Seabed ironsands miner TransTasman tries again for resource consent
The first company to attempt to gain a resource consent to mine ironsands from the ocean floor in New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone has lodged a new application containing fresh scientific and other evidence it hopes will persuade regulators after their initial application was turned down in 2014.
A Decision-Making Committee (DMC) appointed by the EPA declined TransTasman Resources's application to suction-dredge 50 million tonnes of ironsand a year from a 65.8 square kilometre area of ocean floor between 22 and 36 kilometres offshore in the southern Taranaki Bight, saying the science was too uncertain about the impacts of the project.
TTR spent more than $60 million and seven years prior to the 2014 rejection and appealed the decision unsuccessfully.
It opted ultimately to prepare a new application, which will be heard by a fresh DMC, rather than have further hearings before the previous DMC.
"Since then, TTR has undertaken a comprehensive programme of additional science and engineering work to update and refine the environmental assessments of its application and how it can be successfully undertaken," said executive chairman Alan Eggers in a statement. "We are confident this programme addresses all the previous DMC's concerns."
While the price of iron ore has plummeted over the years, TTR has pursued the project arguing its extraction methods are far lower-cost than on-land mining as they involve vacuuming up iron-rich sands and returning around 90 percent of the sand, with iron ore extracted, to the ocean floor. Specialised bulk freighters would then transport the extracted titano-magnetite ore to steel mills, most probably in Asia.
Among key issues at the two months of hearings on the application in 2013 was the potential environmental impact of sand plumes in the ocean water column and the impact on the limited range of sea-life capable of surviving in the relatively barren marine environment where TTR would be working, outside the territorial limit off the coast of Patea.
Environmental groups were also concerned about whales' migratory habits through the area and possible impact on endangered dolphins.
"It's disappointing that TTR is back with the same application," said Kiwis Against Seabed Mining, the principal lobby against the proposal. TTR was "trying to wear down public opposition, but this foreign-owned company should know that they will continue to meet strong resistance from Kiwis who will stand up for their beaches, ocean and marine environment."
At this stage, TTR has lodged its application with the EPA, which is reviewing it for compliance before notifying it officially.
The company argues the project would generate around $300 million a year in royalties, tax paid, and export earnings and could support around 1,650 jobs in New Zealand.
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