Chatham Rock Phosphate Limited (CRP) has provided an updated set of draft conditions to the Environmental Protection Authority Marine Consent hearing to comprehensively address the issues discussed by experts and raised by submitters related to its mining project.
The conditions cover mining operations, the mine plan and environmental management – including of marine mammals and seabirds. The conditions include extensive monitoring and mitigation proposals and a detailed adaptive management approach, which involves staged mining and addresses unexpected adverse impacts.
It also provides details of a proposed environmental reference group, an environmental compensation trust and Chatham Islands Trust. Proposed protections include mining exclusion areas, a remediation bond, a dispute resolution process and a review process. The conditions also spell out environmental thresholds and monitoring conditions.
The full draft conditions have been supplied to submitters and the decision-making committee.
Managing director Chris Castle said the conditions have been developed following the helpful expert conferencing that enabled experts representing CRP and submitters to agree on a wide range of scientific information. The most significant areas where experts have agreed include:
· The area is not important for commercial fishing and CRP activities will have either no or negligible impacts on fish stocks;
· There are no concerns about radiological effects;
· Environmental impacts are almost entirely confined to the immediate mining area.
CRP’s annual mining footprint of 30 km2 compares with an annual seabed fish bottom trawling footprint of 50,000 km2 including 3,000 km2 of previously untouched seabed damaged by fishing activities every year.
The phosphates will be recovered from a total area of 450 km2 over the 15 years of the proposed mine life, less than half of 1% of the Chatham Rise, CRP said.
“Our project offers new environmental benefits for New Zealand’s farming industry, by using a low cadmium, low carbon footprint, low run-off, potentially organic product.” Mr Castle said the project will create a new industry with strong ties to agriculture, New Zealand’s most important export earner.
“Our product will enhance New Zealand’s security of supply and reduce our exposure to politically risky sources of a critical input to our biggest industry.”
The conditions will be presented in the final evidence heard by the EPA decision-making committee on Monday 17 November. This will be followed by submitters and (on 19 November) CRP counsel James Winchester presenting closing statements.
The committee will provide a decision on the marine consent application by 18 December.