Trans-Tasman Resources is still confident about its plans to extract and export ironsands dredged from the Taranaki seabed. By NEIL RITCHIE.
TRANS-TASMAN RESOURCES chairman Alan Eggers believes Environmental Protection Agency approval last August was the final regulatory hurdle the company needed to clear before starting building, commissioning and operating seabed mining.
“Obviously, having the marine consent finally approved is a major step forward for TTR and the development of the project.”
This is despite the High Court appeals by perennial protestors – such as Greenpeace, Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) and various other groups, including some Taranaki Maori – against the Environmental Protection Agency decision making committee (DMC) granting the necessary marine consent. These appeals are not due to be heard until April.
Eggers describes the High Court appeals as “disappointing” and believes they are unlikely to succeed. The appeals process will add up to a year of delays in getting the Bankable Feasibility Study (BFS) project completed.
“Our legal advisers [environmental and public law specialists Atkins Holm Majurey of Auckland] consider the appeals do not raise or specify significant errors of law or points of law that are particularly compelling that would put the grant of the marine consent at serious risk.
Eggers, adds that the appeals are limited to questions of law relating to the DMC’s granting of consent under the Exclusive Economic Zone Act.
“With the High Court hearing set for April 2018, and the appeal decision likely to take a further two months, it will mean the appeals process is not expected to be concluded until late June 2018,” he adds.
Given that it will take about three years to complete the BFS, construct and then commission the South Taranaki Bight (STB) project, TTR now anticipates first iron ore export shipments to start in 2021.
“We also remain optimistic, that on the conclusion of the appeals process, TTR can have meaningful and productive discussions with the Taranaki iwi groups to address their concerns regarding the project, gain their confidence and input into the successful operation and long-term environmental monitoring of the STB ironsands operation.”ironsands
Project already underway
Eggers says TTR has been actively pursuing several opportunities and advancing the project since the EPA granted TTR the authority to proceed with its contested plan to extract and process up to five million tonnes per year of ironsands, primarily for export, for 20 years.
Minvest Securities (New Zealand) and TTR have already completed an underwriting agreement ensuring TTR has the funds necessary to complete the court hearing process, with Minvest subsequently providing $2 million of additional funding. Eggers is one of two directors in Minvest Securities, which is a major shareholder in TTR.
In addition, TTR is also finalising more interim funding, at $200 a share, from eligible investors to provide the necessary working capital to progess the project, as well as the court appeals process.
And TTR has met Ganghai (Tianjin) Holding Company in China and finalised funding agreements for more than $59 million of funding, at between $200 and $500 a share. Ganghai is now completing its due diligence process before making available the first $4 million tranche of this funding package.
These funds will also be used to complete the court appeals process and for starting the BFS, preparing for the planned future listing of TTR on both the New Zealand Stock Exchange (NZX) and the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX), as well as for progressing the Westland Sands (WS) heavy minerals project.
This project relates to the second offshore prospecting permit TTR holds, this time along the South Island’s West Coast.
“This permit area is known from previous mineral exploration activity to be highly prospective for marine deposits of heavy minerals sands known to host ilmenite, zircon, rutile, garnet and gold,” says Eggers.
Subject to the receipt of the Ganghai funding, TTR planned last year to start exploration activities on this project during the 2017-18 summer by flying a detailed airborne magnetic and electromagnetic survey.
“The survey data over the permit area will be used to define targets and commence resource definition drilling of the near shore heavy minerals deposits.”
In addition, TTR has provided investor presentations – covering the resource potential, mining technology, costs, global iron ore production and trade, economic benefits and financing structures – to business leaders and providing them with opportunities to invest in TTR ahead of its planned stock exchange listings.
“And TTR has continued to engage with a range of stakeholders, particularly in the Taranaki region, to explain the timetables and processes going forward to complete the BFS, commence environmental monitoring, finance, build, commission the project and start iron ore shipments,” adds Eggers.