Our black sand beaches are iconic, essential to the character of our West Coast, loved by residents of the Waitakeres and Auckland alike. We’re known all around the world for our surf breaksandthe outstanding beauty of our coast. Our marine environment is treasured for its diversity, geology, rocky bluffs and wild character. But all that’s under threat. Investors want our black sands for the iron ore it contains. Prospecting licences have been granted for most of the New Zealand coastline, so sea bed mining may well be coming to a beach near you.
Kiwis Against Sea Bed Mining (KASM), with a record 4700 other submitters, are fighting the first round, against Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR), a massive multinational investment company, as TTR seeks consent through the Environmental Protection Agency, to mine 65km2 off Patea, in water 20-45m deep. The sea bed mining process uses 12m long, 350 tonne crawlers to suck up 50 million tonnes of sand per annum,which will be pumped to a processing ship, wherean estimated 5 tonnes of useable iron ore is separated magnetically, with ‘waste’ material returned to the sea, forming a sediment bed up to 5m deep.
There are immediate and long term effects from these sea bed mining proposals, well beyond the immediate extraction zone. Even the relatively distant Patea mining site affects values closer to home. The sands being processed are a non-renewable resource and are vital for replenishing coastlines, sand banks and surf breaks up the coast, affecting the values of West Coast communities to the north.
The extraction process is destructive in itself, but with the sediment plume and deposition field also smothering benthic sea life and reef ecology, damaging mussels, worms, and crustaceans, benthic invertebrates, phytoplankton, and zooplankton, it impacts the entire food chain from fish to seabirds and cetaceans.Sea bed mining reduces access to fishing grounds and public water space. Freshwater species which spend time in the marine environment as part of their life cycle may also be impacted.
Maui’s & Hector’s dolphins, Orca, Blue whale, and Southern Right whale, all threatened or endangered, live in and transit through these waters, so sea bed mining will impact on their habitat, migratory routes, food supplies and water quality. Seismic testing impacts are felt for miles by cetaceans so this is also a major concern.
In an economy where anything is for sale, our oceans are the final frontier. Sold to multinational investors for marginal domestic return, coastal geomorphology, marine species and recreational and local economic values are under threat.
We love our coast, with its intact natural sequence from sea bed to sandy and rocky shore. We treasure our surf breaks, sand banks and dunes. Sea bed mining is an attack on the West Coast identity as well as its integrity. In the defence against rapacious extraction, even though we represent the Waitakere Ranges Protection Society, we’re all Kiwis Against Sea Bed Mining.
John Edgar President of the Waitakere Ranges Protection Society.
The Waitakere Ranges Protection Society Inc was incorporated in 1973. Its purpose is the conservation and protection of the Waitakere Ranges and to oppose any activity that may threaten or adversely affect the natural environment in the Waitakere Ranges.