Iron­sands bid le­gal bat­tle set to be­gin

Otago Daily Times - - Business & Money - SI­MON HART­LEY

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.

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