Trans-Tasman Resources has been granted leave to appeal a High Court decision quashing its consent to mine iron sands off the Taranaki coast.
The Court of Appeal decided to hear arguments from both the would-be iron sands miner and the environmental and fishing groups that oppose the proposed project.
The 35-year consent for the project to extract 50 million tonnes of seabed material a year was granted in August 2017 on the casting vote of the chair of a decision-making committee appointed by the Environmental Protection Authority. The consent included numerous conditions including a requirement for pre-mining monitoring.
However, environmentalists, fishing and iwi groups sought to stop the project, and in August, the High Court ruled the committee had been wrong about the way it granted discharge consents for the project in the Exclusive Economic Zone. It sent the issue back to the decision-making committee for reconsideration.
The High Court rejected the opponents’ other grounds for overturning the consent, these being that the EPA should have rejected the application as incomplete; that the committee had failed to apply the legislation’s information principles correctly; that the committee had not properly considered the effects of the proposal on existing interests; that the committee had not taken a sufficiently cautious approach; and that it had failed to observe the principles of natural justice.
Justices Christine French, Mark Cooper and Helen Winkelmann granted leave to TTR in a Dec. 19 minute.
“The basis of TTR’s appeal is that the EPA did follow a legally correct approach in granting a marine discharge consent to TTR – including a comprehensive set of consent conditions specifically designed to protect the marine environment and existing interests, particularly iwi,” TTR executive chair Allan Eggers said in a statement.
The judges will also let the project’s opponents file notices of cross-appeal, although they urged the groups to “focus on matters that are central to the disposition of the case.”
TTR has faced a number of obstacles in its bid to begin mining. Its initial consent bid for the project was turned down in 2014, largely due to a lack of data on the seabed’s untouched state and on the expected impacts of its proposal.