlier this year and a decision was expected to have been given to the EPA on Thursday.

But the committee announced on Tuesday that it “requires a further extension of one week to deliver its decision to the EPA”. 

It is now expected to be presented on Thursday, August 3 and will be made public in the week beginning August 14.  

“As you can appreciate this is an important application and the committee is determined to ensure it has given full consideration to all of the information presented at the hearing and prepare a fully reasoned decision,” Diane Robinson, EPA Group Manager: Communications, said in a statement.

“As is usual with such applications, we fully expect the decision document itself could run into hundreds of pages. Once we have received it, the document will need to be proof-read before hard copies are produced and bound for publication.”

This is the second application by TTR, which is about 45 per cent foreign-owned, to get approval for the project.

Its previous application was rejected by the EPA in 2014 but the company then modified its proposal and now describes the potential effects on the marine environment as “very small to negligible”. 

However, the application has attracted a great deal of opposition from iwi and hapu members in South Taranaki, as well as opposition from further afield.

Environmental groups including Greenpeace and Forest & Bird, along with fisheries companies, are opposing the mining permit, concerned about the impact on blue whales, Maui’s dolphins and other marine life.

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Anti-mining activists taking NZ government agency to court over confidential documents

Redacted pages from TTR's mining application

Redacted pages from TTR’s mining application

Jeremy Wilkinson | Stuff

Activists are taking a government agency to court over its refusal to release blacked out documents related to plans for a huge mining scheme off the South Taranaki coast.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has stood by its decision to allow parts of an application by Trans Tasman Resources (TTR) to remain confidential. 

The company wants to mine 50 million tonnes of sand from a 66 square kilometre area in order to extract iron ore.

Ngati Ruanui of Patea are the iwi most affected by the proposed mining and are staunchly opposed to it. MONIQUE FORD / Fairfax NZ

Ngati Ruanui of Patea are the iwi most affected by the proposed mining and are staunchly opposed to it. MONIQUE FORD / Fairfax NZ

But it has kept hundreds of pages blacked-out in its consent application to the EPA.

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) chair Phil McCabe said the group would filing proceedings with the Environment Court against the EPA on Friday. 

A public submission period is currently underway for people wanting to have their say on TTR’s application, its second since the EPA rejected an earlier effort in 2014.

At that time the EPA said the environmental impact of mining was still unknown. 

KASM has made a submission to the EPA to reveal the documents, but the authority ruled on Wednesday they would be kept under-wraps to preserve the commercial sensitivity of the information. 

Kasm delivered a 6000+ signed the petition calling for a moratorium on seabed mining to parliament in September.

“It’s not a good decision, this is meant to be a public and transparent process,” McCabe said.

“It’s not possible for the public to make an informed submission if there are hundreds of pages of vital information missing.”

TTR has maintained that the information contained within the redacted sections was commercially sensitive and the EPA’s decision making committee (DMC) chair Alick Shaw agreed.

“The DMC remains satisfied that an order protecting the sensitive information is necessary to avoid disclosing a trade secret or avoid causing unreasonable prejudice to TTR’s commercial position,” he said. 

People wanting to view the confidential sections can sign an agreement with TTR, but McCabe said it was unrealistic to expect thousands of people to sign.

“It’s hardly confidential anymore anyway if that were to happen,” he said. 

At present several organisations, such as the Iwi Fisheries Forum, DOC, Fish and Game NZ and the Taranaki Regional Council have all signed the agreement, but affected iwi have stonewalled any consultation with the company, including signing the agreement. 

A TTR spokesperson said the company could not comment on the EPA’s process and had nothing to add.

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NZ decision on Experimental Seabed Mining should prompt PNG review

ACT NOW!

The decision by the New Zealand government to reject an experimental seabed mining proposal should prompt a review of similar plans in PNG says community campaign group, ACT NOW!

“The New Zealand decision to rejected seabed mining in its exclusive economic zone is highly relevant to the proposed mining activity by Nautilus Minerals in the Bismarck Sea”, says ACT NOW! Program Manager, Effrey Dademo.

keep calm and stop seabed miningThe NZ Environment Protection Agency found the mining would not promote the sustainable management of natural resources and there was considerable uncertainty about the scale of the potential effects on the environment and existing interests including those of indigenous Maori and the fishing industry.

The EPA found that imposing stringent conditions, including a risk-based tiered adaptive management approach as proposed by the developer, on the proposed activity would not be sufficient to avoid, remedy or mitigate the adverse effects of the activity.

In principle the proposed mining in NZ was identical to what is proposed by Nautilus Minerals: the excavation of the seafloor, removal to a surface vessel for the separation of the ore and the returning of the unwanted materials to the seabed; although the minerals to be extracted in the two cases are different.

ACT NOW! has written to relevant government departments in PNG enclosing a copy of the full NZ EPA decision and calling for a review of the application by Nautilus Minerals and a reevaluation of all licenses and approvals already granted.

“We believe that as in the NZ case, the proposed mining activity by Nautilus Minerals will not promote the sustainable management of our natural resources as required by law and there are considerable risks to the environment and existing interests that cannot be sufficiently managed or controlled”, says ACT NOW!.

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NZ: Company confident it will mine seabed

Chatham Rise

Radio New Zealand

The company that wants to mine rock phosphate from the seabed east of New Zealand expects to hear next month whether it will get approval.

Chatham Rock Phosphate has mining licence covering more than 800 square kilometres of the Chatham Rise about 450km off the Canterbury coast. But it needs a marine consent for the operation to take up to 1.5 million tonnes of rock phosphate a year from the sea floor.

A committee appointed by the Environmental Protection Authority finished hearing submissions last week and was due to make its decision by the end of January.

In the meantime, the company had been doing further work to assess the performance of Chatham Rock Phosphate compared with other fertilisers on the market.

Chief executive Chris Castle said glasshouse trials by Lincoln and AgResearch scientists confirmed its effectiveness as a direct application fertiliser.

“Really we know what the outcome was going to be. We knew that the results would be good, but one particularly interesting surprise this time was the fact that the uptake (by the plants) was very quick.

“The trials back in the 80’s showed that the Chatham Rock Phosphate was a slow starter, it took a while to catch up and eventually it had the same efficacy as super phosphate. The difference this time was that it was up and running right away.”

Mr Castle said Chatham Rock Phosphate was planning to do field trials next year.

The timing of those would depend on the outcome of is marine consent application, which has been opposed by environmental groups as well as fishing and Maori interests concerned about the impact of the mining operation on the sea floor and marine life.

“If the application is not immediately approved, we’ll probably defer our tests because we’ll be in a position where we’ll be fundraising for the next stage of the legal process. We have no intention of going away. If this is not approved, we will either appeal or we can relodge (the application).”

Mr Castle was confident the application would succeed, despite strong oppostion.

“There’s been some strongly expressed opinions, but the facts have stacked up well and the experts acting for the oppositon have actually agreed with our experts – that there’s no effect on fishing, the effects on the environment will be short term and sporadic and cover a very limited footprint of the Chatham Rise, so I’m very, very confident of a successful outcome.”

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