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EPA refuses marine consent application by Chatham Rock Phosphate Ltd

11 February 2015

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has refused an application by Chatham Rock Phosphate Limited (CRP) for a marine consent to mine phosphorite nodules on the Chatham Rise.

The decision, which was made by a Decision-making Committee (DMC) appointed by the EPA Board, was released this morning.

EPA General Manager Applications & Assessment Sarah Gardner said the DMC had concluded that mining would cause significant and permanent adverse effects on the existing benthic environment on the Chatham Rise. This included communities dominated by protected stony corals which were potentially unique to the Chatham Rise and which the DMC concluded were rare and vulnerable ecosystems.

Ms Gardner said that despite the applicant’s efforts to research and substantiate its case, the DMC was left with a lack of certainty about the receiving environment and the adverse effects of the proposal on the environment and existing interests. In these circumstances the DMC was required by the legislation to favour caution and environmental protection when making its decision.

She said the DMC had considered whether the adaptive management approach proposed by the applicant would enable the proposed mining operation to be undertaken.

“However, 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.”

Ms Gardner said the DMC had also concluded that the economic benefit to New Zealand of the proposal would be modest at best. 

“After weighing all the material before it, taking into account the matters listed in the relevant legislation and applying the information principles, the DMC has concluded that the application could not be approved either in part or in whole and therefore the application was refused.”

The application by CRP attracted 294 submissions with the DMC holding public hearings in Wellington, Hamilton and the Chatham Islands.

There is a 15-working day period for the lodgement of any appeals to the High Court which can be made on points of law only.

Further details about the decision, and a link to the decision, can be found here:


Background

CRP’s proposal involved mining phosphorite nodules from the Chatham Rise (250-450m depth) approximately 450 km east of Christchurch. CRP proposed to mine at least 30 sq. km of seabed per annum with an annual minimum production target of extracting and landing 1.5 million tonnes of phosphorite nodules.

The decision was the third to be made by the EPA on a publicly notified application for a marine consent. An application by OMV NZ Ltd to continue development drilling at its Maari field on the South Taranaki Bight was granted in December 2014. An application by Trans-Tasman Resources Ltd (TTR) to carry out an iron sand mining project in the South Taranaki Bight was refused in June last year. TTR appealed the decision but later abandoned the court proceedings.

Two non-notified marine consents for exploration activities on the South Taranaki Bight have also been granted by the EPA – one to OMV NZ Ltd in August 2014 and the other to Shell Todd Oil Services in September 2014.

The EPA forms part of an integrated regulatory regime for managing activities in New Zealand’s EEZ and Continental Shelf (CS). The EPA is responsible for regulating the effects of certain restricted activities on the environment and existing interests in the EEZ and CS under the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012 (EEZ Act). The purpose of the EEZ Act is to promote the sustainable management of the natural resources of this area. Our role is to consider applications for marine consents, monitor compliance with the EEZ Act and any conditions on marine consents, carry out enforcement, and promote public awareness of the requirements of the EEZ Act and associated regulations.

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