A Lack Of ‘scientific Credibility’ To Opposition To Seabed Mining In New Zealand

The Media Council has found this piece contained incorrect facts – giving a misleading impression that TTR was successful in the Courts, when they had lost in both courts and the matter had been referred back to the EPA for reconsideration; and that there was no evidence of adverse effects of marine life, when the EPA decision outlined adverse effects on organisms nearby the mining site.
OPINION: Opposition to seabed mining lacks scientific credibility and would deny New Zealand access to a major new sustainable export industry, worth at least $1 billion.
This metal recovery operation will help meet the soaring demand for strategic minerals and metals (iron, vanadium and titanium) which are required as the world transitions to a low-carbon energy economy.
New Zealand has special legislation to develop resources, including minerals, in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) from 12 to 200 nautical miles offshore under the EEZ Act 2012. The act incorporates comprehensive environmental safeguards and international guidelines that seek to balance economic development with environmental protection.
Trans-Tasman Resources Limited (TTR) has been granted a 66 square kilometres Mining Licence, issued under the Crown Minerals Act 1991, over the deposit. And in August 2017, the Environmental Protect Authority’s (EPA) Decision Making Committee (DMC) granted TTR marine and discharge consents to operate.
The DMC’s approval includes a comprehensive set of agreed conditions designed to sustainably manage the resource and protect the marine environment from any adverse effects.
TTR has faced sustained opposition to the development of seabed mining off the Taranaki coast.
Despite this, TTR has prevailed in the EPA hearing by having our marine and discharge environmental consents granted in 2017, by the High Court ruling 28 to 1 in TTR’s favour in 2018 and the Court of Appeal ruling 9 to 6 in TTR’s favour 2020 on our opponent’s challenges to the EPA’s grant of our consents.
In April 2020, TTR lodged a Notice of Appeal on the Court of Appeal’s judgment on the six points of law to the Supreme Court with the hearing taking place in Wellington in November 2020. The Supreme Court’s decision is likely to be delivered later in 2021.
TTR’s Supreme Court appeal is supported by the Attorney General (Crown Law) and EPA.
In an unusual move, the Attorney General and EPA were invited by the Supreme Court to intervene and make submissions to address to the TTR appeal.
In all respects, the Attorney General’s and the EPA’s submissions to the Court supported TTR’s position on these points of law.
New Zealand has one of the largest EEZs in the world – 14 times the size of New Zealand’s land area. It is known to host valuable deposits of iron, vanadium and titanium minerals and metals that are essential and fundamental to the development of large-scale batteries, solar and wind power infrastructure and electrification of the economy required to transition to a low-carbon economy.
TTR has undertaken extensive mineral exploration, engineering development work, environmental research, community and stakeholder consultation to establish a new low impact sustainable mineral production and export operation in the South Taranaki Bight.
The operation will deliver a range of major economic and social benefits, infrastructure and training investments, significant employment opportunities, along with world-leading marine science research and mining technology developments to the Taranaki region and New Zealand.
TTR’s 3.2 billion tonne vanadium rich titanomagnetite deposit is located in New Zealand’s EEZ, 22km to 36km offshore in the South Taranaki Bight and is a tier one world-class ore deposit and one of the largest known drill defined vanadium deposits in the world.
There is no evidence, as presented by a range of independent institutions and TTR’s marine experts to the EPA, that seabed mining or TTR’S proposed operations are a threat to, or will have any adverse effect on, near shore environment or beaches, reefs or marine ecologies, marine mammals including rare whales, critically endangered Hector’s or Maui dolphin populations, blue penguins, fish or any marine life.
TTR’s proposed metal recovery operation will generate significant employment opportunities including over 300 permanent Taranaki based jobs; up to 1665 jobs in support and service industries regionally and nationwide; much-needed training and infrastructure investment in Taranaki/South Taranaki/Whanganui regions.
Long-term meaningful government revenue streams will result by the establishment of this new strategic mineral export industry with a boost to the region and nation’s GDP with no measurable impact or stress on NZ’s existing infrastructure or environment.
The operation will inject over $250 million direct annual expenditure into the Taranaki/South Taranaki/Whanganui regions and generate over $290m in taxes and royalties and ±$1 billion export income to the Crown per annum, delivered at no cost to New Zealand taxpayers, with only minimal, confined and short term impact on the South Taranaki Bight marine ecosystems.
These regional-based employment opportunities and treasury receipts are generated without the government having to deliver any additional services or infrastructure.
The STB’s vanadium rich titanomagnetite deposits have significant carbon footprint advantages over other iron sand and hard rock sources of iron ore, vanadium and titanium mined elsewhere in the world with TTR’s carbon intensity per tonne of concentrate less than half our land based competitors.
TTR’s deposits have been developed by nature to leave the titanomagnetite sand ready for direct recovery and shipping without the need for large-scale emission intensive land-based mining and processing operations and extensive transport infrastructure.
During the Covid crisis iron ore prices have more than doubled to more than US$190t as demand for these essential strategic metals outstrips supply.
New Zealand is well-placed to develop a new long-term sustainable export industry producing one of the lowest carbon intensity iron ore concentrates in the world.
The large known tier one world-class vanadium rich titanomagnetite iron sand resources offshore along the West Coast of the North Island can be efficiently and competitively recovered utilising current low impact environmentally sustainable mineral recovery technology.
Globally, sustainable subsea mining is now being viewed as the key technology to meet the demand for high grade steel alloys and strategic metals to support the low carbon economy.
Seabed mining has the lowest environmental, ecological and carbon footprint of alternative metal mining operations, and will deliver significant training and job opportunities to the depressed South Taranaki region, and meaningful treasury receipts to the NZ government.
Banning seabed mining completely contradicts the balanced and responsible approach of the EEZ Act and opposition will deny much-needed training, infrastructure, jobs and economic activity in South Taranaki.
This opposition is short-sighted and flies in the face of the extensive scientific, engineering, environmental and economic information in support of seabed mineral recovery.