Ironsands bid legal battle set to begin
THE first chapter of wouldbe seabed ironsands miner TransTasman Resources’ long legal battle is set to start next month, when it and eight appellants meet in the High Court to determine timetables.
TransTasman has spent more than $80 million on research and development and securing a marine consent from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) since 2007, as part of a $600 million project to take Taranaki ironsands. It received consent on its second attempt last month.
However, eight appellants are taking TransTasman to the High Court to determine points of law laid out in the lengthy EPA decision, and the matter could then go on to appeal.
The 220 delegates attending the annual conference of the New Zealand branch of the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy this week may have come away disappointed, as neither the EPA nor TransTasman has provided much insight into the pending legal battle.
In seperate presentations, Richard Johnson from the EPA declined to specify why the marine consent was granted to TransTasman, citing the High Court meeting scheduled for October 2 to determine timetables for the hearing.
However, Mr Johnson did say to delegates the EPA was working in an enviroment with plenty of ‘‘gaps’’ in the available information and data on both seabed mining and oil and gas applications. While some fundamental information was missing, however, the EPA ultimately had to strike a balance when deciding on the merits of an application.
TransTasman exploration manager Matt Brown similarly did not want to focus on the application or legal details, instead giving delegates an overview of the proposed project.
He did, however, note one of the main concerns raised in submissions against the proposal was the extent of the plume of tailing sands after they were returned to the ocean from TransTasman’s processing ship.
That design had since been ‘‘significantly’’ modified and he expected it to lessen the plume problem.
So far the project had ‘‘largely’’ been funded by private equity and by first quarter of 2019 he expected the company to be seeking further finance of about $600 million.
De Beers was potentially going to build and operate a 350tonne seabed crawler to deliver sands to a 335m vessel for processing before the tailings are dumped.
The operation would shift eight tonnes of sands an hour, at an annaul rate of 50 million tonnes, to recover 50,000 tonnes of ironsand for export.
One of the many conditions TransTasman must meet before it can begin operations is the completion of two years of ocean and seabed monitoring.