Katie Shepherd | Te Waha Nui
29 September 2012
A lobby group which helps coastal residents voice their opinions is concerned about the environmental impacts of seabed mining.
Seabed mining is proposed primarily for the west coasts of the North and South islands, with smaller sites on eastern and southern coasts.
Seabed mining involves extracting minerals and resources from the sea floor and focuses particularly on iron sands in New Zealand.
Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) communications spokesperson Tim Rainger describes suction dredging as similar to vacuuming.
“They have a big hoover which can suck up to 20 metres of the seabed in its entirety. Solid matter is then sieved out – shellfish, rocks, anything that is not sand. The sand is then washed and dried and the ore is magnetically separated. The silica would be returned to the sea floor,” he says.
Waitakere Ranges Protection Society president John Edgar believes this will have a devastating effect.
“You can’t just vacuum it up and put it back again and say it’s fine, as you’ve just destroyed a whole ecosystem that’s been established on the coast over hundreds of years,” he says.
KASM chairman Phil McCabe says seabed mining is detrimental to the environment but there is no way for scientists to know the extent of the effects.
Trans Tasman Resources (TTR), which is investigating the South Taranaki Bight area, says the area it plans to operate in will be relatively small and out to sea.
“The environmental effects of the proposed activities are being looked at by independent experts,” says a TTR spokesperson.
TTR says the seabed in South Taranaki Bight is a very high energy environment with the seabed constantly being churned over by large waves.
“Organisms living in that area have adapted to having to frequently re-establish, and are well distributed throughout the area.”
Prospecting and exploration of the potential area is done to verify the quantities and values of the resource, which allows the company to gain funding and investors.
McCabe says KASM is a platform for people to voice their opinions.
He says to stop seabed mining a broad spectrum of society needs to stand up in large numbers and make themselves heard, and youth especially need to get off the couch and tune in to these issues before it is too late.
“The Government is selling off the ground we stand on, the ocean we benefit from. It’s in the best interest of youth to stand up.”
KASM facilitates meetings in local communities to help inform those who want to know what will happen if seabed mining goes ahead.
Meetings are based on giving attendees as much information as possible.
“We have short films, visual aids and answer questions. It’s an information thing, that’s the key,” says Rainger.
Rainger says the legal process for granting consents to mine is a bit of a grey area and they are not entirely sure which legislation it will fall under.
If the public is denied input or the input is ignored there will be legal action, he says.
“This is a last ditch resort as it is expensive and has certain liabilities.”