Chatham Rise Seabed Mining hearing begins: NGOs join forces to oppose

Date: September 25, 2014

Wellington – The EPA began hearings today in Wellington on Chatham Rock Phosphate’s (CRP) application to mine 5000 square kms of the seabed on the Chatham Rise, in the waters off the New Zealand’s east coast. 

Environment groups the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC), Greenpeace New Zealand and Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) have joined forces to oppose the application, arguing that the area is home to a wide range of sea life, including ancient corals and rare deep sea species, as well as a feeding ground to whales.

CRP has applied for consent to mine phosphates 500 metres deep on the Chatham Rise, between Banks Peninsula and the Chatham Islands.

The three organisations have submitted evidence on the effects on the benthic (seabed) ecosystem, from University of Hawaii Professor Les Watling; from Associate Professor Barrie Peake of the University of Otago on the effects of uranium, which is present in the phosphate being mined, on the marine ecosystem, from Associate Professor Liz Slooten, on the effects on marine mammals such as whales, and from Dr Dave Santillo, on international standards.  The evidence can be found here.

“It is disheartening to have to file evidence in yet another seabed mining application, after the EPA refused Trans Tasman Rsources’ (TTR) bid to mine ironsands only in June,” said Phil McCabe of KASM.  The EPA is now under appeal from TTR.  “We have just as many concerns about this application as we did about the last.”

“The lack of scientific research both on the effects on whales and on the release of uranium into the marine environment is alarming,” said Karli Thomas of Greenpeace.

“DSCC is deeply concerned about the effects on deepwater corals, which will be destroyed, as well as other deepwater marine life,” said Barry Weeber of DSCC.

The three organisations will make their opening submission tomorrow, along with other NGO’s, and the EPA is expected to start hearing evidence from experts tomorrow afternoon.  The hearing is expected to run for six weeks.

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