Would-be seabed miner Chatham Rock Phosphate Ltd (NZX-V: NZP; NZAX: CRP) is continuing its bid to gain a marine consent from The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to mine off the South Island's east coast.
This week separate company Trans-Tasman Resources had its second application overturned, to mine 50 million tonnes of sands off the Taranaki seabed, to sift out 5 Mt of ironsands for export annually.
Chatham Rock wants to suction up 1.5 Mt of phosphate nodules from the Chatham Rise seafloor, about 250 kilometres west of the Chatham Islands, in depths of up to 450 metres.
What was successfully overturned by the High Court was the EPA's having granted Trans-Tasman marine consent last August to mine within 66 square km of the South Taranaki Bight, for the next 35 years.
Trans-Tasman has now twice had its bid rejected, and could yet appeal the latest decision, while Chatham Rock had its first marine consent application rejected in February 2015.
Environmental and fishing groups, iwi and communities had challenged the Trans-Tasman marine consent in the High Court, which this week quashed the decision, saying an “adaptive management” approach did not protect the environment adequately.
Despite the setback for Trans-Tasman, Chatham's chief executive Chris Castle said the High Court decision of Justice Peter Churchman would provide “important precedents for future marine consent applications.”
While Justice Churchman found the EPA decision making committee was not permitted to use an “adaptive management” approach, Castle said comments by him “appear to support implementation of adaptive management.”
He believed Justice Churchman's decision provided a “comprehensive platform” to support the “prompt amendment” of the Exclusive Economic Zone Act, which would bring it into accord with other domestic and international legislation.
Chatham already have a mining licence for the Chatham Rise and is at present working through its marine consent reapplication.
Castle said yesterday he expected to file a scoping review to the EPA in November.
*Simon Hartley is a senior business writer and assistant chief reporter for the Otago Daily Times.