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Supreme Court Slams Door On Seabed Mining, Time For A Ban

Today the Supreme Court has unanimously dismissed Trans Tasman Resources’ (TTR) appeal of a 2018 High Court ruling which quashed the EPA's decision in 2017 to give the miners resource consent to begin a giant seabed mining operation in the South Taranaki Bight.

Greenpeace is hailing the ruling as a victory for iwi, hapū, local communities, environmental campaigners and for the ocean, and says the decision effectively renders the project dead in the water.

TTR has spent almost ten years trying to get the go ahead to dig up 50 million tonnes of seabed in a 66 square kilometre area in the South Taranaki Bight, every year for 35 years, to access five million tonnes of iron ore, and dump the rest back into the ocean.

In dismissing TTR's latest appeal to mine, the Supreme Court stated that environmental protection is the bottom line.

Greenpeace Aotearoa Seabed Mining Campaigner James Hita said today’s announcement is a win for people and a win for nature.

"This ruling is a victory for the ocean, and for people power. For the better part of a decade, iwi, Greenpeace, KASM and coastal communities have worked together to oppose the proposal to mine in the South Taranaki Bight. And today we won."

Another key part of the ruling was the acknowledgement that Tikanga should have been recognised as binding and must be taken into account as part of the application process.

"This decision sends a clear message to other mining companies waiting in the wings: you’re not wanted in Aotearoa or the Pacific. As an island nation in the South Pacific, it is essential that Aotearoa joins the Pacific Blue Line against seabed mining, and stands in solidarity with our Pacific neighbours in keeping the door shut to exploitative seabed mining companies," says Hita.

The South Taranaki Bight is home to New Zealand’s own population of Pygmy blue whales, māui dolphins and blue penguins. It also has a vibrant coral reef system. All of this unique beauty would have been under threat if seabed mining had been given the go ahead.

While this decision means TTR does not have consent to mine, other mining companies are vying for access to the waters of Aotearoa. There are currently four seabed mining exploration permits held by other companies, including Chatham Rock Phosphate, but they will need marine consent permits of the kind addressed by the Supreme Court.

Hita says the ruling today should serve as a warning to prospecting seabed miners, that they will meet strong resistance in Aotearoa.

"The decision today will have a huge impact on the legitimacy of this new mining industry in the Pacific and around the world. But we can’t rely on communities and environmental groups to fight every mining company that knocks on the door. The New Zealand Government must implement a ban now and ensure our door is always closed to seabed mining companies."

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