South Taranaki Bight seabed iron sand extraction and processing project, New Zealand

A coalition of protesters including indigenous people are trying to stop a seabed mining project for 50 million tons per year of iron sands, titanium and other minerals.


Trans-Tasman Resources Limited (TTR) holds a mining permit to undertake iron ore extraction in the South Taranaki Bight. In October 2013 TTR applied for marine consent under the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012 to undertake iron ore extraction in a 66 km2 area in the South Taranaki Bight. In June 2014 the Decision-Making Committee refused the marine consent application. The decision has been appealed to the High Court.[1] One of the EPA's primary concerns with the last application was the effect sediment plume - caused by uplifting the sand - would have on the seabed environment. The EPA decision stated that "based on the evidence presented, the sediment plume created by mining would cause shading in the water column affecting primary productivity of phytoplankton and reduce light availability at the seabed affecting benthic primary productivity. "Overall, we think this application was premature. More time to have better understood the proposed operation and the receiving environment and engage more constructively with existing interests and other parties may have overcome many of the concerns we have set out in this decision."[2]

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Basic Data
NameSouth Taranaki Bight seabed iron sand extraction and processing project, New Zealand
CountryNew Zealand
Province approx. 66 km2 located between 22 and 36 km off the coastline of South Taranaki
SiteSouth Taranaki Bight, North Island
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Mineral ore exploration
Mineral processing
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Specific CommoditiesIlmenite, zircon, rutile, garnet
Titanium ores
Iron ore
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe South Taranaki Bight (STB) iron sands project located 22km to 36km offshore from Patea. The Company also has a granted Prospecting Permit covering potential high grade (>10%HM) heavy mineral sand deposits offshore the West Coast of the South Island containing iron, ilmenite, zircon, rutile, garnet and gold similar to the onshore Barrytown deposit.

The STB project has reported JORC iron sand mineral resources of 1,698Mt @ 11.16% Fe2O3 for the Mine Area and adjacent Kupe Blocks at a 3.5% Davis Tube Recovery (DTR) cutoff and a further 2,137Mt @ 9.66% Fe2O3 for Stage 2 Block mine areas. These resources, in 25 to 60 metres of water, are located within New Zealand’s territorial 12 nautical mile limit (RMA) and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The STB project pre feasibility study (PFS) is based on dredging 50Mt of iron sand each year, separating around 10% titano-magnetite from the sediment offshore, and returning 90% of the sand to the seabed backfilling mined areas.

The sands will be processed offshore aboard a purpose built 345 metre integrated mining vessel (IMV). This vessel is designed to operate through almost all known weather conditions in the STB. The iron sand will be extracted by remote controlled 450t seabed crawlers, excavating up to 8,000t hour, similar to those operated by DeBeers Marine offshore Namibia to recover diamonds. The IMV will have a purpose built metallurgical processing plant on board producing 5Mt titano-magnetite concentrate a year grading around 56.5% Fe2O3.

The concentrate, initially stored on the IMV, will be transferred as slurry to the trans-shipment vessel (TSV), dewatered and loaded into Cape Size export vessels using dry bulk ship-to-ship loading systems and shipped directly to world markets.

The STB project PFS indicates the operation will add to the diversification of the Taranaki economy and generate local, regional and national economic benefits through employment and training, royalties, and taxes. Locally, approximately 300 direct jobs will be created, over 1,600 nationally and $350m spent on operating costs every year.
Project Area (in hectares) 6576
Level of Investment (in USD)600,000,000
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Start Date2014
Company Names or State EnterprisesTrans-Tasman Resources Limited (TTR) from New Zealand
Relevant government actorsEnvironmental Protection Authority (EPA) (New Zealand)
Environmental justice organisations and other supporters-Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM), which is a group established when the spectre of mining the seabed for minerals first raised its head in Aotearoa. (

-Patea-based iwi Ngati Ruanui


-Forest & Bird

-Talley's Fisheries
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
High School students
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationLawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Noise pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Mine tailing spills, Oil spills, Other Environmental impacts, Genetic contamination, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
OtherSediment plume; bioinvasions (non-indigenous organisms could be introduced to New Zealand).
Health ImpactsPotential: Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Other socio-economic impacts, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
OtherThe sediment plume would reduce light penetration in the water column and therefore reduce primary production; potential effects on commercial, recreational and customary fishing. Lack of respect for indigenous rights.
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (undecided)
Under negotiation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Permission granted by EPA but appealed (in August 2017)
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.There is strong opposition to the project but the EPA approved it in August 2017. This decision has been appealed.
Sources and Materials

[4] South Taranaki Bight Offshore Iron Sand Extraction and Processing Project Impact Assessment
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[1] Case Study - South Taranaki Bight iron sand extraction
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[5] Trans-Tasman Resources lodges EPA marine consent application to extract iron sands off South Taranaki coast
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[2] Trans Tasman Resources reapply to mine iron ore in South Taranaki
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[7] Iwi will appeal ironsand mining off Taranaki coast. CATHERINE GROENESTEIN. August 10 2017
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[6] Controversial plan to mine seabed for iron ore approved in split decision
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Media Links

Business Day. Call for moratorium on all seabed mining amid 'secretive' application video. JEREMY WILKINSON AND STACEY KIRK

September 19 2016
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[8] The West Coast Ironsands. Seabed mining.
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Other Documents

Opunake High School students gathered at Middleton bay in Opunake today to join in the Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) movement and protest against seabed mining in 2014.
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Meta Information
ContributorEnvJustice, ICTA-UAB, JMA
Last update09/12/2017