Trans-Tasman Resources’ proposed iron sands mining area in New Zealand’s South Taranaki Bight.
Trans-Tasman Resources’ proposed iron sands mining area in New Zealand’s South Taranaki Bight.

TRANS-TASMAN Resources (TTR) says it is extremely disappointed with the decision by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) Decision-making Committee (DMC) to refuse consent for mining iron sands in the South Taranaki Bight. The company successfully applied for a mining consent earlier this year but the EPA decision in mid-June now casts huge doubt over the project.

“We have put a significant amount of time and effort into developing this project including consulting with iwi and local communities, and undertaking detailed scientific research to assess environmental impacts of the project,” says TTR’s chief executive Tim Crossley. “Our objective has been to develop an iron sands extraction project which achieves substantial economic development while protecting the environment.

“We will be carefully analysing the decision and will take our time to consider what this means for the South Taranaki Bight project and for the company. The bottom line is our New Zealand staff and consultants now have a very uncertain future and the local community will not benefit from hundreds of new jobs and an estimated NZ$240 million increase in GDP, annually.

“Since inception TTR has spent more than NZ$60 million, most of this in New Zealand, to deliver a sustainable mining operation with significant economic benefits for New Zealand,” says Tim Crossley.

TTR is a private New Zealand company, established in 2007 to explore and develop the North Island’s offshore iron sand deposits. TTR is headquartered in Wellington and is funded by New Zealand and international investment.

TTR’s marine consent is for a project area of 65.76sqkm in the exclusive economic zone about 22.4 to 36km off the coast of Patea, in water depths of 20-45 metres. TTR’s proposal involves excavation of up to 50 million tonnes annually of seabed material containing iron sand, for processing on a mining vessel. Around 10%, or 5 million tonnes, of the extracted material would be processed into iron ore concentrate for export, with residual material of approximately 45 million tonnes returned to the seabed as de-ored sediment via a controlled discharge at depth below the mining vessel. This sediment would be re-deposited on the seafloor in a controlled manner, usually backfilling previous mined areas.

Proposed processing on the mining vessel involves separation of the ore from the seabed material using gravity and magnetic processes, and does not involve the addition of any chemicals or other products. Processed ore would be transferred from the mining vessel to a floating storage and offloading vessel (FSO) and then to export vessels, which would take it to world markets for use in steel production.

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