New Zealand’s EPA rejects Chatham Rock’s seabed mining proposal

10 February 2015 (Last Updated February 10th, 2015 18:30)

New Zealand's Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has rejected an application by Chatham Rock Phosphate (CRP) to mine phosphorite nodules on a proposed seabed mining operation on the Chatham Rise.

New Zealand's Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has rejected an application by Chatham Rock Phosphate (CRP) to mine phosphorite nodules on a proposed seabed mining operation on the Chatham Rise.

The plans are said to have involved mining phosphorite nodules from the Chatham Rise at 250m to 450m depth, around 450km east of Christchurch.

In its application, the company proposed to mine at least 30km² of seabed a year with a minimum annual production target of extracting 1.5 million tonnes of phosphorite nodules.

A decision-making committee (DMC) appointed by the EPA board concluded that mining would have adverse effects on the existing benthic environment on the Chatham Rise, and that the economic benefits would be modest for the country.

Prior to maknig the ruling, DMC had considered whether the project would enable the mining operation to be taken up.

"The destructive effects of the extraction process…could not be mitigated by any set of conditions or adaptive management regime that might be reasonably imposed."

EPA applications and assessment general manager Sarah Gardner said: "...the DMC found that the destructive effects of the extraction process, coupled with the potentially significant impact of the deposition of sediment on areas adjacent to the mining blocks and on the wider marine ecosystem, could not be mitigated by any set of conditions or adaptive management regime that might be reasonably imposed."

Commenting on the EPA's decision, CRP managing director Chris Castle said: "It will make it even harder, if not impossible, for companies to attract capital for new projects in New Zealand.

"As the second application of its kind, there have been some improvements in the process and were able to learn a lot and apply those lessons."

Straterra CEO Chris Baker said: "Our initial reading of the decision supports our review of last year's negative decision on the Trans-Tasman Resources ironsands mining application.

"The legislation has major flaws, which must be amended if we are to see responsible mining projects being developed."

Straterra is the collective voice for the minerals and mining sector in New Zealand.