Source: New Zealand Herald
Author: New Zealand Herald Editorial
The news that Niwa scientists are going to make a proper investigation of the environmental impact of seabed mining will be welcomed by both sides of this debate. New Zealand sits atop a large continental shelf stretching to the limits of its exclusive economic zone and apart from drilling for oil and gas we have barely scratched the surface of its potential mineral resources.
“Scratching the surface” of the seabed would be a fair description of the two mining applications that have been considered by the Environmental Protection Agency in recent years. One company wanted to extract iron sand from mud off South Taranaki, another proposed to scrape phosphate nodules from the a section of the Chatham Rise. Under strong opposition from environmental and fishing lobbies, the applicants were obliged to try to prove that no significant harm would be done to marine life.
The Chatham Rock Phosphate application has been turned down, the Taranaki iron extraction project by Trans-Tasman Resources, initially refused, was given the go-ahead on a second application but environmental groups immediately announced an intention to challenge the decision in the High Court. Groups such as Forest & Bird and Kiwis Against Seabed Mining have been able to argue that too little is known about seafloor habitats and sediment clouds in the sea to properly assess the environmental impact.
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