Ironsand miner outlines Taranaki plans

ROB MAETZIG
Last updated 05:00 31/01/2013

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The company planning to mine millions of tonnes of ironsand from Taranaki's sea floor says it welcomes healthy debate on the proposal.

But the debate must be based on science and fact, and not the result of uninformed scaremongering about feared environmental effects of the mining, Trans-Tasman Resources says.

The company, which plans to annually "harvest" up to 10 million tonnes of ore from the ironsand off the sea floor between Patea and Opunake, was in New Plymouth this week to give a special presentation on the iron ore project, which it plans to begin as early as 2014.

More than 70 people were invited to the presentation, including representatives of environmental and recreational groups who so far have loudly opposed the project.

Others at the event represented Maori, local and regional government, business, and the news media.

TTR's executive chairman, Bill Bissett, described the gathering as engagement with the community, to keep everyone fully informed on the iron ore project's progress and what is planned.

"Up until now we've been very busy taking core samples, testing them, investigating potential costs, and studying what the legislative process will be," he said.

"Now we're entering a period of more study, to get ready for the formal consenting process. We expect to get to the point of making final investment decisions by 2014."

TTR chief executive Tim Crossley said his company fully appreciated there was a range of emotions and perceptions regarding the project and what environmental effects it might have.

"We completely understand this - that's why for the past four years we've been operating under the radar doing our homework.

"But we are totally confident that what we will be doing is dredging a material that is completely inert, not adding any chemicals, removing the iron ore using magnetic seperators, and then returning the sand to the seabed in a controlled way.

"We will be temporary custodians of the area to be harvested, and once the sand has been returned it will regenerate quickly," Crossley said. "So relative to other mining projects this will be relatively innocuous."

Bissett said the operation off the South Taranaki coast would be small by world standards.

"By way of comparison, Australia exports 450 million tonnes of iron ore a year. So with our project we're talking about filling a very small percentage of the global supply."

But despite the internationally small size of the planned project, it promises to be lucrative for New Zealand and Taranaki.

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Iron ore is fetching US$100 (NZ$119) a tonne, and at least half of that income will remain in the country.

Bissett also confirmed that if the project went ahead, offices would be established in New Plymouth, Port Taranaki would be the supply base, and up to 400 workers would be directly employed.

- The Dominion Post

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