Last Sunday 11th March over 200 Raglan residents and their supporters came together to stand in opposition against proposals for an iron sand mining operation off the west coast of the North Island.
The silent protest saw the group march up Bow Street and continue towards the one-way bridge to peacefully await iron-mining company executive Andy Sommerville, children and adults alike bearing signs that clearly conveyed their position on the issue.
Represented by community-based awareness and advocacy group Kiwi’s Against Seabed Mining (KASM), the protesters lined the bridge as Mr. Sommerville approached. Marching in silence, the intensity of the message was abundantly clear; “We love our coastal marine environment. We are here. We are strong. You will not take our sand.”
The message was conveyed to Mr. Sommerville of Trans Tasman Resources on his return from meetings with local iwi about possible plans to explore iron sand deposits off Raglan’s coast.
Spoksperson for KASM Phil McCabe said, “We’ve all grown up experiencing the great things our coastal environment can offer. We all have some connection to the environment but there’s no guarantee that it’s going to be here when they’re done. We’re here today in a silent peaceful expression of our love for the marine environment.”
New Zealand-based iron-ore company Trans Tasman Resources (TTR) currently holds a Crown Minerals Prospecting Permit, which grants them exclusive mineral rights over 9633km2 of seabed off the west coast of the North Island.
This permit covers three plots of land, one off the coast of southern Taranaki and the other two covering the coastline north and south of Kawhia, including the coast off Raglan.
Mr. Sommerville’s visit follows announcements in August last year that minerals (iron) located in the southern Taranaki zone could be almost double what TTR had originally estimated in March 2011, projecting resource estimates to be around 200 million tons in that area alone.
The NZ Crown Minerals website now shows three exploration permit applications from TTR which were received only a day after the protest was held.
An article published in industry publication Mining Magazine during September last year states, “TTR aims to begin production by the December quarter of 2014, providing Asian markets with, initially, 10 million tons/year … with the potential to increase to 50 million tons/year,”
TTR further claim in the article that, “the risks associated with environmental approvals are limited because the target mining areas are located offshore and in very barren areas.”
However, KASM brought to attention that over five tons of seabed sand would be shifted for every ton of iron-ore concentrate they extract,
Furthermore the targeted area directly overlaps with the habitat of the critically endangered Maui’s Dolphin. An unpublished Department of Conservation report estimates the Maui’s dolphin population to currently be less than 80 with fewer than 25 breeding females.
Dave Rastovich, pro-surfer and representative of Surfers for Cetaceans, related his experiences in a letter to the Chronicle of living in Burleigh Heads and the effects sand dredging has had on his own community “I come from a place where we were told the manipulation of sand was not going to negatively affect our greater region, yet it did just that.”
“It seems there are so many unknown components to the practice of seabed mining. Is it worth seabed mining here and risking the extinction of an entire species? Is it worth risking the entire future of Raglan’s ecology and economy to benefit a company?” said Dave.
KASM urged the wider community to get involved with this issue and invites members of the community to attend a meeting, which will be held at the Town Hall on Tuesday 20th March.