Quarrying & Mining Magazine

Not giving up on Phosphate


The international and local demand for mined rock phosphate is high. Chatham Rock Phosphate (CRP) is not giving up on its ambitions to get a Kiwi operation going and now could be assisted by South Island tribes.

There is a vast field of recoverable rock phosphate under the sea between mainland New Zealand and the Chatham Islands.

Chatham Rock Phosphate (CRP) was granted a mining licence in 2013 (MP55549) for 20 years over an area of 820 square kilometres of our Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf known as the Chatham Rise. However, CRP does not hold a Consent to commence mining and its first application in 2015 was rejected by an Environmental Protection Authority-appointed panel, following $33 million of investment and research over seven years. The application was rejected for a number of reasons. Among these was a lack of scientific knowledge about the Chatham Rise marine environment, and uncertainties about what would be the world’s first seabed mining project undertaken at such depths.

Chatham Rock plans to submit a new marine consent application in the third-quarter of 2020.

This time CRP is armed with an information-sharing and collaboration agreement with the asset holding company of Ngati Mutunga O Wharekauri, where parties agree to collaborate in developing an application that meets the environmental, economic, social and cultural objectives of both parties.

While Ngati Mutunga and Ngai Tahu (the largest tribe in the South Island), both opposed the previous application, Ngati Mutunga, which is the holding company for Maori interests in the Chatham Islands including Ngai Tahu, says it will collaborate with CRP in gathering information supporting the application.

The executive of Ngati Mutunga says that if the agreement works satisfactorily, it will support the application. The agreement also says that if consent is granted by the Environmental Protection Authority, the parties agree to work together to mitigate any environmental impacts from the project and ensure the Chatham Islands community “realises tangible benefits” from it.

That community, represented by Ngati Mutunga o Wharekauri, Moriori, and the Chatham Islands Enterprise Trust, would be the most directly affected by the operations and also have major fishing interests in the waters surrounding the Chatham Islands.

Furthermore, Ngati Mutunga o Wharekauri has agreed to consider investing in the rock phosphate venture if a satisfactory consent to mine is obtained by CRP.

The collaboration agreement will lapse if mutually agreed ways of addressing “reasonable community concerns and aspirations” can’t be found.

By Peter Owens 

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