New Zealand’s Supreme Court says ‘no’ to seabed mining

Date: September 30, 2021

30 September 2021

MEDIA RELEASE

New Zealand Supreme Court puts the brakes on seabed mining.

New Zealand’s Supreme Court has denied seabed miners, Trans Tasman Resources, permission to mine the South Taranaki Bight. The mining operation would see 50 million tonnes of seabed dug up every year for 35 years, removing five million tonnes of iron ore, with 45 million tonnes of material dumped back into the ocean. 

The South Taranaki Bight, on the west coast of New Zealand, south of Taranaki, is a biodiversity hotspot, home to blue whales, critically endangered Māui dolphins, and blue penguins. The Supreme Court ruling means that seabed mining causing “material damage” to the environment in effect cannot be approved under New Zealand law. 

“There is now absolutely nothing standing between the government and a ban on seabed mining. The highest court in the land has ruled out destructive seabed mining in Aotearoa New Zealand. Seabed mining is dead in the water: it’s time for a ban, we don’t need to waste any more time on these lengthy – and costly – applications.” 

Cindy Baxter. Kiwis Against Seabed Mining Chairperson

The decision has overthrown the green light formerly granted to Trans Tasman Resources by New Zealand’s Environmental Protection Authority.

The news comes as momentum builds for a global moratorium on deep-sea mining and the industry continues to garner negative media attention. The prospective industry received an overwhelming rejection from conservation authorities at the IUCN’s World Conservation Congress earlier this month and almost 600 scientists and policy experts from more than 40 countries have warned of the climate and biodiversity risks.

The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition welcomed the news from New Zealand. Farah Obaidullah, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition’s Global Campaigner said: “The extraction of raw materials from the Earth over the past century has resulted in extensive environmental degradation. Mining the seabed would be no different and could in fact worsen the twin crises we are already facing with biodiversity loss and climate change. It’s fantastic to see New Zealand prioritizing planetary health over short-term profit.”

“The New Zealand Court’s decision to put the brakes on damaging seabed mining in New Zealand’s waters is welcome. It  paves the way for the New Zealand government to step up and support a moratorium on deep-sea mining in international waters.” 

Duncan Currie- Deep Sea Conservation Coalition International Legal Adviser

More information

Interviews are available with the following specialists:

Farah Obaidullah – DSCC Global Campaigner

Matthew Gianni– DSCC Policy Adviser

Phil McCabe– DSCC Pacific Liaison 

Cindy Baxter- Kiwis Against Seabed Mining Chairperson

Duncan Currie – International lawyer and counsel in Supreme Court case 

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