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Chatham Rock Phosphate seeks smaller seabed mining area

Chatham Rock Phosphate seeks smaller seabed mining area

By Pattrick Smellie

Aug. 5 (BusinessDesk) - Chatham Rock Phosphate, which is seeking a marine consent to mine phosphate nodules in deep sea on New Zealand's Chatham Rise, is reducing the size of its consent application to "simplify questions from the Environmental Protection Authority and submitters," managing director Chris Castle said in a statement to the NZX.

The removal of 4,985 square kilometres from the application reduces CRP's marine consent area by about half and "will no major impact on CRP's mining plans for the first 15 years, which is covered by its approved mining permit and subject only to a marine consent," said Castle.

CRP also announced it has been granted a two-week extension until Aug. 25 to answer a range of questions from the EPA's decision-making committee, which is considering the application. Answers were to have been filed this week, although Castle says the delay should have no impact on the EPA's nine month timeline for decisions on the application, which CRP is promoting as a replacement for phosphate currently imported from the Western Sahara to meet New Zealand farm fertiliser needs.

CRP would only consider mining in the area now dropped from its application "once more assessment has been carried out," said Castle. Questions the company is answering have required additional research and reports and cover "the benefits of the project to New Zealand and the Chatham islands, commercial viability, effects on commercial fishing, migrating eels, benthic fauna, fish spawning, sediment chemistry and trophic modelling, toxicity thresholds, trace elements, habitats and seabirds, noise, ocean currents and phosphate prices."

CRP's announcement comes as would-be offshore ironsands miner Trans Tasman Resources confirmed it had cut staff at its head office in Wellington last week following the rejection in June of its application for a marine consent, the first ever mounted under new law governing the country's vast offshore Exclusive Economic Zone.

TTR chairman and managing director Tim Crossley told BusinessDesk in an email that the company would continue to pursue its planned appeal against the findings of the EPA-appointed decision-making committee (DMC).

The staff lay-offs were "a very unfortunate consequence of the DMC decision," said Crossley. "We are a company that relies on shareholder funds for cash hence we must be very disciplined in these situations to prudently manage our cash flow."

Filings with the Companies Office yesterday show TTR's two largest shareholders, Dutch-based Cook Investments Cooperatief UA and TTR Investment Holding Netherlands Cooperatie UA were issued a further 5,416 and 6,861 shares respectively, taking the total number of TTR shares on issue to 119,786. TTR Investment Holding is listed as a 44.28 percent shareholder, with Cook holding 18.13 percent.

Boston-based Denham Capital became a 48 percent shareholder in TTR in 2010.


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