A proposal to explore the West Coast for seabed mining opportunities will avoid the consent process that has already tripped up two similar projects.
Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) applied to New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals in May for a prospecting permit for a swath of seabed off the West Coast.
The 4436-square-kilometre area spans a huge section of the coastline, from Ross to Karamea.
Should it apply to go ahead with mining, TTR will not go through the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for a marine consent because the proposal would be within 12 nautical miles of the coast.
A TTR spokesman said the West Coast waters beyond the 12 nautical mile mark were too deep for the company’s operations.
Any future application will be dealt with through the Resource Management Act and the West Coast Regional Council’s coastal plan.
The EPA has turned down two applications for seabed mining within the Exclusive Economic Zone: one from TTR and another from Chatham Rock Phosphate.
An EPA spokeswoman confirmed the agency was only responsible for such applications made outside the 12 nautical mile territorial sea limit.
The TTR spokesman said, if the permit was granted, the company would spend two years prospecting the area for heavy and precious mineral deposits. That would include geological modelling and other sampling not considered to have significant impacts on the environment.
“Prospecting is only the very early phase of investigation,” the spokesman said. “Therefore, it is impossible to say at this stage what the potential scale of operations and economic outcomes, including jobs, could be.”
Kiwis Against Seabed Mining chairman Phil McCabe, who is at the helm of a petition calling for a moratorium against seabed mining, said the Government needed to take a more cohesive approach instead of the “ad hoc” way of dealing with each application as it came through.
He said it was unclear what the environmental effects of such mining would be since no-one was doing similar work.
“It’s a brand new activity and the rubber hasn’t hit the road anywhere in the world yet,” McCabe said.
He expected there would be further opposition to any applications to go ahead with seabed mining, which was costly for the companies.
The TTR spokesman said the technology had been in use for 20 years in southern Africa.
TTR had previously said it spent $60 million trying to get permission for seabed mining off Taranaki and Chatham Rock Phosphate estimated the cost of its failed bid at $33m.
There have been about a dozen prospecting or exploring permits submitted for the west coast of the North Island.