UPDATE – Ocean ironsands mining consent application placed on hold
By Pattrick Smellie
May 8 (BusinessDesk) – Expectations of a decision within 20 days on TransTasman Resources’ application to mine ironsands on the seabed in the Exclusive Economic Zone have gone on hold as the five member decision-making committee considering the bid unexpectedly adjourned the process.
That followed two days of summary submissions from both opponents of the scheme and TTR, which is the first company to seek permission for offshore mining under new law governing New Zealand’s offshore EEZ.
“The Decision-making Committee has decided to adjourn the hearing to consider all information received during closings,” the committee said in a statement.
“It will formally close the hearing once it is satisfied it has all the information it requires to make a decision. The Decision-making Committee will not accept any further information unless it specifically requests it.”
The 20 day statutory timeframe for a decision on the project would only be triggered once the committee formally closed the hearing process. Opponents of the project have complained throughout the new fast-tracked process that they had too little time to assess and respond to information as it emerged and is recorded in evidence and transcripts running to several thousand pages.
The decision to adjourn follows the publication on Monday of an unexpectedly critical report on the project from staff at the EPA.
While the staff have no decision-making powers and did propose a way that a marine consent could potentially be granted, their advice – intended to help guide the committee’s decision - sided with opponents who are concerned about environmental uncertainty associated with the project.
The EPA staff report prompted a strongly worded response today from Hugh Rennie, QC, representing TTR at the hearings, who said the company was “staggered” by some of the report’s conclusions, which he claimed were at odds with expert witness evidence and agreed positions reached during the hearings.
Some proposals were “impractical and excessive” and the EPA staff had “struggled” with the concept of an adaptive management approach to the project, which would allow changes to mining practice in response to experience gained as the project progressed.