16 May 2024

Mining firm slams 'hostility' of offshore wind sector over claims the two industries are incompatible

7:00 pm on 16 May 2024

Trans-Tasman Resources wants to mine an area off Patea for ironsands. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

A company that wants to extract minerals from the seabed off Taranaki has hit back after the offshore wind sector said the two industries were incompatible.

Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) wants to mine a 3.2 billion tonne vanadium rich titanomagnetite resource in the South Taranaki Bight for up to 35 years.

It is exploring its options under the fast-track process after pulling out of Environmental Protection Authority reconsideration of its consents application in April.

Chair Alan Eggers said TTR had long-standing exploration and mining permits in the South Taranaki Bight and an application for an extension to a mining permit.

"TTR has a material risk capital investment in these permits in excess of $85 million invested in detailed geological investigations, marine research, engineering, permitting and stakeholder engagement."

The company has an active minerals mining permit dating back to May 2014, which covers 66 square kilometres in the South Taranaki Bight. It expires in 2034.

In July 2022, it applied for an extension to the area covered by that permit.

But a paper to government ministers, authored by BlueFloat Energy, Elemental Group, Taranaki Offshore Partnership, Sumitomo Corporation and Parkwind, said seabed mining would "significantly disrupt" the ocean floor.

"A seabed mining project is expected to significantly disrupt the seabed floor, up to a depth of 11 metres. Offshore wind turbines and electrical cables could not be constructed in the same location as an active seabed mining operation, resulting in the unavailability of that zone for offshore wind generation for the duration of mining activities."

It could delay the development of offshore wind until at least the 2070s, the paper said.

A map provided by Trans-Tasman Resources showing the area covered by the proposed ironsands project.

A map showing the area covered by the South Taranaki Bight Project. Photo: Trans-Tasman Resources

But Eggers said the offshore wind sector had never been in contact with TTR about its ideas.

"Why haven't the wind energy proponents ever approached TTR and discussed their proposals for wind energy in the South Taranaki Bight area?

"Notwithstanding this lack of consultation, they seek to prevent TTR from pursuing its lawful development of natural resources, when the South Taranaki Bight is big enough for both business activities. This hostility is puzzling?"

Eggers said the titanomagnetite resource was world class and capable of delivering sustainable jobs, much-needed infrastructure investment in Taranaki/Whanganui, taxes and royalties to the Crown, at no cost to New Zealand taxpayers, with a minimal, confined and a short term localised impact the marine ecosystems.

BlueFloat Energy went public with plans for a 900 megawatt offshore wind farm covering 230 square kilometres of the South Taranaki Bight in November 2022.

Country manager Nathan Turner said the offshore wind sector did not want to get into a tit-for-tat argument with proponents of seabed mining.

"Our purpose [with the briefing paper] was not to attack seabed mining or to attack TTR or to attack the fast-track process. It's simply to ensure that when people are making decisions they understand the trade-offs they're making."

Turner acknowledged that the offshore wind sector had not been in contact with TTR, but said that it was no secret the industry was interested in developments in the South Taranaki Bight.

In March 2022, the New Zealand Super Fund said it had partnered with Danish investment firm Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners to conduct a feasibility study for a multibillion one gigawatt offshore development.

Eggers said the briefing paper was poorly researched and underplayed the impact of offshore wind energy on the environment, commercial fishing and navigation of ships.

"In any event the offshore wind energy economics and GDP benefits stated in the paper are far exceeded by mining of titanomagnetite by orders of magnitude as supported and shown by independent expert evidence and recent MBIE ministerial briefing papers."

Eggers said offshore energy proponents had failed to explore their options, do any meaningful research or engage with existing interests and stakeholders.

But he still thought the two industries could work together.

"With consultation, TTR believes both activities offshore, wind energy and mineral recovery, can co-exist in the South Taranaki Bight with sensible consultation and co-operation and reference to the facts of the proposals."

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