New Zealand Supreme Court blocks consent to seabed mining | Deep sea mining

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A New Zealand offshore mining company has lost its Supreme Court bid to overturn a ruling preventing it from mining millions of tonnes of ferrous sand off the coast of South Taranaki on the North Island of New Zealand. Zealand.

Thursday’s unanimous decision of the New Zealand Supreme Court, which upheld earlier High Court and Court of Appeal decisions revoking the operating license for Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR), was well welcomed by environmentalists and the mining company, albeit from opposing angles.

Environmental groups described the decision as a victory and the “last nail in the coffin” of the proposal.

The judgment is the latest in a long legal battle waged by environmental and community groups against TTR’s plans to dredge 50 million tonnes of iron-sand – a type of sand with high concentrations of metal from the seabed of South Taranaki Bight, on the west coast of the North Island.

Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, who led the Ngāti Ruanui iwi (the people) of southern Taranaki through successive court challenges to TTR’s plans, said the decision was the “last nail in the coffin” of the plan.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better decision,” Ngarewa-Packer, now co-leader of the Te Pāti Māori party, told New Zealand news site Stuff.

“It was always a small grassroots group that didn’t want our beach to be polluted,” she said. “We wanted to continue surfing and eating, and this activity threatened that. “

The Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency erred in law in granting TTR’s permission in 2017 and dismissed the company’s appeal. He further ruled that the decision would be referred to the EPA’s decision-making committee for reconsideration.

A Greenpeace protest against deep sea mining in the Pacific. Photograph: Marten van Dijl / Greenpeace

Ngarewa-Packer called such an examination “technical”, adding: “The courts have determined that this type of activity does not fall under the law”.

James Hita, of Greenpeace Aotearoa’s seabed mining campaign, said: “This decision is a victory for the ocean and for popular power. For nearly a decade, iwi, Greenpeace, Kasm [Kiwis against Seabed Mining] and coastal communities worked together to oppose the proposed mining in southern Taranaki Bay. And today we won.

TTR welcomed the opportunity to have consent reconsidered. In a statement, its executive chairman, Alan Eggers, said, “TTR is happy with the decision.

“Legal issues are now very narrowly defined and nothing in the judgment prevents TTR from having consents re-approved. The court rulings pave the way for a successful resumption of proceedings with the EPA. ”

EPA granted TTR permission to mine an area of ​​66 km² (16,000 acres) of the seabed off South Taranaki in 2017. Ngāti Ruanui and 10 environmental and fishing groups successfully fought approval, first in the High Court and then in the Court of Appeal. TTR then turned to the Supreme Court.

In its 130-page judgment, the Supreme Court addressed a number of issues regarding the correct interpretation and application of the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Law.

The court’s five judges agreed that the EPA erred in law when it granted consent to mining in 2017.

TTR argued that the appeals court had relied too strictly on environmental protection and that the evaluation of the proposal should also take into account the economic benefits.

The Supreme Court disagreed and said that, given the uncertainty of information on how TTR’s activities would affect species, including marine mammals and seabirds, the decision-making committee of the EPA “simply could not be satisfied that the conditions it imposed were adequate to protect the environment from pollution.”

Over 35 species of marine mammals have been documented in the South Taranaki Bight area, including at least eight species or subspecies classified as threatened or vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, including a genetically distinct population and isolated of blue New Zealand pygmy. whales that live there all year round.


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