Tag Archives: Trans-Tasman Resources

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.”

1 Comment

Filed under Environmental impact, New Zealand

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.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, New Zealand

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, New Zealand

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.

Leave a comment

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

Phil McCabe: Seabed mining rebuffs send right message

People at Piha beach raise awareness of the threat of seabed mining. Photo / Michael Craig

People at Piha beach raise awareness of the threat of seabed mining. Photo / Michael Craig

Phil McCabe* | The New Zealand Herald

Among the fallout from the Environmental Protection Agency denial of a second application to mine the seabed for minerals in New Zealand waters, there have been cries from the mining industry and friends that our new legislation needs softening.

Really? Let’s go back a few steps.

The exploitation of mineral resources in our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) has been a major part of this Government’s economic growth plan. It established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as an independent body to create public confidence in the decision-making process for activities such as mining, and its EEZ legislation was, in part, written to enable the industry to establish itself here.

The Government was aware of potential environmental effects. Then-Environment Minister Amy Adams described the new laws as sending “a clear message to companies operating in the EEZ that New Zealanders value their oceans”.

When Trans Tasman Resources failed the EPA test in its bid to mine the ironsands in the South Taranaki Bight, both then-Conservation Minister Nick Smith and Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges defended their “robust” framework.

Mr Bridges said our “world best practice” legislation had led to a decision that “shows that we have a strong process with very high environmental hurdles that have to be met”. But he also warned: “Not everyone can jump that high.” This was the case with both seabed mining applications.

Globally, the industry called “seabed mining” is still very much in development, an untested technology with no comparable projects anywhere else on Earth. The New Zealand Government opened our waters to this novel industry and the high levels of uncertainty have shone through with these negative decisions, at the expense of investors.

About $100 million was spent over seven years on the two failed proposals, during which time they reeled in willing investors. But did the companies over-promise their ability to get marine licences for this untested industry?

In the light of two failed applications under a regulatory framework designed to enable them, there are only two possible conclusions that can be drawn.

First, the companies could not prove their proposals were environmentally and economically acceptable.

Second, the Government underestimated the complexities involved in introducing into the marine environment what has been a wholly terrestrial commercial activity. It might be that large-scale mining in the marine environment is inappropriate for New Zealand altogether.

The EPA’s Chatham Rise decision states that the environmental effects on a rare and vulnerable ecosystem were a “major concern” and that economic benefits to New Zealand were “modest at best”.

In both applications, the EPA found the economic benefits wanting. The royalties payable would have been minimal for a resource 100 per cent owned by New Zealand.

What of the future investor in all of this and of the cries of New Zealand being “closed for business”? Such scaremongering by industry groups is disingenuous and self-serving.

Yes, these two decisions send a signal – but not that New Zealand is “closed for business”. That’s insulting to the many sustainable businesses operating successfully in New Zealand.

They send the right signal: that New Zealand will not accept high-risk developments that damage the environment and ecosystems while providing relatively little economic benefit.

New Zealand is, and should be, open to smart, sustainable, value-adding investments that provide jobs and livelihoods well into the future without compromising our values, environment, and our way of life.

The regulators and the legislation have done their job and delivered the best long-term outcome for New Zealand in fending off two unacceptably inappropriate and risky ventures.

Given Mr Smith has confirmed he is considering amending the legislation, we trust he will consult with all stakeholders across the community, from iwi to fishing interests and coastal communities.

• Phil McCabe is the chairman of Kiwis Against Seabed Mining

Leave a comment

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

Seabed mining dreams shattered by New Zealand latest decision

Cecilia Jamasmie | Mining.com

The latest setback to seabed mining has alarmed companies involved in deep sea mining projects.

New Zealand’s recent decision to oppose another deep sea mining venture off its coasts has poured cold water on advocates of searching for and digging up valuable minerals including copper, gold and manganese from the ocean floor.

A decision-making committee appointed by the country’s Environmental Agency (EPA) thwarted Chatham Rock Phosphate Limited’s plans on Feb. 11. The authority argued that mining off the coast of Canterbury — where the operation was proposed — would cause “significant and permanent adverse effects” on the location’s seabed.

The case became the second mine application refused in less than a year. Last June the same body refused Trans Tasman Resources’ (TTR) application to mine iron sands off the North Island’s west coast, which would have become the country’s first operation of its kind.

While applauded by environmentalists, the latest setback to seabed mining has alarmed companies involved in the resources extraction model and pushed the New Zealand government to consider changing legislation to ensure it doesn’t block economic development.

“To say we are bitterly disappointed is an understatement. We are aghast,” Chatam Rock’s managing director Chris Castle told The New Zealand Herald. “The entire government process, and the EPA in particular, seems afraid to say yes to any project that involves any kind of environmental impact and that is simply not good enough if we are to provide a future for our country’s young people.”

UN support

Meanwhile, the United Nations’ International Seabed Authority (ISA) continues supporting the activity. It has so far issued 26 exploration licences to governments and companies, authorizing them to operate in international waters.

According to the Sunday edition of Financial Times (subs. required), New Zealand, Namibia and Papua New Guinea have also granted licences for seabed mining exploration, while diamond giant De Beers uses ships for extracting the precious gems off the coast of Namibia, at depths of up to 140 metres.

But it is Canada’s Nautilus Minerals  the one leading the race to open the first seabed mine. In a deal arranged outside the ISA system, the company overcame several difficulties until it reached last year an agreement with the Papua New Guinea government to move forward with its Solwara 1 gold, copper and silver underwater project, located in the Bismarck Sea.

Leave a comment

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

Deep sea mining hopes hit by New Zealand decision

Jamie Smyth | Financial Times

A decision to block a deep sea mining venture off the New Zealand coast has cast a shadow over an emerging global industry that proponents say could revolutionise how minerals are extracted.

The sea floor is rich in copper, nickel, manganese, cobalt, zinc and a host of other minerals used in technology products. Improvements in undersea extraction technology have now put these within reach of miners.

New Zealand has lead the way in developing sea floor mining. But progress has now stalled following this month’s rejection by environmental regulators of a proposed project by Chatham Rock Phosphate off the coast of Canterbury, the second mine application refused within a year.

The decisions were welcomed by green groups, who fret that mining would damage vulnerable undersea ecosystems, which are relatively underexplored. But their delight is not shared by companies eyeing deep sea prospects.

“To say we are bitterly disappointed is an understatement,” said Chris Castle, Chatham Rock Phosphate’s managing director. “This will make it even harder, if not impossible for companies to attract capital for new projects in New Zealand.”

For almost 20 years deep sea mining has been flagged as a commercial opportunity. David Cameron, UK prime minister, claims it could be worth £40bn to the UK over a 30-year period.

The International Seabed Authority, a UN agency, has so far issued 26 exploration licences to governments and companies enabling them to operate in international waters. New Zealand, Namibia and Papua New Guinea have awarded national licences for seabed mining exploration. De Beers uses ships to recover diamonds off the coast of Namibia at depths of up to 140 metres.

But scant deep sea mining has taken place. The world’s largest mining groups are sidelined, apparently deterred by the uncertainty of both economics and the environmental impact of the activity, which has prompted authorities to order moratoriums on mining in Namibia and the Australian state of Northern Territory.

Richard Page, contributor to a Greenpeace report on sea floor mining, says:

“It is difficult to contain mining waste on land. Imagine the problems of stopping the spread of pollution in an ocean environment. The local communities have every right to be, and indeed should be, concerned.”

Campaigners say cutting into the ocean floor or dredging to recover minerals that will be pumped on to a floating processing vessel will kill marine life and smother neighbouring areas with sediment or plumes.

New Zealand’s Environmental Protection Agency concluded that Chatham Rock’s proposed phosphate mining project near Canterbury would cause “significant and permanent adverse effects on the existing benthic [sea floor] environment”.

The decision has alarmed proponents of sea floor mining and prompted the New Zealand government to consider amending legislation to ensure it is not a barrier to economic development.

“The act is flawed,” says Alan Eggers, chairman of Trans-Tasman Resources, a company proposing to mine iron sands off the New Zealand coast.

Last year the EPA blocked it from mining the sea floor — the first time the regulator had ruled on a seabed mining application.

The setback to seabed mining in New Zealand comes as a plan to begin mining copper and gold off the coast of Papua New Guinea moves a step forward. This month Nautilus Minerals, the first company to be awarded a deep sea mining lease anywhere in the world, signed an engines contract for a mining support vessel, which will process minerals off the coast of PNG.

The Canadian company, which counts Anglo American among its shareholders, has partnered the PNG government and is on schedule to begin mining at a depth of 1,600m by 2018.

Mike Johnston, chief executive of Nautilus Minerals, says: “I believe 30 per cent of the world’s mineral production could in the future be mined from the sea floor.”

Nautilus Minerals has also been awarded exploration licences in international waters by the ISA. The UN agency is working on a legal framework to begin issuing sea floor mining leases — a process that could start by 2016. Mining royalties under these licences would be paid to developing countries.

Michael Lodge, ISA legal counsel, says:

“We have issued exploration licences for areas that cover 1.2m sq km of ocean — about the size of Mexico. In the past, state organisations were the main applicants but in the last three years private companies have become more active.”

US defence group Lockheed Martin and G-TEC Sea Mineral Resources, a Belgian company, have both received licences.

But companies hoping the ISA is likely to favour commercial exploitation above environmental protection may be disappointed.

“We are legally bound to protect the environment, which must take precedence,” Mr Lodge says. “We can only allow commercial exploitation to take place provided there are safeguards.”

1 Comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Financial returns, Human rights, Papua New Guinea