Offshore mining project blocked by New Zealand supreme court

written by Oceanographic Staff

On 30 September, a New Zealand offshore mining company lost its supreme court bid to overturn a decision preventing it from mining New Zealand’s offshore mineral sand deposits off the North Island’s South Taranaki coast.

The decision was welcomed by environmentalists who described the supreme court ruling as a victory. The mining company Trans-Tasman Resources Limited (TTR), however, also seemed to be confident to get their project approved in the near future. A statement on the company website reads: “TTR is satisfied with the SC decision. The legal issues are now very narrowly defined and there are no aspects of the judgment that are an impediment to TTR having the consents re-approved. The Court’s ruling provide a pathway to a successful resumption of proceedings with the EPA (Environmental Protection Authority).”

New Zealand’s Environmental Protection Authority originally granted TTR seabed mining in 2017 but environmentalists and fishing groups successfully fought this decision through the high and the appeal court. In turn, TTR approached the supreme court to overturn the decision. The supreme court, however, stated that the original ruling has several issues concerning the application and interpretation of the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act, ultimately blocking the offshore mining project that seeks to dredge the seabed habitat.

TTR plans to dredge 50 million tonnes of iron-sand from the South Taranaki Bight’s seabed, an area that has documented more than 35 species of marine mammals, including ones that are listed as vulnerable or threatened by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). The area is also inhabited by a rare, genetically distinct population of New Zealand pygmy whales which would be affected by the seabed mining.

“This ruling is a victory for the ocean, and for people power. For the better part of a decade, iwi tribes, Greenpeace, Kasm [Kiwis against Seabed Mining] and coastal communities have worked together to oppose the proposal to mine in the South Taranaki Bight. And today we won,” says James Hita, of Greenpeace Aotearoa’s seabed mining campaign.

For more from our Ocean Newsroom, click here.

Photography courtesy of Unsplash.

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