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March 5, 2021

NZ’s Environmental Protection Agency rejects second undersea mining bid

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by Allanah Leahy – EM TV Online

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the New Zealand’s government’s regulatory body on environmental management, has rejected a mining application from Chatham Rock Phosphate Limited (CRP).

CRP’s application, rejected last week, was for marine consent to mine phosphorite nodules on the Chatham Rise.

The application is the second undersea mining application to be publicly rejected by the EPA since June last year.

The Chatham Rise is a highly productive and important commercial fishing ground in New Zealand, responsible for 60 per cent of New Zealand’s fish catch. CRP sought marine consent under the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act (2012), aiming to mine phosphorite nodules from the Chatham Rise initially within an area of 820 square kilometres, for which it has a mining permit.

CRP aimed to mine in a wider 5,207 square kilometre area and sought marine consent from the EPA on the prospect.

EPA’s appointed decision-making committee (DMC) refused the application on the grounds that the mining would cause ‘significant and permanent adverse effects on the existing benthic environment’.

EPA General Manager Applications and Assessment Sarah Gardner said rare and vulnerable ecosystems potentially unique to the Chatham Rise, including communities dominated by protected stony corals, would be damagingly affected.

The decision, according to other companies, may discourage seabed mining interests in New Zealand.

Gardner cited a lack of effort on the applicant’s part in researching and substantiating the case, leaving the DMC uncertain over how the environment would react to the proposed interests.

The DMC was then required, by legislation, to act cautiously and favour environmental protection in its’ decision.

Although considering the ‘adaptive management approach’, Gardner said:

“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.”

On top of this, the DMC concluded that economic benefits to New Zealand from the project 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.”

Nautilus Minerals’ environmental permit for Solwara 1 was granted by Papua New Guinea’s Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) in December 2009 for a term of 25 years.

Despite protests from affected communities and global organisations on the extent of damage, and inaccurate and incomplete analyses of the projects’ full impact, the project is in full swing.

Melanesian studies advocate, Dan Jones, said in December last year:

“Most Papua New Guineans do not see the benefits promised by mining, oil and gas developments, yet investment continues to flow at a great rate into projects despite the massive problems they continue to cause to culturally diverse subsistence agricultural communities dependant on clean environments and waterways for survival…

“Development to Papua New Guineans is much more than an expedient cash cow benefiting foreign investors and local officials. Real development includes cultural development including environmentally custodial customs, responsibilities and spiritual connections to land and sea.”

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