Petition calls for moratorium on seabed mining

A sub-sea mining machine being built for Nautilus Minerals in England (Reuters)
A sub-sea mining machine being built for Nautilus Minerals in England (Reuters)

The Green Party will accept a petition at Parliament today calling for a moratorium on seabed mining in New Zealand.

The petition has collected over 6000 signatures and comes following an application made by Trans Tasman Resources to extract 50 million tonnes of iron sands off the South Taranaki coast each year.

The company made a similar application which was rejected in 2014 by the Environmental Protection Authority.

Green Party MP Gareth Hughes says more scientific evidence is needed before agreeing to such a project.

"Seabed mining is seen as one of these futuristic technologies which might have been just around the corner. But apart from a little bit of diamond mining internationally, this is unprecedented. I don't think New Zealanders should be gambling with our marine environment," he said.

The plan would see up to 50 million tonnes of iron sand extracted each year by separating titaniferous ore from the sediment. Around 90 percent of the sand would then be returned to the sea bed.

Gareth Hughes says the work involves significant risk.

"When you're talking about sucking up a huge amount of the seabed and dumping it back, there is going to be a huge impact on the marine environment, on fisheries, on species like the Maui's dolphin which deserve our protection.

"Other countries including the Northern Territory in Australia, Namibia, have put in place seabed mining moratoria's, we should do the same. I think it's only fair to the companies who are spending millions of dollars applying through this process that there's a lot more scientific evidence before they spend their money."

The Environmental Protection Authority is calling for submissions on the application by Trans Tasman Resources. 

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