Supreme Court dismisses appeal by seabed mining company Trans-Tasman Resources

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A company wishing to extract 50 million tonnes of ferrous sand from the seabed off Taranaki has suffered another blow as the Supreme Court rejected its latest appeal.

In a judgment released today, the court unanimously dismissed an appeal by Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR), which could have paved the way for mining off the southern coast of Taranaki.

The decision on whether mining can go ahead will now be referred to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) decision-making committee for reconsideration.

TTR wishes to mine iron sands annually in an area of ​​66 square kilometers off South Taranaki Bight and applied for permission to do so for the first time in 2013. However, the EPA refused in 2014 due to environmental concerns.

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The company then re-applied, and in April 2017, the EPA’s decision-making committee granted the approvals with conditions. The consents were valid for 35 years.

But that was later overturned by the High Court after South Taranaki iwi Ngāti Ruanui and 10 other environmental and fishing groups challenged the ruling as wrong in law.

TTR then took the case to the Court of Appeal in hopes of overturning the High Court’s decision, but the decision was overturned and the company applied to the Supreme Court.

The South Taranaki Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Ruanui Trust opposed the iron sand mining project.  (File photo)

MONIQUE FORD / Fairfax NZ / Stuff

The South Taranaki Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Ruanui Trust opposed the iron sand mining project. (File photo)

In its 130-page judgment, the Supreme Court addressed a number of issues regarding the correct interpretation and application of the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Law.

The 66 square kilometers off the south coast of Taranaki where Trans Tasman Resources requested to mine for iron ore.

Trans-Tasman Resources / Provided

The 66 square kilometers off the south coast of Taranaki where Trans Tasman Resources requested to mine for iron ore.

The court’s five judges agreed that the EPA committee erred in law in granting the consents.

In particular, the majority of the tribunal found that the committee had failed to apply the relevant decision criteria to TTR’s request.

The tribunal also found that the committee had not sufficiently considered the Treaty of Waitangi when making its decision.

After dismissing TTR’s appeal, the court also ruled that it was appropriate to send the case back to the EPA for reconsideration rather than dismissing the company’s mining claim outright – an option put forward. by opponents of seabed mining.

Leave was reserved for one party to seek directions from the High Court regarding the determination of the claim if necessary.

Chronology of seabed mining:

  • 2007: Creation of Trans Tasman Resources.
  • End of 2013: He asked the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to exploit 66 square kilometers of seabed 36 kilometers off the south coast of Taranaki.
  • 2014: EPA denies TTR’s request on the grounds that it had not done enough consultation and environmental effects were still unknown.
  • August 2016: TTR files another application with the EPA, stating that it has engaged in a wider consultation and has completed other scientific studies on the environmental impact.
  • August 2017: EPA granted second TTR request
  • September 2017: A number of groups filed appeals to the High Court against the EPA’s decision.
  • August 2018: The High Court overturned the EPA’s decision, overturning consent to mining the area.
  • September 2019: TTR appealed the decision to the Court of Appeal.
  • April 2020: The Court of Appeal dismissed TTR’s appeal against the High Court judgment.
  • April 2020: TTR appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the judgment of the Court of Appeal.
  • November 2020: TTR’s appeal is heard by the Supreme Court.
  • September 2021: The Supreme Court dismissed TTR’s appeal.


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