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Mining company executive ejected from public meeting

Mining company executive ejected from public meeting

Phil McCabe

The NZ representative of a speculative foreign owned mining company TTR was last night ejected from a public meeting at the Quaker community centre in Whanganui.

Kasm chairman Phil McCabe asked manager Andy Somerville to leave after he refused to share information with the group.

He initially refused but was eventually led out arguing, as stunned members of the 30 odd crowd realized they had a mining company representative among them.

Phil McCabe and a group of KASM members arrived into Wanganui after walking nearly 150 kilometres from Opunake, and have been holding a series of public meetings along the South Taranaki coast, to debunk the industry spin that seabed mining was a good business for the region.

Last night's public meeting followed an hour long briefing session with the Wanganui mayor Annette Main and members of the Council, several of whom expressed deep concern at the scale and potential impacts of the proposals.

The group is holding meetings in New Plymouth tonight, and Raglan tomorrow night. Their goal is to raise awareness amongst west coast communities about the lack of positive financial benefits from a process that could see large areas of the Tasman seabed turned into a dead-zone.

Fact Sheet:
The entire west coast of the north island from Wanganui to Cape Reinga, is under either a prospecting or exploration permit for iron sand. The permits extend from the low tide mark out to the 12mile zone. The first applicant, Trans Tasman Resources Limited, is preparing for a 'mining' consent, indicating a desire to remove 3-5million tonnes of ore per year, from one small site, off South Taranaki. To mine this amount of ore would mean dredging up to 50 million tones of sand annually.

What would mining look like?
Suction dredges would remove up to 20 metres of the seabed, in the oceanic equivalent of open cast mining. All living things would be removed and dumped, the sand would be transferred to factory ships to be washed and dried. Then the iron ore would be separated magnetically, and the silica dumped to the sea floor, creating a smothering blanket. All processing would take place on boats. Ore would then be removed to markets in the northern hemisphere, primarily China.

What would NZ get?
The New Zealand government is likely to accrue 3-5% of its value in royalties. Job opportunities for local communities will be minimal, as proposals are for sea-based processing, with little or no land-based infrastructure. TTR is 95%+ foreign owned, with one NZ director, Jenny Shipley. Profits would naturally be repatriated offshore.

The scientific knowledge is weak
Offshore seabed mining on the scale proposed for our coastline is unprecedented. Due to its experimental nature, there is insufficient science to predict what the cumulative, long-term, environmental effects will be. What is known, is that suction dredging turns any mined areas into oceanic dead zones. Substantial erosion could be expected both up and down stream of any operations, with attendant deterioration of surf break and beach quality. Due to its experimental nature, there is insufficient scientific precedent, to predict what the cumulative, long-term, environmental effects will be. Substantial erosion could be expected, with attendant deterioration of surf break and beach quality. The government would probably apply the adaptive management principle, which basically means: “start and don’t stop till you can see a problem”. By then it would be too late.

The effects could be devastating
The fisheries would be substantially affected in the entire region, through loss of the life in the sea floor, which is the base level of the food chain. The threat to Maui's dolphin is clear and substantial. Their territories are synonymous with the black sand. Any loss to the quality of our surf breaks would pose a direct threat to the lifestyle and economy of the west coast. Erosion is already an ongoing issue, and seabed mining can only accelerate this process. Is it worth the risk of irretrievably altering or beaches for the gain of a few foreigners?

Why now?
The Government has changed three pieces of legislation to enable this process. First was The Foreshore and Seabed Act (which transferred ownership of seabed assets to the crown) was introduced in 2005. Secondly The Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill was passed into law in September this year, and the Crown Minerals Act is currently being amended. Of course these aren’t just for seabed mining, but also for phosphate mining and offshore drilling. These form a legislative platform to initiate large-scale mining operations. Despite a temporary blip, the price of iron ore has risen steadily over the last decade.

It’ll only work on a large scale
To be economically viable, this cannot be a small operation. The value of the ore is low, and to achieve returns for both the government and the operators, the volumes have to be in the millions or billions of tonnes. Once the first company has proven its economic viability, there’s nothing to stop a series of mines appearing up and down the coast. There is no management plan for this resource, so any applications would be viewed individually rather than cumulatively

What is KASM
KASM (Kiwis Against Seabed Mining) is a community-based, not for profit action group, that strongly opposes any non-essential seabed mining. Our objectives are to increase public awareness of the issue, educate and inform New Zealanders about the consequences of seabed mining, and ensure that current and future governments realise that our seabed isn’t for sale. KASM began in Raglan in 2004, with the vision that communities up and down the coast would ‘link arms’ and work together to protect and preserve our coastline for future generations to enjoy.

What is KASM doing?
KASM is committed to providing information on this issue, and creating a platform for the NZ public to express their concerns. Our first step has been to create a web platform for information sharing, with an extensive and highly informative new website, and a well used facebook page. When TTR lodge their application to mine, there should be an opportunity for public to make submissions to either the RMA or EPA. Encouraging submissions to this process is a core component of our strategy. We are enabling this on our website with an automated system. KASM is currently engaging in an active campaign to raise public awareness of this issue up and down the west coast in preparation for this application, with a series of public meetings and events in all the affected west coast towns between Whanganui and Muriwai. Raglan, Piha, Muriwai and New Plymouth now have a core of concerned residents working to prevent this operation. Join us.

It’s time to get organised
The first application for resource consent to mine the West Coast seabed, will probably be lodged before the summer. It will be the precedent setting case for the rest of the coast. We believe it is a highly inappropriate use of our natural capital, bringing no benefits to our communities, while exposing us to substantial risk.

What Can I do?
Get engaged in the issue. Join KASM. Like our facebook page. Learn more on our website. Donate to aid this cause. We need to halt this process before it starts!


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