New Zealand’s seabed mining decision a “victory for good science”

Date: February 11, 2015

The decision by New Zealand’s Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to refuse consent for a bid to mine phosphate from the Chatham Rise’s deep sea bed is logical, wise, and a victory for good science, and a vindication of all the concerns raised by the groups in the hearing, say environmental groups who opposed the scheme.

The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC), Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM), and Greenpeace joined forces to oppose the application by Chatham Rock Phosphate to mine phosphate at depths of 450m in a 5200sq km area off the east coast of New Zealand.

“It has become clear that the activity of seabed mining cannot be carried out without creating unacceptable damage to the marine environment,” said Barry Weeber of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition. “The EPA has acknowledged all the concerns we raised, but above all, it’s a confirmation of the value New Zealanders hold for our marine environment.”

“It’s an inappropriate activity, and, just as we saw with the last, failed, seabed mining application, this company hadn’t done its scientific homework on many aspects of the environmental impacts, and the EPA rightfully saw the problems with this,” said Weeber.

“This shows the system works. The legislation and the hearings process was robust enough to test the company’s proposal and it was found wanting. The public was able to participate, and the independent scientists we engaged brought a balance to the hearings that would not have been there otherwise.”

“These two failed applications have cost ill advised investors millions, along with huge amounts of time and energy from everybody engaging with the processes. The government needs to take a step back and have a good look at whether this destructive activity is at all appropriate for New Zealand. We call on the Government to issue a moratorium on seabed mining.”

KASM’s Phil McCabe warned the New Zealand Government not to cave to pressure from the mining industry and weaken the legislation to allow seabed mining to proceed.

“We agree with then Conservation Minister Nick Smith when he told Parliament the EPA’s decision to turn down the last seabed mining application by Trans Tasman Resources ‘confirms the robustness of the regulatory framework.’ The EPA has, again, confirmed this.”

“The area is home to many whales, is in an area closed to trawling, and the deep seabed holds deep sea corals and many other species which would have been destroyed by phosphate mining, including endemic species, species which are found nowhere else,” said McCabe.

There were also other questions around the presence of uranium in this phosphate, which could present a number of different issues for our farms and our food exports, Greenpeace experts raised those issues at the hearing – and even the company expert couldn’t confirm whether uranium would get into the food chain.