Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) has welcomed the decision of the Environmental Protection Authority’s Decision Making Committee (DMC) to approve its Marine Consent to recover and export iron sands offshore in the South Taranaki Bight of New Zealand.

The company says the DMC decision is the first approval for a mining proposal in New Zealand’s extensive offshore Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) under the EEZ Act 2012.

The approval means that TTR is now allowed to recover resources from the country’s EEZ.

TTR plans to mine up 50 million tonnes of the seabed a year, for 35 years, to obtain 5 million tonnes of iron ore annually. The South Taranaki Bight has reported JORC-compliant iron sand mineral resources of 1.698 billion tonnes @ 11.16% Fe2O3 for the mine area and adjacent Kupe Blocks at a 3.5% Davis Tube Recovery cut-off and a further 2.137 billion tonnes @ 9.66% for Stage 2 Block mine areas.

The sand will be processed aboard a purpose-built 345-metre integrated mining vessel with construction expected to start soon. TTR expects to begin exporting iron ore in 2020.

In a statement TTR’s chairman Alan Eggers said, “TTR delivered and presented a comprehensive evaluation of the potential environmental effects supported by highly qualified international and local experts in marine ecology. We believe that this, together with a full set of agreed operating conditions, enabled the DMC to grant the Marine Consent.

“On August 23, 2016, TTR lodged the application with the EPA. After public notification and receipt of a large number of submissions the hearing commenced on February 16, 2017 in Wellington, and after 27 days of hearings including four days in New Plymouth, it formally closed on May 31.

“TTR understands the time taken for the DMC to deliver the decision is not without precedent, reflects the need to document fully their reasons for the decision and deal fairly with an unusually high number of public submissions on a wide range of complex issues.

“It should be acknowledged that TTR has undertaken extensive marine environmental work in the STB and as a result of TTR’s research the STB is now regarded as the most studied and documented area of ocean floor and marine environment around New Zealand.

“The TTR management team, experts and advisers are to be congratulated on their professional approach and expertise in delivering the comprehensive application and supporting information.

“The grant of TTR’s Marine Consent is an important step for mining developments and investment in New Zealand resources and this consent will facilitate development of a new low impact sustainable export industry for the country.

“The TTR operation will introduce new jobs, a range of professions and skills, training facilities and technology along with substantial economic benefits for Taranaki and New Zealand.

“TTR’s Board and management team are now focused on moving forward to develop the project by building and commissioning the IMV, support vessels and infrastructure,” the statement concluded.

Environmental groups that have opposed the company’s intentions are threatening further legal action against the DMC decision.

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining chairperson Phil McCabe said, “We have to take the only responsible route here by appealing this decision, on behalf of the future of our coastal peoples and environment, the blue whales, Maui dolphins and little penguins. We saw at least 13,700 people object to this proposal, and the only logical next step is to challenge that decision on their behalf.”

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