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Phosphate seabed mining close to fruition

DAVE BURGESS
Last updated 05:00 30/05/2014

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NZX-listed Chatham Rock Phosphate are on the last leg of their journey for the right to vacuum phosphate nodules from the seabed of the Chatham Rise.

The Environmental Protection Authority has accepted CRP's application for a marine consent for the seabed mining operation.

It kick-starts a six month process, starting with the EPA publicly notifying the application and appointing a decision making committee.

CRP's application is the second to be considered under the new Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act.

An application by Trans-Tasman Resources to mine ironsands off the Taranaki Coast is currently being considered under the legislation.

CRP managing director Chris Castle said the marine consent application represented four years' work and $25 million in investment, and was the only major licence CRP required after they gained a mining permit in December.

"The EPA has a time-bound process that enables anyone with an interest to have input. Having certainty around the process and time frames is very important and we really value the transparency of the regime.

"Throughout the past few months we have continued to work with the groups that have shown an interest in our project. They are familiar with the content of the application and have had time to think about what we are proposing and to test our approach and raise issues as they have been identified."

The application included a 452-page narrative document plus 35 appendices covering all of the scientific research CRP had undertaken over the past four years.

Wellington-based CRP wants to mine phosphate nodules from the seabed of the Chatham Rise, initially within an 820 square kilometre area for which it has a mining permit.

In the future, mining may also occur in a wider 10,192sqkm area, dependent on monitoring results and environmental investigations. It is for this wider area which CRP is seeking a marine consent.

The company proposes to mine at least 30sqkm of seabed annually to meet its annual minimum production target of 1.5 million tonnes of phosphate nodules.

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