Tag Archives: New Zealand

NZ seabed iron sand mining decision reserved

Opponents of seabed iron sand mining gathered more than 6000 signatures on a petition calling for a moratorium on seabed mining. (File photo: Monique Ford)

Stuff | April 19 2018

The finely balanced decision to consent to seabed mining of iron sand might have swung the other way if the decision makers had properly considered some factors, a lawyer says.

Eleven parties have appealed against the consents that were granted last August to Trans-Tasman Resources Ltd.

The appeal hearing in the High Court at Wellington wrapped up on Thursday with Justice Peter Churchman reserving his decision.

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

The final speaker was Davey Salmon, a lawyer for Greenpeace and Kiwis Against Seabed Mining, who said the consent decision had been as finally balanced as it was possible to be.

The Environmental Protection Authority had appointed a four-person decision making committee.

When the committee was deadlocked the chairman had the deciding vote, so even though members of the committee were split two against two, the outcome was that the consents were granted.

Salmon said the committee did not have enough information on which to make its decision, and did not give proper weight to issues that counted against allowing seabed mining.

The committee chairman had a legal obligation to exercise the casting vote favouring caution, and exercise caution where information was lacking, he said.

Trans-Tasman Resources’ lawyer, Justin Smith, QC, said it was unlikely the chairman was meant to change his vote because another committee member disagreed with him.

Even if the judge found against Trans-Tasman Resources on one or more points, it did not mean the decision had to be quashed, Smith said. He asked for a further hearing to discuss the consequences, if the judge intended to allow the appeal.

The lawyer for Māori and fishing interests, Francis Cooke, QC, said the two members who granted the consents had not grappled with a key problem.

The seabed that was to be mined was in the exclusive economic zone off the south Taranaki coast, up to the boundary of the coastal marine area, closer to shore, which came under resource management rules.

Mining would create a significant sediment plume that would spread into the coastal marine area where it was prohibited, Cooke said.

Trans-Tasman Resources said the marine consent and marine discharge consent it was granted were enough to allow mining to proceed, but the opponents said resource consent was also needed.

Regardless of that issue, it was already signalled that whichever way the judge decided, the outcome was likely to be appealed.

The committee granted the 35-year consents subject to conditions, including that two years of monitoring had to take place before Trans-Tasman Resources was allowed to begin mining up to 50 million tonnes of seabed material a year to extract iron ore for export.

A remote-controlled dredge would vacuum sand from the sea bed in depths between about 20 metres and 42m, to a processing ship. The dredging was planned in an area 22 kilometres to 36km offshore from Patea.

It was planned that about 90 per cent of the material would be returned to the sea. Opponents said the noise and sediment plume would cause fish to avoid the area, and would result in long term, if not permanent, damage to the environment and cultural concerns of Māori.

The company said the area was already intensively fished, had gas and oil installations, and was a rugged environment subject to naturally occurring sediment flows from rivers.

Taranaki iwi Ngāti Ruanui, and Trustees of Te Kaahui o Rauru, along with 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, and Te Ohu Kai Moana Trustee Ltd, appealed against the consents.

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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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NZ EPA seabed mining court case a fight for the future

Scoop NZ | April 15, 2018

The future of the South Taranaki Bight lies in the hands of the High Court next week, which will hear appeals against the Environmental Protection Authority’s decision to grant a marine consent to Trans-Tasman Resources’ bid to dig up the seabed for its iron ore.

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM), with Greenpeace, is appealing the decision, alongside six other appellants.

The EPA decision was released in August 2017, a year after Trans-Tasman Resources submitted its application to dig up 50 million tonnes of the seabed a year in a 66 square kilometre section of the South Taranaki Bight – for 35 years. A total of 95% will be discharged, resulting in a large sediment plume, to get five million tonnes a year of iron ore. Of the 13,733 submissions (a record) received by the EPA, all but 147 – one percent – were either opposed to the consent or neutral.

“This is a fight for the future of our precious oceans,” said KASM chair Cindy Baxter. “The outcome of this case will set a precedent for a number of other companies waiting in the wings to mine our seabed, in the South Taranaki Bight and beyond. Trans-Tasman has prospecting permits for at least two more in the Bight, and two others around the country.”

“Our Oceans are in distress, and are facing a crisis of marine biodiversity loss. Our oceans provide us vital services, food and livelihoods, as well as oxygen and carbon sequestration when we have healthy ecosystems,” said Michael Smith, a campaigner with Greenpeace New Zealand.

“The South Taranaki Bight is one such vital ecosystem, home to a population of endangered blue whales and Maui dolphins. Protecting its biodiversity is why this case is so important..”

KASM and Greenpeace are appealing on 12 points of law. Among these is the issue of what is called “adaptive management” whereby an activity like seabed mining is allowed to go ahead, adapting the conditions on which it occurs along the way.

“The EPA has set down 109 conditions, but many are still to be developed, such as the effect of seabed mining on marine mammals and seabirds,” said Cindy Baxter. “We are also raising other issues, such as natural justice, the way economic benefits have been calculated, and the role of the precautionary approach.”

The hearing begins at the High Court in Wellington, 10 am, Monday 16 April 2018 and will last for four days.

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Te Kāhui o Rauru to appeal seabed mining in NZ High Court

Iwi representative group , Te Kāhui o Rauru, will appear in the Wellington High Court to appeal the Environmental Protection Authority’s decision last year allowing Trans Tasman Resources Ltd to mine the Taranaki seabed.

Tema Hemi | Maori Television | 15 April 2018

West Coast Taranaki has been the interest of mining companies for decades. But local iwi Ngaa Rauru is making a final stand to stop mining along their coastline. 

Iwi representative group , Te Kāhui o Rauru, will appear in the Wellington High Court to appeal the Environmental Protection Authority’s decision last year allowing Trans Tasman Resources Ltd to mine the Taranaki seabed. 

The mining operation involves the excavation of 50 million tonnes of seabed per year for 35 years over an area of 65 square kilometres, down to 11 metres deep. 

CEO of Te Kāhui o Rauru, Anne-Marie Broughton, says, “We want a moratorium on seabed mining because there is just too many unknowns about this operation”. 

Broughton says the carnage and impacts will be immense. 

“The damage to the environment ranges from the very tinniest of ocean creatures to the largest. So if we think about the very tinniest, like the plankton and the krill, in our environment. they actually feed the food chain right up to the largest creatures in our marine life like the Blue Whale.” 

Despite the governments announcement to end offshore oil exploration in New Zealand,  concerns for Taranaki continue. 

Mike Smith of Green Peace says, “”It’s certainly not fair on Taranaki who continue to have their lands fracked, their health put at risk to see their lands desecrated.”

National Party MP Todd Muller told Te Kāea the announcement is a step backwards especially for Taranaki. He says, “You watch, there will be a retrenchment in that industry and as some media have already reported this is the long-term death of Taranaki. It’s unacceptable when the opportunity is there for New Zealand to participate,” 

But Ngaa Rauru iwi says the environmental impacts outweighs the employment opportunities. 

Ngaa Rauru Kiitahi will join alongside other appeal parties from tomorrow. Including representatives of the Taranaki-Whanganui Conservation Board, Te Ohu Kaimoana and Ngaati Ruanui. 

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Groups prepare for seabed mining hearing in Wellington

There have been a series of protests against consents to mine the South Taranaki seabed. Photo/File

Wanganui Chronicle | 3 April, 2018

It’s good to see so many groups banding together to oppose mining the South Taranaki seabed, Kiwis Against Seabed Mining chairwoman Cindy Baxter says.

The groups will be heard in the Wellington High Court from April 16-19. They include iwi, conservation and fishing interests.

They are appealing against the Environmental Protection Authority’s August 2017 decision to give mining company Trans-Tasman Resources consent to mine iron-sand offshore from Patea.

The consent was narrowly granted. Two of the four-member decision-making committee opposed it and chairman Alick Shaw used his casting vote to grant it.

The hearing will be before High Court Justice Helen Cull, and can only be on points of law. Ms Baxter has about 15 points of law ready for Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM)’s lawyer Davey Salmon to make.

Those points will be shared among the others groups that are appealing.

“We are trying to avoid repetition and not waste the judge’s time.”

The other groups involved in the appeal are the Taranaki-Whanganui Conservation Board, Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Ruanui Trust, Te Ohu Kai Moana Trustee Limited, Fisheries Inshore New Zealand Ltd, New Zealand Federation of Commercial Fisherman Inc, Talleys Group Ltd, Southern Inshore Fisheries Management Company Ltd and Cloudy Bay Clams Ltd, Te Kāhui O Rauru trustees, Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand Inc, and Greenpeace of New Zealand Inc appealing in tandem with KASM.

Trans-Tasman Resources has spent $65 million so far on progressing its mining aims. In the South Taranaki Bight it wants to suck up 50 million tonnes of iron-sand a year, exporting the 10 per cent iron ore content and returning the rest to the sea floor.

The mining is to be done across 66 square kilometres, all 22-36km offshore from Patea, in 25-60m of water.

The consents are the first granted in New Zealand for mining in the country’s large exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The company’s website anticipates the first export will take place in 2020.

It says the operation will create 300 local jobs and spend $350m a year on operating costs. Export revenues are expected to be $400m a year.

Trans-Tasman Resources also has a prospecting permit for a long stretch of the South Island’s West Coast. There it is looking for mineral sand containing ilmenite, zircon, rutile, garnet and gold.

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Anger at seabed mining drives this protester

Dr Athol Steward. PICTURE / SUPPLIED

Wanganui Midweek | 8 March 2018

In the spring of 2017, Whanganui surgeon Athol Steward undertook a two-week, 400km epic coastal hike from Raglan to Whanganui.

It was not madness that drove him, but rather incredulous anger at the decision of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to allow TransTasman Resources to go ahead with controversial seabed mining off the Taranaki coast.

Dr Steward turned that anger into action, and not content to just verbally protest, he decided to ‘walk the walk for our Ocean’. He threw his lot in with Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) and decided to back their High Court appeal against the EPA’s ruling. The walk was a great success, raising over $10,000 via a Givealittle page to support KASM, and raising awareness by simply talking to everyone he encountered.

The Environmental Protection Authority Act 2011 requires the EPA to contribute to the effective and transparent management of New Zealand’s environment and natural and physical resources. It is this “transparency” — or lack of — that Dr Steward takes issue with.

“Many people were completely unaware that the proposed mining procedure is experimental, and just didn’t understand the implications of it,” says Dr Steward. “It will be New Zealand’s biggest open-cast mine, but under water.”

Two weeks with mostly just the sea for company has heightened his commitment to campaigning for the environment, especially the marine environment that he has such a passion for. Now in order to make a difference, it is time to get political.

“I had a lot of time on the coast to think about what I would do when I got back,” says Dr Steward. “I realised that to make a difference for the environment you have to influence the policymakers. I personally don’t enjoy politics, but I will do it for this cause.”

While he has close ties to organisations such as Save our Seas, KASM, Reeflife and Greenpeace, and plans to work with both local and national government, Dr Steward is happy to remain independent at this stage.

“I have to get out there and do things, and I don’t want to be beholden to someone else’s agenda.”

He is adamant that saving the planet does not have to mean losing money, and that we have to start thinking of the economic benefits in terms of fisheries and tourism that would come from keeping our ocean pristine.

“Mining is a quick fix. It will provide money and jobs for a few years. But at what cost? The damage that will be done to the environment is irreparable, and we do not know how much we will permanently lose. The seabed is not a desert as TransTasman Resources have tried to make out. It is a rich marine environment, completely unspoiled.”

Now the walk is over, but for Athol Steward the journey has just begun. The hardest part is yet to come, but he is motivated by his passion for the ocean.

“When you stand on the coast and look out, you see this vast expanse of unspoiled nature, no ships on the horizon, nothing but a handful of recreational fishing boats. When you turn around and look inland, the evidence of human influence is so obvious in contrast.

“The sea is the last bastion of untouched New Zealand, and we have a responsibility to preserve it.”

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Chatham has plans for new seabed mining consent

Waitangi, the main town on the Chatham Islands.

Simon Hartley | Otago Daily Times | 16 January 2018

Would-be seabed miner Chatham Rock Phosphate says it is “on track” to resubmit a marine consent application to the Environmental Protection Authority, by the end of the year.

Since November, Chatham Rock has sought to recapitalise. A rights issue to existing shareholders raised $549,000 and it is in the the process of seeking a private placement, in stages, for up to a further $C1.2million ($NZ1.33million), chief executive Chris Castle said in a recent NZX update.

Chatham has held a mining licence since since December 2012, but the EPA turned down its first application in February 2015, after Chatham had spent about $33million on research, development and application costs.

Chatham wants to suction up 1.5million tonnes of phosphate nodules annually from the seafloor, at depths of up to 450m, on the Chatham Rise about 250km west of the Chatham Islands.

It had recently confirmed it will also look at whether it was feasible to separate out any rare earth minerals brought to the surface with the phosphate, as a potentially lucrative byproduct.

Mr Castle said in his market update, which was included in addresses to the Underwater Mining Conference in Berlin last September, the company wanted to move away from being a “one-trick pony”.

Chatham had made “significant progress” in securing marine phosphate opportunities overseas, to secure “alliances” linked to offshore phosphate assets, but structured in such a way so as not to divert funding from its proposed New Zealand operations.

It was about to commission a research project looking at separating byproducts, he said.

“Successful recovery of even a small proportion of these [unnamed rare earth] byproducts could add significantly to our future revenue and profitability and also establish a strategic ocean-floor based asset for New Zealand,” he said.

The private placement, which closes on Friday, was undertaken in stages to partially reduce shareholder dilution of value, given the placement involved 4million shares, Mr Castle said.

“We still anticipate completing the [EPA] reapplication process and hearing by early 2020, he said.

The country’s other seabed mining project, separate to Chatham, is Trans-Tasman Resources’ development to mine ironsands from the seafloor off the southern coast of Taranaki, which gained EPA approval last year.

Two High Court appeals have since been lodged against the EPA decision, by Kiwis Against Seabed Mining and Forest and Bird. They are yet to be heard.

Trans-Tasman wants to take 50million tonnes of seabed material annually, to extract 5million tonnes of ironsands, for 35 years. Its first application was turned down by the EPA in 2014.

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