New Zealand refuses proposal for undersea iron ore mining

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 June, 2014, 9:53pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 June, 2014, 9:53pm

A project to mine undersea iron ore off New Zealand has been rejected because of uncertainty about its impact, the nations Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) said yesterday.

Trans Tasman Resources had sought approval to excavate iron sands from the seabed in waters up to 45 metres deep off the west coast, but was turned down by a special committee of the EPA.

"The major reasons for this decision were the uncertainties in the scope and significance of the potential adverse environmental effects and those on existing interests," the EPA said.

The New Zealand decision was being closely watched by other governments and miners around the world looking to mine copper, cobalt, manganese and other metals deeper on the ocean floor.

Mining of diamonds currently takes place off the coast of Namibia, but the Trans Tasman project was one of the more advanced being proposed elsewhere.

Environmental groups, fishing companies and native Maori tribes had opposed the project because of the potential damage to the environment, marine mammals and fish stocks.

Trans Tasman Resources said it was disappointed by the decision, having spent about NZ$60 million (US$400 million) on the project, and having undertaken significant consultation and scientific research.

Chief executive Tim Crossley said the economy would miss out on hundreds of new jobs and an estimated boost to GDP of NZ$240 million a year.

Environmentalists praised the "victory for common sense".

"It became very clear during the hearings that the company ... had not done its homework on the full environmental impact of digging up 50 million tonnes of the seabed every year for 20 years," said Phil McCabe, chairman of Kiwis Against Seabed Mining.