Tag Archives: Trans-Tasman Resources

$3.7m study to reveal deep-sea mining impacts in New Zealand

A new $3.7 million study will assess potential impacts on seafloor life from proposed seabed mining operations.

A new $3.7 million study will assess potential impacts on seafloor life from proposed seabed mining operations.

New Zealand Herald | 11 October 2016

The potential environmental impacts of controversial deep-sea mining will be investigated in a new multi-million dollar study.

Dr Malcolm Clark, a fisheries scientists at the National Institute of Water and Atmosphere (Niwa), said a lack of knowledge about life on the seafloor and how it could be affected had been one of the major factors that led the Environmental Protection Authority to refuse the two off-shore mining applications lodged so far.

There were particular concerns around impacts from sediment plumes, created by disturbance to the seafloor and mining operations discharging the processed water back into the ocean.

Clark is now leading a $3.7 million programme to tackle the questions.

While the Government has stated a strategic priority to reap benefits from seabed resources, the sustainability and integrity of the natural environment also had be maintained, he said.

What we know about the structure of deep-sea communities remained limited, Clark said; it’s estimated that only 20 to 30 per cent of the seafloor species have been formally described.

“Of particular importance, however, is a lack of knowledge of the key species or communities that drive ecosystem function, and when human activities could tip a system from the one we know to something different.”

In deep sea environments, this was especially tough to study, given the cost of funding the large ships and technology needed for the research, and the fact that the ecosystems themselves were so large.

Of those research expeditions that had been led, nearly every survey had recorded new species, and there was much more to discover.

Global estimates of the number of known marine species total 250,000 – but scientists believe this figure is only about one quarter of what is believed to really be out there.

Members of Ngati Ruanui iwi, of Patea, last month presented to Parliament a 6000-signature petition opposing seabed mining, following a fresh bid by Trans-Tasman Resources. Photo: Mark Mitchell

Members of Ngati Ruanui iwi, of Patea, last month presented to Parliament a 6000-signature petition opposing seabed mining, following a fresh bid by Trans-Tasman Resources. Photo: Mark Mitchell

While we know more than 15,000 marine species inhabit our coastal waters and ocean territory, it’s estimated there may be a further 50,000 yet to be found.

“This means that extensive and detailed biodiversity surveys are required to characterise the baseline conditions of any proposed area before mining can be considered.”

The study would test the belief that life is highly sensitive to sedimentation stirred by seabed disturbance, and investigate specific impacts, any differences in resilience and prospects for recovery.

Clark said we already knew what general effects could be expected from seabed mining, ranging from physical damage to the seafloor as it was mined, to those that could affect a wider area, through sediment plumes that could bury animals, or eco-toxic releases that could contaminate environments.

Yet, because deep-sea mining had not yet taken place anywhere in the world, the actual effects were uncertain.

Most studies to date had focused on the direct impact of disturbance, and there had been little work looking at the effects of sedimentation from deep-sea mining.

Work that had been carried out in shallow water couldn’t be applied to what might be expected in deep-sea habitats, where effects would vary between sites and depths.

But Clark said it could still be assessed how ecosystems responded to decreased light levels, how their feeding or respiration was affected and whether such effects were lethal or could be tolerated for certain periods of time.

The Niwa-led study would combine in-situ observations on the effects of sediment deposition with lab-based experiments.

Areas of the seabed would be disturbed, then closely monitored by ship-based surveys, with sampling to be repeated over time to determine which seafloor communities were more affected than others, and whether species and communities could eventually recover.

The churned-up sediment itself would also be assessed to refine plume models that predict spread, while back in labs, experiments would use live deep-sea coral and sponge species to assess their resilience.

Ultimately, the research would define the levels at which sediment impacts became ecologically damaging and offer insights into how such impacts might be reduced.

Clark expected the study would be mainly used by mining companies as part of impact assessments and management plans, but also by fisheries companies assessing effects of bottom trawling.

But he said the science wasn’t being carried out in support of what remains a controversial industry.

“The work is not about advocating for a new industry, but to provide environmental managers with information that is needed to evaluate the nature and extent of potential impacts on deep-sea communities, and what measures could be needed to reduce these effects if mining was allowed to proceed,” he said.

“Science around environmental effects of any activity is balanced with social and economic issues, and that is one of the roles of the EPA that requires more information on the long-term sustainability of affected ecosystems.”

The study comes as company Trans Tasman Resources (TTR) has drawn fresh protest with a second attempt to mine ironsands on the South Taranaki Bight, two years after its first bid was rejected by the EPA.

TTR executive chairman Alan Eggers has described the area where it wants to extract 50 million tonnes of seabed material each year, in waters 20m-42m deep, as “a largely featureless area of naturally shifting sands and sediments colonised by hardy species of common forms of marine life of no unique or special ecological significance”.

Off-shore mining in New Zealand

• No application to mine on New Zealand’s sea floor has succeeded. Trans Tasman Resource’s first bid failed in 2014 after the EPA raised concerns about the impact on the environment, iwi and fishing interests, and its economic benefits.

• Last year, an application by Chatham Rock Phosphate Limited was also rejected, with the EPA concluding its operation would cause “significant and permanent adverse effects” on the seabed environment at its proposed site on the Chatham Rise off the coast of Canterbury.

• Last month, TTR lodged a second application, prompting a protest hikoi led by Taranaki iwi Ngati Ruanui and delivering to Parliament a 6000-signature calling for a moratorium on seabed mining.

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New Zealand seabed mining company’s Chinese investor was caught up in 2010 bribery scandal

Rock Check Steel Group is based in Tianjin, China, and headed by president Rhonghua Zhang.

Rock Check Steel Group is based in Tianjin, China, and headed by president Rhonghua Zhang.

Jeremy Wilkinson | Stuff NZ | October 10 2016

A Chinese company once caught up in a multi-million dollar bribery scandal is a key investor in a New Zealand company proposing to mine iron ore off the South Taranaki coast. 

The Tianjin Rock Check Steel Group is a Chinese company with a 6.6 per cent share and a place on the board of directors at mining company Trans Tasman Resources, TTR.

TTR has applied to mine iron ore in a 66 square kilometre area of seabed off the South Taranaki coast. It is the company’s second application after being denied in 2014 because not enough was known about the potential environmental impacts of the mining on the area.  

In 2010 its Chinese investor Rock Check was embroiled in a bribery scandal that involved millions in bribes being paid to employees of Rio Tinto, one of the world’s largest mining companies.

Rock Check was one of 20 Chinese companies implicated in bribing four Rio Tinto employees to obtain iron ore pricings that allowed the companies to gain a bidding advantage over their competitors. 

Rock Check purchased shares in Trans Tasman Resources in 2011.

Rock Check purchased shares in Trans Tasman Resources in 2011.

Rock Check’s then-president Xiangqing Zhang was named in court documents reported on by the Sydney Morning Herald and China Daily as being one of the biggest benefactors of the espionage. 

Court details revealed by Melbourne newspaper The Age and reported in the Sydney Morning Herald stated the Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court verdict detailed how Xiangqing was one of two Chinese steel billionaires who both gave bribes to Rio Tinto salesman Wang Yong and credited him for helping to build their steel empires.

Investigators found RMB99m (NZ$20m) in Yong’s bank accounts.

It was reported  Xiangqing  suffered no consequences from the case.  

Before his death in 2014, Xiangqing was well known in China as a tycoon with a “tender heart and steel spirit”. It was reported in China Dailythat in 2008 he donated RMB100m (NZ$20m) for the rescue and rehabilitation of victims of the Sichuan earthquake in May that year.

Rock Check is headed now by Xiangqing’s wife Ronghua Zhang. 

Trans Tasman Resources formed in 2011, one year after the Rio Tinto scandal, and launched a bid in late 2013 to mine a 66 square kilometres patch of seabed off the South Taranaki coastline of 50 million tonnes of iron ore laden sand per year.

Their bid was rejected in 2014 by government’s Environmental Protection Agency on the grounds not enough was known about the environmental impact of the proposed mining activities. 

TTR would not answer questions about whether they knew of Rock Check’s involvement in the 2010 bribery scandal. 

A spokesperson for the company said Rock Check had acquired their shares in TTR by investing in the company when it was formed in 2011, the same as any other investor. 

” They initially acquired a board position and a conditional offtake agreement to purchase iron ore, which was subsequently terminated several years ago,” the spokesperson said. 

“TTR has no commercial arrangements or contracts with Rock Check.

“They remain a shareholder and entitled to a board seat but do not participate in, or control, the management or operations of TTR.”

The spokesperson said Rock Check still had interests in New Zealand as “a significant customer” of NZ Steel’s Taharoa operation.

Several attempts were made to contact the Tianjin Rock Check Steel Group through their website and via phone over the course of several days. They were unsuccessful.  

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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: All eight Taranaki iwi united against ‘misleading’ mining company

Debbie Ngarewa-Packer says that that TTR has been deliberately misleading in their application. GRANT MATTHEW/Fairfax NZ

Debbie Ngarewa-Packer says that that TTR has been deliberately misleading in their application. Grant Matthew/Fairfax NZ

Jeremy Wilkinson | Stuff | September 28 2016

Taranaki iwi leaders are claiming a seabed mining company is being deliberately misleading in its application to extract tonnes of iron ore from the region’s seabed.

All eight Taranaki iwi said they’d support Ngati Ruanui in its submission against mining company Trans Tasman Resources (TTR) at an iwi chairs forum several weeks ago.

The company has for the second time applied to mine 50 million tonnes of sand from 66 square kilometres of South Taranaki’s seabed after its previous application was rejected by the Environmental Protection Authority in 2014, partly because of the company’s lack of consultation with iwi. 

Now two of the main iwi affected by the repeat application have said consultation has not only been sub-par but they have accused the company of misleading the public, and the government, about the process.

Nga Ruahine and Ngati Ruanui said TTR had used an organisation called the Iwi Fisheries Forum as an umbrella organisation to represent the views of Taranaki iwi affected by its application. 

Te Korowai o Ngaruahine Trust’s general manager Cassandra Crowley says the Iwi Fisheries Forum does not have mandate to speak on their behalf.

The Iwi Fisheries Forum, or Te Taihauauru, was initially set up to support iwi customary fisheries management but does not contain members from Taranaki iwi. 

However, a spokesperson for TTR said it had reached out to all affected iwi and its attempts to engage had been either rebuffed or ignored. 

“Our engagement with iwi through the Iwi Fisheries Forum was an additional mechanism to engage with iwi; at no time has it substituted any one-on-one discussions with any stakeholders,” they said. 

“We are disappointed there has been considerable misinformation about our consultation process with some iwi.”

Ngati Ruanui holds mana whenua for the South Taranaki Bight, meaning the area is of huge cultural significance to its members. It is the primary iwi that TTR would need to consult with in regard to its mining activities.

However, kaiarataki of Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said TTR had made their application look as though it had consulted with iwi through its references to the fisheries forum. 

“The thing is, that body is not legally mandated to represent iwi,” she said. 

“We think they’re deliberately misleading the government that they have iwi mandate.

“By saying they have the support from the forum they’re misleading readers of the application into thinking they’ve done a proper cultural assessment.”

Ngarewa-Packer said Ngati Ruanui shut down negotiations with the company after they wouldn’t release certain information about their application without the iwi having first signed a confidentiality agreement.  

The Environmental Protection Authority accepted TTR’s submission of confidential sections of their application, and on Wednesday announced they would remain confidential despite Kasm calling for them to be made public. 

General manager for Nga Ruahine, an iwi whose territory borders Ngati Ruanui, Cassandra Crowley, said TTR had also asked them to sign the confidentiality agreement.

“We were prepared to sign it right up until we actually saw it as we were led to believe it was a standard non-disclosure agreement protecting commercially sensitive information, but this went beyond that,” she said. 

“We were being asked to sign something which essentially waived our moral rights, we couldn’t agree to that – nor should tangata whenua or any person or organisation submitting on a consent ever be asked to do that.”

Crowley said TTR’s engagement had “left much to be desired”, especially with TTR engaging with the Iwi Fisheries Forum in what she believed was a substitute to dealing with Nga Ruahine. 

“It is not a forum which is mandated by us to speak on our behalf in this way,” she said. 

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Release full NZ seabed mining application, opponents demand


Kasm’s Phil McCabe says the redacted pages in Trans-Tasman Resources application should be released to the public.

Robin Martin | Radio NZ | 27 September 2016

Trans-Tasman Resources has applied to the Environmental Protection Agency to mine 50 millions tonnes of ironsand a year off the coast of Patea. Opponents of a proposed seabed mining operation in Taranaki are demanding the release of blacked out pages in its resource consents application.

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (Kasm) chairman Phil McCabe said it was unacceptable that the company’s application was shrouded in secrecy.

Trans-Tasman had a similar application turned down in 2014 because the EPA decided not enough consideration had been given to the environmental affects of the operation.

Mr McCabe told a small gathering of supporters in New Plymouth last night that the lack of transparency in the firm’s latest bid was disturbing.

“This is a publicly-owned resource, it’s in public space, this is a public process and there’s no room for secrecy here. They’ve got to front up with the information and let people make a fair assessment.”

The mining opponents fear life on the affected seabed will be destroyed and the plume created by mining will be detrimental to all marine life in the area, including foraging blue whales.

Mr McCabe said there was nothing new in the current application apart from the blanked out pages.

“TTR’s come back with the same application that was prove two years ago that it wasn’t acceptable by the EPA. The community stood up in bulk, en masse, to oppose it and now they’ve come back to drag us through the process again and we don’t see much different about it this time around.”

South Taranaki iwi Ngati Ruanui is also opposing the project.

Its kaiarataki, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, said Trans-Tasman Resources was demanding that anyone wanting to see the redacted material sign a draconian confidentiality agreement which prevented getting outside advice on the contents, meaning access to the pages was meaningless.

“It’s just not right in 2016 for us as iwi, and certainly for us as Kiwis, to be treated like this by a company who has never done any type of activity like this in our country, and to have such difficulty getting the type of information that normal companies, normal energy companies, bring in by the boxload.”

Ms Ngarewa-Packer said Ngati Ruanui was very concerned about the application and had the backing of all Taranaki iwi.

“It’s damn alarming when they have to put 40 plus pages into redaction … basically blacked out.

“My management team in the environmental unit have 25 plus years’ experience and they’ve never seen anything to this extent before.”

In a statement, Trans-Tasman Resources said it was not being deliberately obstructive.

“A small proportion of the reports are confidential because its commercial and operational information; all of the redacted information is highly technical.

“Interested parties or their appointed experts are able to access this information by signing a confidentiality agreement – and the Department of Conservation, Taranaki Regional Council, the Iwi Fisheries Forum and commercial fishing groups have all done so.”

The company said it wanted everyone benefit from project that would create 1600 jobs, 700 in the region, and generate export earnings of more than $300 million a year.

Public submissions on the project close on 14 October.

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NZ: Moratorium on seabed mining needed

“Seabed mining should be considered a novel experimental activity”


Gareth Hughes MP| NZ Greens | 19 September, 2016

Today at Parliament, I accepted a petition signed by more than 6,000 people calling for a moratorium on seabed mining. This is also the day Trans-Tasman Resources’ (TTR) second application attempt to mine the seabed of the South Taranaki Bight opens for the twenty days of submissions period under the Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) rules.

It was fantastic to see the petition organised from Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM), who have led the successful campaigns that saw TTR’s first application and Chatham Rock Phosphate’s seabed mining applications declined by the EPA. Three busloads of local iwi Ngāti Ruanui also travelled down from Patea for the event and they say consultation with TTR has been flawed. This company is applying for consent to suck up 50 million tonnes of seabed, extract the iron ore and dump 45 million tonnes of sediment back.

This is in the feeding ground of the world’s largest whale and the habitat for the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin so it’s no surprise there’s huge opposition. Last time TTR tried, only 8 of the of the 4800 submissions to the EPA supported the mining.

Seabed mining is a controversial new activity. The two applications to date were rejected by the EPA because of environmental impacts and scientific uncertainties. One thing that has stuck in my head from the last process was the Rumsfeldian quote ‘the uncertainties around the uncertainties is uncertain’. This is an entirely new field, apart from a little shallow water diamond mining. Seabed mining should be considered a novel experimental activity.

Both Australia’s Northern Territory and Namibia, who have grappled with seabed mining, have instigated moratoria. I support KASM’s call for the Government to place a moratorium on the activity here. We have the fourth largest Exclusive Economic Zone in the world and with huge scientific uncertainties surrounding seabed mining, it’s responsible to wait and to learn more before risking our marine ecosystem and fisheries. I’d contend it’s better for the companies interested in undertaking seabed mining too, as consent applications can cost millions of dollars, so a delay and more research benefits everyone.

The petition will be referred to a select committee to consider and with only twenty days to make a submission on TTR’s application, I hope you can make one.

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New Zealand Iwi bracing for another fight against seabed mining


New Zealand’s Parliament House where Iwi will protest against experimental seabed mining

Isaac Davison | NZ Herald | September 18, 2016

Iwi members will arrive in their busloads on Parliament’s front steps tomorrow to protest a mining company’s latest bid to scour the seabed off the coast of the North Island for iron ore.

A hikoi led by Taranaki iwi Ngati Ruanui and environmental advocates will deliver a 6000-signature petition to MPs, calling for a moratorium on all seabed mining in New Zealand.

The petition comes as mining company Trans Tasman Resources makes its second attempt to get approval to mine ironsands on the South Taranaki Bight, around 30km off the west coast of the North Island.

The company’s application was notified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday, meaning the public has 20 days to make submissions.

No application to mine on New Zealand’s seabed has succeeded. Trans Tasman’s first bid failed in 2014 after the EPA raised concerns about the impact on the environment, iwi and fishing interests, and its economic benefits.

The EPA also said the company’s proposal was “premature” and that it should have done further work on understanding the environment and engaging with local residents.

Trans Tasman now believes it has addressed those gaps.

Executive chairman Alan Eggers said the company had carried out additional research to refine the environmental aspects of its application, and had met with “a wide range of stakeholders”.

The group travelling to Parliament tomorrow believes little has changed.

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining spokesman Phil McCabe said the method of mining was still experimental and damaging.

“It’s inherently a destructive activity. If you’re looking at deep-sea oil, you’re poking a needle through the bottom of the ocean.

“But in this one, the moment they start, they’re breaking stuff. There’s sensitive habitats out there.”

It was frustrating and exhausting to have to fight the company a second time, McCabe said.

Hikoi leader Debbie Ngawera-Packer said her iwi and residents of Patea, near the proposed mining site, did did not protest lightly.

“This is a real humble community that doesn’t mobilise like that.

“They live off an average of $17,000 a year. They are used to going without and things not going their way.

“So when they mobilise it’s because they feel there’s a real injustice.”

Trans Tasman is seeking approval to extract 50 million tonnes of seabed material a year, of which 45 tonnes would be returned after the iron ore was extracted.

It estimates that the mining project would boost export earnings by $300m a year and would support up to 1650 jobs – 300 in the immediate region.

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