Chatham Rock Phosphate, which wants to mine phosphate nodules from the seafloor on the Chatham Rise, has submitted a draft marine consent application to the Environmental Protection Authority.
The application is the second to be submitted under new EEZ legislation. TransTasman Resources, which wants to hoover ironsands off the seafloor more than 20 kilometres off the coast from Patea is currently going through the first ever hearings under the new regime.
CRP's application comes after more than four years' work and $25 million of investment in environmental impact assessments, market evaluation, and development of relationships with mining partners, most notably Dutch dredging firm Royal Boskalis.
Its plans are heavily opposed by the fishing industry, which fears sediment plumes from the activity will damage spawning grounds for orange roughy in an area where the fishing method known as bottom-trawling has been banned.
CRP already has a mining permit, which was granted last December, but the EPA process is equivalent to a resource consent, and will assess the project on environmental impact grounds.
The EPA will appoint a panel of commissioners to consider the application, with CRP chief executive Chris Castle expecting a decision "in November after a full public process."
"Including the proceeds of the rights issue presently underway, CRP has raised over $27 million from its existing shareholders and through placements to qualified investors to finance extensive spending on science-based research," said Castle, who is shopping the project to investors in London at present.
"Rigorous research by scientists has considered the relevant facets of what we propose and demonstrates how we can minimise and mitigate environmental impacts," he said in a statement.
CRP is arguing the phosphate mining project would free New Zealand from around $100 million of imports annually of phosphate - a key input for New Zealand farming - from disputed territories in the Western Sahara, and could produce a new source of exports.
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