Sea of trouble

Date: September 20, 2013

Source: New Zealand Herald

Author: Andrew Stone

The rough seas of the southern Pacific Ocean are set to be the focus of resource consent debate as a mining company’s bid to dredge the sea floor comes up against the fishing industry and environmentalists.

Alfred Preece has crossed the heaving seas that separate New Zealand and the Chatham Islands three times.  “It’s a wild piece of water,” says the farmer and Chathams’ mayor. “You need to be on your guard out there.”  “Out there” is the Chatham Rise, fast becoming the aquatic battleground of the country’s next big resource conflict – pitting a small, ambitious mining company against the fishing industry, which on this occasion has the environment lobby on its side.

The project generating strident invective as big as the roaring 40s swells that roll through the stretch of southern Pacific Ocean involves plans by miner Chatham Rock Phosphate to hoover up the top 30cm of sea floor and pump it 400m up to a big ship where the marine silt will be sifted for nodules of rock phosphate before the sediment is pumped back to the seabed.


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