Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) is set to mine iron sands from the seabed of the South Taranaki Bight (STB) in New Zealand, following approval from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).
The approval was granted by the EPA’s decision-making committee (DMC) and will allow the company to recover resources from the country’s exclusive economic zone.
DMC stated: “Although some submitters had misgivings about the quality of information, we determined that it was sufficient for our purposes […] and we are satisfied that we have been able to make our decision based on the best available information in accordance with […] the EEZ Act.”
The development comes almost a year after the company filed an application for the proposed offshore mining project.
The marine consent was announced following months of deliberations and consultations, and is expected to bring investments into New Zealand that will aid the development of the country's mining sector.
TTR is planning to proceed with the development of the project now the permit has been obtained by building and commissioning the integrated mining vessel (IMV), support vessels and infrastructure.
The company is expected to begin exporting iron ore from the site in 2020.
The decision to approve the mining project was not unanimous and garnered some controversy, with some dissenting voices in the committee voting against the proposal.
Environmental groups have condemned the decision taken by the DMC, positing that seabed mining is harmful to the region's marine ecosystem.
Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) stated that it intends to file a petition against the decision to approve the project.
KASM chairperson Phil McCabe said: “We have to take the only responsible route here by appealing this decision, on behalf of the future of our coastal peoples and environment, the blue whales, maui dolphins and little penguins.
“We saw at least 13,700 people object to this proposal, and the only logical next step is to challenge that decision on their behalf.”
KASM noted that Trans-Tasman Resources intends to recover for five million tonnes of iron ore per year for a period of 35 years, and that the produce will be exported to Asia.