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CRP encouraged by TTR hearing

CRP encouraged by TTR hearing
CRP wants to mine phosphate rock modules off the seabed on the Chatham Rise foff the coast of New Zealand.

It’ll be at least two years before his own second seabed mining application gains Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) approval, but Chatham Rock Phosphate NZ Ltd’s (CRP’s) chief executive Chris Castle has gained a new-found confidence in the process.

Castle has been closely watching the EPA’s hearing into a second attempt by Trans Tasman Resources Ltd (TTR) to gain approval to mine ironsands from the seabed off the western coast of the North Island.

Both CRP and TTR were denied approval – CRP to mine phosphate rock modules off the seabed on the Chatham Rise – by the EPA in 20142015, drawing criticism of what was seen by the applicants as a flawed process.

The hearing of TTR’s second application began earlier this year, and though the outcome won’t be known until the end of June, Castle said he has been cheered by the way the hearing has been conducted.

“I’m impressed by the way in which the decision-making committee is conducting the hearing: they’re focussed on getting to the facts,” Castle told Mining NZ.

“I’m encouraged that they’ve set aside another two months to really delve into things.”

The TTR hearing was supposed to have ended on March 20 but, to the annoyance of the initiative’s opponents, the EPA decided it needed more time to examine evidence.

Castle said CRP had 15 further months of work to do before it could submit its second seabed phosphate mining application to the EPA, and was confident his company’s case would get a better hearing second time around.

“There’s been a learning curve from the two previous hearings.

“The way in which this hearing has been conducted reflects the benefits of that learning,” he said.

CRP’s dissatisfaction with the original hearing process extended to it taking the EPA to the High Court in Wellington over the level of fees it charged.

CRP had begun paying the $2.7m in EPA charges in instalments, but stopped when it deemed they were not “actual and reasonable,” and about $800,000 remains outstanding.

The case was heard in late March and the judge has reserved the decision.

Meanwhile, CRP has not been idle, having completed its merger with the former Antipodes Gold Ltd and changed that company’s name to Chatham Rock Phosphate Ltd.

The new company has acquired the 13.6 million common shares of the former Chatham Rock Phosphate, and is listed on both the New Zealand and Toronto, Canada, stock exchanges.

The shares also trade on the Frankfurt, Germany, exchange where Castle says the company is followed by increasing numbers of German and Swiss investors.