Environmental group urges mining fight

21:46, Nov 08 2013

Ironsand mining off South Taranaki's coast has taken another big step forward.

However an environmental group set up to stop the controversial practice says it is ready for a fight.

Trans-Tasman Resources' (TTR) mining permit application to extract ironsands in the South Taranaki Bight has been accepted by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).

The authority will now launch a public submission process in the next few weeks.

The application covers an area of 65.76 square kilometres within the exclusive economic zone, between 22km and 36km off the coast of Patea, at depths of between 20 and 45 metres.

TTR proposes to extract up to 50 million tonnes of sediment per year and process it aboard a floating processing storage and offloading vessel.

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About 5 million tonnes of iron ore concentrate will then be exported.

TTR chief executive Tim Crossley said based on their scientific reports the project would not adversely affect the near-shore and coastal environment, including access for the public and surfing.

Mr Crossley said they were confident the "high energy environment" of the South Taranaki Bight, combined with their extraction methods, would mean the effects of the project would be "relatively short lived".

"Since 2009, TTR has spent approximately $8 million on a detailed baseline study programme and modelling of the potential environmental effects using New Zealand and international experts," Mr Crossley said.

"This is a significant milestone for TTR".

However, Kiwis Against Seabed Mining chairman Phil McCabe said they had now "activated a small but growing army of volunteers" to raise awareness and funds for their campaign.

"We will be going hard right to the last minute of the submission period," he said.

Mr McCabe said the process was "skewed heavily" towards the applicant because the group had not seen any information TTR had accumulated relating to the marine environment, or their application.

"And we still don't know, and we won't until that 20-working day period starts."

He said it was too big of an issue to be rushed and urged all Taranaki residents to take notice and submit their thoughts on the proposal.

Mr Crossley said, if given consent, the project would provide substantial economic benefits to New Zealand and Taranaki.

He said independent analysis from New Zealand Institute of Economic Research suggested the TTR project would contribute approximately $302m to national GDP, and TTR would pay around $54m in taxes and royalties, each year.

"We are also investigating establishing a community trust to ensure that the local communities of South Taranaki benefit from the project," he said.

TTR will hold an information session in Hawera on Wednesday, November 20 at the TSB Hub from 11am.

Taranaki Daily News