South Taranaki seabed mining case moves to a higher court

September 23, 2019


The long-running legal battle over the South Taranaki Bight’s iron-sand seabed resumes in the Appeal Court in Wellington on Tuesday.

Mining company Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) seeks to use its marine discharge consent and remove five million tonnes of iron-rich sand a year for 20 years from a 66 square kilometre area offshore from Patea. The planned mine area is 22-36km offshore, in depths of 20-50m.

The company intends to separate out the iron-rich 10 per cent of the sand and return the rest to the seabed.

It got consent to do this from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in August 2017. The consent was granted on a second attempt and on the casting vote of the chairman of a four-member decision making committee.

t was granted with 109 conditions.

The consent was appealed by environment, Māori and fishing organisations, and quashed by the High Court in August 2018. TTR has appealed the quashing, and the case will be heard in the Appeal Court in Wellington on September 24, 25 and 26.

The parties that appealed the EPA decision will also be heard. They are cross-appealing and hope to increase the barriers to future seabed mining.

They include Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM), the South Taranaki Ngāti Ruanui and Ngā Rauru iwi, the Taranaki/Whanganui Conservation Board, Greenpeace and fisheries interests.

Ngāti Ruanui has appealed to the Green Party to honour its pre-election promise to put a moratorium on seabed mining.

“This is a precedent-setting case, and it’s important to get the law as strong as possible, in order to protect our oceans from damage by future seabed miners,” KASM chairwoman Cindy Baxter said.

TTR executive chairman Alan Eggers has put out fact sheets ahead of the court case. They say preparing for the mining has cost the company $80 million so far, and that the iron-sand would also yield vanadium used in renewable energy-storing batteries and titanium used in electronics.

The seabed would be rehabilitated within five years of the mining, Eggers says. The mining would employ at least 250 people and earn Government more than $200 million a year in royalties and taxes.

TTR’s base for training and operations would be in Hāwera, with Whanganui and New Plymouth’s ports hosting its service infrastructure.

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