A project to mine undersea iron ore deposits off the New Zealand coast has been rejected because of uncertainty about the environmental effects of the project, the country’s Environmental Protection Authority said on Wednesday.
Trans-Tasman Resources, a New Zealand company formed to explore and develop the country’s so-called iron sand deposits, had sought final approval to excavate but was turned down by a special committee set up by the environmental agency.
The major reasons for the decision “were the uncertainties in the scope and significance of the potential adverse environmental effects and those on existing interests,” the environmental agency said in a statement.
The New Zealand decision was being closely watched by other governments and mining companies around the world looking to mine copper, cobalt, manganese and other metals on the ocean floor.
Diamonds are mined off the coast of Namibia, but the Trans-Tasman project was one of the more advanced being proposed.
Environmental groups, fishing companies and Maori tribes had opposed the project because of the possibility of damage to the environment, including marine mammals and fish stocks.
Trans-Tasman Resources said it was disappointed by the decision, having spent about 60 million New Zealand dollars, or $52 million, on the project so far, and having undertaken significant local consultation and scientific research.
Trans-Tasman’s chief executive, Tim Crossley, said in a statement that the local community would miss out on hundreds of new jobs and an estimated increase of 240 million dollars a year in gross domestic product.
The company said it would study the ruling and look at its options. The decision can be appealed only on points of law.
Environmentalists called the outcome a victory for common sense.
During hearings on the project, it became clear that the company “had not done its homework on the full environmental impact of digging up 50 million tons of the seabed every year for 20 years,” said Phil McCabe, the chairman of Kiwis Against Seabed Mining.
Another New Zealand deep-sea mining project was proposed last week by Chatham Rock Phosphate, which wants to mine the fertilizer component in waters up to 1,300 feet deep about 300 miles east of the country. The application will now undergo a six-month investigation period, including public and scientific submissions.
Elsewhere, Nautilus Minerals is working on a deep-sea project off Papua New Guinea that it wants to start in 2017