There is now nothing standing between the government and a ban on seabed mining
Updated: Nov 24, 2021
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling against a seabed mining consent today, there is nothing standing in the way of the Government moving to ban the experimental industry from New Zealand waters, said Kiwis Against Seabed Mining.
The Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeal decision, which upheld the High Court’s quashing of the EPA’s 2017 green light to seabed miner Trans Tasman Resources to dig up 50 million tonnes of the South Taranaki Bight seabed every year for 35 years, targeting five million tonnes of iron ore, and dumping the remaining 45 million tonnes back into the ocean. It ruled that seabed mining that causes “material damage” to the environment cannot be approved under New Zealand law.
“There is now absolutely nothing standing between the government and a ban on seabed mining. The highest court in the land has ruled out destructive seabed mining in Aotearoa New Zealand. Seabed mining is dead in the water: it’s time for a ban, we don’t need to waste any more time on these lengthy – and costly – applications,” said KASM chairperson Cindy Baxter.
“We stand on the shoulders of coastal communities up and down the west coast of the North Island, the iwi and hapū, the surfers who love their surf breaks, the fisherfolk and every-day ocean-loving people with whom we’ve fought alongside for nearly a decade. This is a massive victory for all of these people, for Aotearoa, and for the blue whales, little blue penguin and the vast array of creatures that live in the Bight.”
This was the third application that has been heard and rejected under laws that were put in place to establish the industry by the Key Government. Even under this enabling law, the activity has failed to meet the bar. “After a decade of stress and untold cost to thousands who have defended our precious marine environment, the government now needs to draw a line in the sand,” said Baxter.
KASM committee member and Pacific Liaison for the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, Phil McCabe noted that this decision also cleared the way for the New Zealand Government to now take a leadership role for a global moratorium on seabed mining.
“New Zealand has now scrutinised seabed mining more than any other country on the planet. With the current wave of global interest in seabed mining, and the real-time push to open vast areas of the deep Pacific seabed to destructive seabed mining, New Zealand now has a moral obligation to lead the world away from this potential ecological disaster and stand for a moratorium on seabed mining in international waters.”
Nov 2013: Trans Tasman Resources (TTR) applies to the EPA for a marine discharge consent to dig up 50 million tonnes of the seabed every year for 35 years, taking five million tonnes of iron ore, and dumping the rest back onto the seabed.
Mar 2014: EPA receives record number submissions against any application in its history.
Jun 2014: EPA refuses TTR consent.
July 2014: Chatham Rock Phosphate applies to mine the deep seabed of the Chatham Rise for phosphate.
Feb 2015: EPA refuses consent for a marine discharge for Chatham Rock Phosphate.
Aug 2016: TTR re-applies for the same marine discharge consent. The EPA committee redacted the only new information (modelling of the plume), agreeing with TTR’s “Commercial sensitivity” claim, which KASM, Greenpeace, Ngati Ruanui and Talley’s had to go to the Environment Court to overturn.
Feb 2017: EPA hearings begin. Again, a record number of submissions (13,700 against).
Aug 2017: EPA grants TTR a marine discharge consent.
Apr 2018: KASM, Greenpeace et al appeal is heard in the High Court.
Aug 2018: High Court quashes TTR’s consent.
Sep 2019: TTR takes case to Court of Appeal, other parties cross-appeal.
Apr 2020: Court of Appeal confirms quashing of EPA consent, upholds many of cross-appeal points. Jul 2020: Supreme Court grants TTR leave to appeal Court of Appeal Decision.
Nov 2020: Supreme Court hearing over three days in Wellington.
Sep 2021: The Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeal decision, which upheld the High Court’s quashing of the EPA’s 2017 green light to TTR.