Towards the end of last year TransTasman Resources noticed the Court of Appeal to Seek Leave to Appeal Marine Consent High Court Judgment of 28 August 2018, regarding its marine consents for the STB iron sands project.
The court has overturned an Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) consent solely over the correct legal meaning of “adaptive management” or the type of environmental compliance monitoring required to be incorporated in the TTR consents.
The basis of the TTR appeal is that the, “EPA did follow a legally correct approach in granting a marine discharge consent to TTR – including a comprehensive set of consent conditions specifically designed to protect the marine environment and existing interests, particularly local Maori”.
Since then TTR has released a document describing its project in more detail.
The offshore South Taranaki Bight (STB) vanadium-rich titanomagnetite sand resources is one of the largest known drill defined vanadium deposits in the world.
TTR says it has undertaken extensive engineering development work and environmental research to establish a new low impact sustainable production and export operation that will deliver a range of significant environmental, social, economic and technological benefits.
“Major environmental benefits include the potential recovery of strategic minerals for the renewable energy sector.
“Vanadium is now in demand for use in vanadium batteries to store renewable energy and, with titanium, in high quality steel production, white goods and electronics.”
The STB vanadium resource with 11 pounds per tonne of concentrate will generate up to 50 million pounds (22,700 tonnes vanadium pentoxide) and 300,000 tonnes titanium dioxide a year depending on recoveries, TTR adds.
Actual environmental impact
Despite fanciful claims to the contrary, says TTR, the unchallengeable facts are that the operation, located 22-36 kilometres offshore over the horizon, will have minimal if any impact on the STB marine ecosystems, existing users or the near shore environments, recreational use or cultural values. “The actual impacts and effects are outlined in the 2019 Fact Sheet and videos of the seafloor in the proposed mine area and the mining operation are available on our website at www.ttrl.co.nz.”
Based on the current JORC resource and commodity prices TTR’s operation would generate direct payments in royalties and corporate taxes to the Government in excess of $200 million a year ($55m annual royalties and $145m annual corporate taxes) along with foreign exchange earnings of around US$370 million, says TTR.
The initial licence and approved project has a mine life in excess of 20 years. The project will also directly employ more than 250 New Zealand-based staff and operational personnel.
Commenting on what it claims is media misinformation and exaggerated claims relating to the South Taranaki Bight iron sands project TTR has made a number of counter claims.
The area is no deeper than most harbours around the country and is well explored, understood and researched by TTR’s scientific experts “and is not like an alien planet”.
There are no blue whales anywhere near its proposed operation as there is no foraging for them, it’s too shallow (50 metres of water) with the nearest sighting 14.8 kilometres west in deeper water. “The next sighting is 50 kilometres to the west and the rest around 120 kilometres west along the continental shelf where they live and migrate.”
There is no “massive open cast mine” with only a shallow excavation of the surface, that is immediately reinstated.
The disturbed area totals 0.27 square kilometres at any one time or an area approximately the same as the turf area of the Westpac Stadium.
The area is not “pristine” as it has, and continues to be, heavily bottom trawled by the fishing industry.
There has never been any marine recreational activities or sports (including diving, swimming, surfing or recreational fishing) undertaken out in the area 22-36 kilometres offshore. It’s simply too far out where weather and ocean conditions prohibit anything but the operation of large commercial vessels.
TTR notes that the former onshore Waipipi iron sand mine area is now fully rehabilitated and a housing development actually supports the case for responsible low impact mining activities.
“TTR’s mine area will be fully rehabilitated as the operation proceeds with the re-establishment of the marine flora and fauna ecosystems within weeks and months of being disturbed (scientific fact internationally peer reviewed).”
TTR says it is proposing one (effectively stationary) vessel operating in area of approximately 66 square kilometres in the STB that covers an area of 36,000 square kilometres with thousands of commercial shipping and trawler movements per year.
“The TTR plume generated totally dissipates around 10 kilometres offshore never reaching near shore environments, and will have no effect on the STB marine ecosystems and habitats including whales, dolphins, fish or kaimoana or the cultural and recreational use or values of the STB.”
In terms of scale TTR says the entire Mining Licence area of 66 square kilometres represents just 0.18 percent of the STB
“The total disturbed and rehabilitated area over 20 years amounts to around 44 square kilometres within the Mining Licence which is 0.12 percent of the STB.
“The actual disturbed area of 0.27 square kilometres represents 0.001 percent of the STB or equivalent to 10 percent of the area disturbed continually by the three square kilometre Port of Whanganui.”
TTR says the operation will generate over 300 direct professional and skilled jobs, and a further 165 indirect in services and support in the region and up to 1665 positions nationwide.
Training and logistics facilities will be established in Hawera and service infrastructure in Port Taranaki and the Port of Whanganui.