Tag Archives: Trans-Tasman Resources

NZ government to weaken laws to allow seabed mining

rip seabed mining

Law change could influence decisions on destructive seabed mining

Green Party | Scoop | 25 August 2016

The National Government’s proposed changes to the law governing seabed mining could make it easier for Trans-Tasman Resources to carry out destructive seabed mining off the South Taranaki coast, the Green Party said today.

Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) has re-applied to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to mine the seabed off the South Taranaki coast for iron ore, despite its previous application being declined by the EPA.

“The Government’s Resource Legislation Amendment Bill, currently before Parliament, will allow the Minister, rather than the independent EPA, to appoint the panel that considers seabed mining applications,” said Green Party environment spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

“This proposed law change means that National can handpick the people who decide on controversial and high-impact activities like seabed mining and oil and gas drilling.

“The changes in the Bill are clearly an attempt to politicise decision-making and give the Minister greater influence.

“The National Government appears to have proposed this law change after strong lobbying from the mining industry following the original EPA decision to decline TTR’s application to mine the seabed off South Taranaki.

“There was huge public opposition to TTR’s earlier South Taranaki proposal because of the destructive and experimental nature of seabed mining. Nothing has changed since the EPA declined that application which would now justify mining proceeding.

“It is disappointing that the community will once again have to put significant time and energy into mobilising its resources and expertise to make submissions and present evidence to protect the seabed and coastal and marine environment.

“Seabed mining would generate major sediment plumes, and threatens the habitat of Maui’s dolphin and other mammals and marine life,” said Ms Sage.

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NZ communities vow to fight seabed mining – again

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KASM | Scoop | 24 August 2016

Coastal communities are preparing to fight a new application to mine the seabed, lodged with the Environmental Protection Agency yesterday, Kiwis Against Seabed Mining said today.

Trans Tasman Resources (TTR), whose 2013 bid to mine ironsands from the seabed in the South Taranaki Bight was turned down by the EPA in 2014, is making another attempt to get a marine licence, lodged with the EPA yesterday. It is understood TTR is applying to mine the same 66sqkm of seabed as its last application.

“Last time this company tried to get permission to dig up 50 million tonnes of sand a year from the seabed, communities up and down the west coast of the North Island objected in their thousands, with record numbers of submissions against the project,” said Phil McCabe, KASM chairperson.

“From surfers to recreational fishers and local Iwi, ocean lovers made a stand against this destructive and experimental practice, and we were proved right. The EPA said there were too many unknowns, and nothing has changed.

“It’s disappointing that TTR is back with the same application, trying to wear down public opposition, but this foreign-owned company should know that they will continue to meet strong resistance from Kiwis who will stand up for their beaches ocean and marine environment.”

“From the public reaction this week on social media, we know the strength of feeling against seabed mining hasn’t gone away. If anything, it’s stronger,” he said.

Given the unknown impacts of seabed mining, KASM has gathered more than 4700 signatures on a petition calling for a moratorium on seabed mining in New Zealand waters.

The EPA has turned down two applications on seabed mining: the first was Trans Tasman Resources application to mine the South Taranaki Bight, and then Chatham Rock Phosphate’s bid to mine phosphorus off the deep seabed of the Chatham Rise.

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NZ government looks to change law to accommodate seabed mining

(Photo: ROBERT CHARLES/ Fairfax NZ)

Photo: ROBERT CHARLES/ Fairfax NZ

Green Party | Foreign Affairs | June 9, 2016 

Environment Minister Nick Smith and the National Government appear to have bowed to pressure from mining lobbyists to change the law to help seabed mining companies.

In 2013 Trans-Tasman Resources applied for a marine consent under the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) legislation to mine 66 km² of the seabed for iron ore off the South Taranaki coast. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Decision Making Panel refused the application. In its 2014 decision the panel said the scale of impacts was uncertain and it wasn’t satisfied that potential environmental effects could be avoided or remedied. Impacts included sediment plumes with potential impacts on fisheries, ecosystem productivity and health, and marine mammals including the threatened Maui’s dolphin.

Documents released to the Green Party under the Official Information Act show that mining industry lobby group Straterra wrote to National Ministers shortly after the 2014 EPA decision, on behalf of Trans-Tasman Resources, pressuring the Government to review the decision making process which governs applications to mine in New Zealand’s EEZ.

Straterra also a produced a paper analysing the Trans-Tasman Resources decision and seeking a range of changes to the EEZ legislation and the way the EPA operates, in order to promote mining.

A year later the Nick Smith went against official advice and proposed a law change to give himself, as Minister, greater influence over decisions to approve or decline seabed mining in the EEZ.

This law change, in the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill (RLA Bill), removes the independent EPA from its role appointing the Decision Making Panel which decides seabed mining and other applications in the EEZ. The Bill instead requires the Environment Minister to appoint members of a Board of Inquiry who will decide these marine consent applications.

The regulatory impact statement for the RLA Bill shows that officials advised against this law change, arguing that greater ministerial involvement would not only increase costs to the taxpayer, but create a perception that the government was seeking to influence the outcome of independent decision-making process. [1]

National has not been straight-up with New Zealanders. These law changes are clearly about enabling the Minister to influence who makes decisions about controversial and high impact activities such as seabed mining. National is about to replacing an independent decision making process with a more political one, and override decisions that recognised we need to put the long-term health of our environment ahead of short-term profit making.

National is deliberately eroding the independence of our Environmental Protection Authority, by instead giving the Minister the power to handpick the people to decide which environmentally damaging projects should go ahead. The whole point of having these things at arm’s length is so New Zealanders can trust the decision makers to be fair and objective and make evidence based decisions about environmentally damaging use of natural resources.

National’s law changes compromise this independence, allow vested interests more influence and mean the mining industry and other resource users won’t have to lift their game.

 Timeline of events

In June 2014 an EPA appointed Decision Making Committee declined Trans-Tasman Resource’s application to mine the seabed off the South Taranaki coast for iron ore. [2]

Four months later (October 2014) Straterra wrote to National Ministers on behalf of trans-Tasman complaining that the government wasn’t doing enough to counter “an ideologically-driven, anti-mining agenda in New Zealand” and saying that changes were necessary “to the structure of the [EPA-appointed] decision-making committee, the nature and operation of the hearing process, to the way in which the EPA conducts its role, and the law.”[3]

In December 2015, Environment Minister Nick Smith introduced legislation (RLA Bill) which removes the EPA’s role in appointing decision making panels and instead requires the Minister to appoint the Board of Inquiry to decide applications for notified activities such as seabed mining in the EEZ. [4]

In November 2016, a month before the Minister publicly announced the legislative changes, Trans-Tasman Resources announced it would be making a new bid to mine for iron ore off the South Taranaki bight. [5]

References

[1] MfE (2015) ‘Regulatory Impact Statement – Resource Legislation Amendment Bill 2015: alignment of the decision-making process for nationally significant proposals and notified discretionary marine consents’, page 5.
[2] http://www.epa.govt.nz/search-databases/Pages/eez-proposals-details.aspx?ProposalNumber=EEZ000004
[3] See letter obtained under the OIA from Straterra to Ministers titled Minerals Policy Proposals, October 2014, page 5.
[4] This change confirmed in government Summary of Resource Management Act Reform, page 9. The difference between the two decision-making processes as described in MfE’s Regulatory Impact Statement, page 7.
[5] http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/74547041/transtasman-resources-apply-for-new-permit-to-mine-iron-ore-from-seabed.html

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Mining on the seabed is all set to resurface in NZ

dawn across Chatham Rise
David Burroughs | Stuff NZ

The company which last year lost an application to mine iron ore from the South Taranaki seabed is applying for a new permit.

Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) confirmed it is preparing a new consent application for the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and had spent millions in scientific and environmental studies to understand the effects of the project on the South Taranaki Bight since its failed attempt.

The company said it had also “taken onboard the criticisms levelled at it in the previous application and addressed the areas of uncertainty”.

In mid-2013, TTR applied for a permit to mine 50 million tonnes of sand each year – taking 5 million tonnes of iron out and returning the rest of the sand to the sea floor – across 65.76 square kilometres.

The application received 4702 submissions, with only eight fully supporting the proposal and in June last year, following a hearing by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), it was denied.

In its report the EPA said there was “uncertainties in the scope and significance of the adverse environmental effects and those on existing interests, such as the fishing interests and the iwi”.

“Overall the DMC (decision making committee) found that the application did not meet the sustainable management purpose of EEZ (economic exclusion zone) Act, including that it was not satisfied that the life-supporting capacity of the environment would be safeguarded or that the adverse effects of the proposal could be avoided, remedied or mitigated, given the uncertainty and inadequacy of the information presented,” the report said.

The application then moved on to the High Court, where TTR filed an appeal in early July, but dropped it in December.

However, on Monday TTR said it had commenced a programme of stakeholder engagement, undertaken further scientific studies on operations and had the models updated for those results, for the new consent.

“TTR also engaged economists to assess the economic benefit at a regional level, rather than just the legislatively required New Zealand benefit. This information addresses the areas identified as gaps in our previous application.”

“This information has significantly contributed to New Zealand’s body of knowledge and understanding of the area,” it said.

TTR currently has a permit to mine the iron ore from New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals, over an area of approximately 66 square kilometres. The mining would cover an area of less than 5 square kilometres each year.

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) Taranaki branch manager Chris Wilkes said the new application was disappointing.

“It’s a dumb idea,” he said. “I’m not happy at all.”

Wilkes said the Cape Egmont Boating Club, which he was a member of, had been approached by TTR and they were sending an employee out to explain the new application at a meeting on Tuesday.

He said he expected at least the same amount of support against the proposal as last time.

“We’ll fight this all the way,” he said.

The mining would create a plume of dirty water that would stretch along the coastline and affect the sealife in the area, he said.

“It’s not our domain to do that.”

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Kiwis Against Seabed Mining group takes campaign a step further

seabed mining banner

Chris Gardner | stuff.nz

A Raglan-based pressure group that stands against seabed mining is marking World Oceans Day by widening a petition.

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) said Lush Cosmetics had already collected 3500 signatures over six weeks calling for environment minister Nick Smith to impose moratorium on seabed mining.

On Monday, KASM chairman Phil McCabe said in a statement that he was widening the campaign.

“After two failed seabed mining proposals, it has become abundantly clear that we don’t know enough about the impacts of this experimental practice, and we need more information,” McCabe said.

“The mining industry is now calling for our Government to weaken the laws that govern our oceans to make it easier for them to mine the seabed – that’s totally unacceptable,” he said.

“World Oceans Day is a good day to call taihoa on seabed mining. We need to know what we’re dealing with and where we want to go before diving headlong into this unchartered territory,” said McCabe.

Trans Tasman Resources and Chatham Rock Phosphate both recently lost bids to mine the seabed off New Zealand. Trans Tasman Resources’ application was to mine iron sands off the South Taranaki Bight. Chatham Rock Phosphate’s application was for phosphate off the Chatham Rise.

KASM is concerned New Zealand, which has the fourth largest Marine Estate in the world, poorly understood the seabed and there was no overarching management plan.

“Instead of inviting more wastage of investment dollars on further haphazard and inappropriate seabed mining applications, KASM thinks it’s time for the Government to go back to the drawing board, do more research into the makeup of our marine environment and initiate a national discussion on how we want to treat our oceans,” the statement said.

“We’re only just discovering the blue whale foraging ground in the Taranaki Bight – what else is out there that could be affected? We just don’t have that information.”

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Chatham Rock seeks another $1.25M to pursue new seabed mining licence in NZ

Chatham Rise

Pattrick Smellie | NZ News UK

Would-be seabed miner Chatham Rock Phosphate is looking to raise a further $1.25 million as its key staff take pay cuts and the company pursues both legislation changes and a new mining consent under the controversial new law governing economic activity in New Zealand’s offshore Exclusive Economic Zone.

The announcement comes as the Environmental Defence Society describes as “fanciful” reported expectations that there will be either a “wholesale or urgent review of the EEZ Act” following the rejection of CRP’s application to mine phosphate nodules on the Chatham Rise, some 400 kilometres east of Christchurch.

Despite spending more than $30 million on research and development of the proposal, an expert decision-making committee appointed by the Environmental Protection Authority rejected the application, citing too much uncertainty about the environmental impacts of the project, particularly on marine corals in the area.

In a statement, NZAX-listed CRP said it had “no intention” of abandoning the project and it was “increasingly likely” it would lodge a fresh application for a mining consent.

“However, before it makes a final decision to do so, CRP intends to continue to work with the EPA to seek clarity on the interpretation of the EEZ legislation and the EPA’s policies and procedures for managing the consent process,” said Castle.

“CRP is also contributing where possible to the discussions about changes to the EEZ legislation and will incorporate any changes in our plans.”

Environment Minister Nick Smith told Parliament on Feb. 19 there would be “sensible finessing” of the EEZ regime.

The EDS chairman, Gary Taylor, said in a statement that “the idea that government would jump when CRP stamped its feet in annoyance at a rejection of its consent application is fanciful: New Zealand is not a banana republic.”

CRP was the second seabed mining application to be rejected since the EEZ regime came into force in 2013. TransTasman Resources, which sought to mine ironsands from the seafloor in the southern Taranaki Bight was also turned down on the grounds of uncertain environmental impacts, having spent around $70 million on its project. TTR is also considering a fresh application.

Taylor said it was “a reasonable expectation that there will be a review, that it will be on a measured timeline and that it won’t involve tinkering with the purpose section. New Zealand clearly needs its new EEZ Act to work well, it is first generation law and there will be lessons from its operation as time passes.”

Castle said CRP would also look to work up a similar project offshore from the Namibian coast to reduce its exposure to a single project and that the company had been approached about other opportunities both land and sea-floor phosphate mining opportunities.

CRP shares closed today at 1.9 cents apiece, having fallen 93.4 percent over the past 12 months. Castle acknowledged the proposed capital-raising would be “highly dilutive” at the current share price, and would prioritise existing shareholders.

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Calls for seabed mining moratorium in NZ

seabed mining protest

STRONG MESSAGE: Protesters campaign against seabed mining at a gathering at Raglan, Waikato.

We need to look below the surface

Phil McCabe | The Domion Post 

In the wake of two out of two failed seabed mining applications in less than a year, the sensible move for our Government at this point would be to place a moratorium on seabed mining in New Zealand waters.

The first Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision denying an ironsands proposal off Patea, Taranaki, last June stated that, overall, the application was premature. And that is precisely the point.

Moratoria have been placed in both the Northern Territory of Australia and Namibia to allow for more information to emerge and time for the people and authorities to better understand the implications of seabed mining.

Seabed mining has grown considerably in the consciousness of New Zealanders. Before the double denial from the EPA on the first two applications to mine for minerals in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), awareness was restricted to those pushing for – and against – the novel industry establishing itself off our shores.

On the one hand we have a Government standing with open arms bellowing, “Haere mai, we’ve got minerals, come get ’em world”, and its call has been answered by the few who smelled the gold in them hills, pouring millions of dollars on the application process, only to be denied by the very regime that invited them in.

Then we have coastal communities, affected iwi and existing users of the marine environment uniting and spending countless hours and considerable resources fighting to protect their values, way of life and existing livelihoods.

The reality is that it’s an extremely complex situation and, it seems, no-one is prepared to back down at this point. There is too much at stake.

It cannot be denied that mining for minerals from the seabed, as proposed by the two companies, is destructive.

Scientifically, we have only scratched the surface when it comes to understanding the complexities of our marine environment, let alone what the effects would be if the untested activity of large-scale mining were introduced.

And no-one in the world has done seabed mining of this kind yet. The science and the engineering are new, and untested. Should we be the guinea pigs?

Our EEZ is massive: 20 times our land area and it is poorly understood. But the Government should not be relying solely on industry to fill the information vacuum. Its opening up of these areas was premature.

The EPA, in its Chatham Rock decision, said “it is incontestably the case that there remained significant gaps in the data and information provided about the consent area’s marine environment as well as uncertainty about the impact of the proposal on existing interests and the environment”.

It is time for the national discussion that one would expect for an issue that touches the core of New Zealand values and is of such potential significance to our environment and economy.

The Environmental Defence Society has called for a spatial planning exercise for our EEZ. I imagine that would be a considerable process but it would go a long way to resolving many of the unresolved issues that have surfaced.

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining, supported by by other groups, called for a moratorium on seabed mining in October 2013. In light of these decisions, it makes more sense than ever, offering time for a civil and proper process to take place.

The other options for Government would be to do nothing, which would be fine by us, as the bar has clearly been set high enough to stop applications in the absence of information.

Or it could bend to commercial pressure and roll back its legislation to favour industry, lower environmental standards and reduce the ability for we, the people, to have a say in the health of our oceans. That would be entirely unacceptable.

Phil McCabe is a tourism business owner from Raglan, and chairman of community group Kiwis Against Seabed Mining.

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