Taranaki Coast

New Zealand has rejected Trans-Tasman Resources’ (TTR) application for a $70m underwater iron sand mining project in the South Taranaki Bight, saying that there was no clarity on its environmental impact.

The decision-making committee of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has rejected the application, citing an uncertain scope and significance of the adverse environmental effects, including the potential harm fishing and Iwi interests.

The information presented by the company was not enough to convince the committee that the life-supporting capacity of the environment would be safeguarded, or that the adverse effects of the proposal could be avoided, remedied or mitigated.

TTR received a mining permit from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment in May, but had to secure consent from the EPA as the project lies within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

"The DMC agreed with EDS and other submitters that the uncertainties…meant it was required to favour caution and environmental protection."

TTR proposed to mine an area of 65.76km² within the EEZ between 22km and 35km off the coast of Patea, under the company’s current prospecting licence 50753.

The project would have been the world’s first commercial metals mine on the ocean floor.

Several environmental groups opposed the proposal, including Environmental Defence Society and Kiwis Against Seabed Mining, who citied a lack of scientific clarity over the environmental impacts of seabed mining.

EDS executive director Gary Taylor said: "The DMC agreed with EDS and other submitters that the uncertainties in the scope and significance of effects on the environment and existing interests meant it was required to favour caution and environmental protection."

"The DMC indicated that application was ‘premature’ and the applicant should have spent more time understanding the proposed operation and the receiving environment and engaging with existing interests and other parties."

TTR’s proposal was the first application processed by the EPA under the new EEZ legislation, which was introduced in June 2013.

Image: Trans-Tasman’s proposed underwater iron sand mining in the South Taranaki Bight, off the coast of Patea. Photo: courtesy of Phillip Capper.