Sea mining consents quashed
Calls for a moratorium on seabed mining have been renewed following a High Court decision quashing Trans-Tasman Resources’ consents to mine iron sand offshore from Patea.
Both Kiwis Against Seabed Mining and the Green Party — celebrating their courtroom victory — want such a moratorium.
Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) executive chairman Alan Eggers was naturally disappointed by the decision, and told the Chronicle the company was considering its options.
And South Taranaki mayor Ross Dunlop said local people would have mixed feelings.
Many have been vocal about environmental concerns around the mining operation — and he shares those concerns. However, he said others had expressed interest in economic opportunity, and any possible jobs had now been lost.
Justice Peter Churchman issued the decision on August 27.
TTR had previously been declined consent in 2014, but a second application was granted in August 2017 by a decisionmaking committee of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). The consents would have allowed TTR to suck up 50 million tonnes of iron sand a year from the seafloor between 22km and 36km offshore, and export five million tonnes of iron ore to Asia. The company said it would have created 300 jobs and increased New Zealand gross domestic product by $160 million.
The decision-making committee set 109 conditions for the mining, including the company spending two years assessing the marine environment before starting mining, and then assessing damage to sea life after five years. If sediment affected the clarity of coastal water by more than 10 per cent, it would have to stop mining.
Justice Churchman said the conditions amounted to an adaptive management approach — one where conditions were set after the activity was tested.
Under exclusive economic zone (EEZ) legislation, residues from mining are classed as hazardous substances.
The judgment also said the consenting authority, the EPA, must favour caution and environmental protection when information is uncertain or inadequate.