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Brownlee pushes undersea mining

Written By: - Date published: 12:04 pm, May 9th, 2010 - 37 comments
Categories: Conservation, Mining - Tags: , ,

The Herald has an article on the government investigating the mining potential of seamounts. These are extinct underwater volcanoes, which are rich in unique sea life and ecologies that include some of our most important fisheries, and minerals.

We know that on-shore mining is environmentally destructive, underwater mining would be magnitudes worse – indiscriminate dredging and drilling that would devastate those environments and the fisheries that depend on them.

Ludicrously, Gerry Brownlee claims the government isn’t planning to mine the seamounts. Yeah, they just send out a NIWA research vessel to investigate the mineral potential of the seamounts for the hell of it.

Brownlee says: “We have no plans whatsoever to prospect offshore”. The truth is, Brownlee has already given underwater mining the go ahead.

You’ll remember Widespread Portfolios, the mining company that Murray McCully owns shares in. Back in February, Brownlee issued a permit to Widespread Portfolios for prospecting 4,700 sqkm of the Chatham Rise. They’re hoping to mine phosphates.

It’s a separate range of seamounts from the ones the NIWA vessel Tangaroa is currently investigating but the Widespread Portfolios website says that they have contracted NIWA for exploratory work. So, we can expect Tangaroa will be doing more work in preparation for undersea mining in the coming months.

Brownlee needs to stop being so secretive and undemocratic. He needs to front up with his plans to mine valuable and irreplaceable ecologies.

37 comments on “Brownlee pushes undersea mining ”

  1. greenfly 1

    Please please please can Gerry be the onsite observer!!!


  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    He needs to front up with his plans to mine valuable and irreplaceable ecologies.

    If he does that then he’ll be going against the modus operandi of the government.

  3. Bored 3

    Gerry disgusts me with his trite little defense line “everyday we use things that are a result of mining”…..of course we do and we accept that there is some need to mine. He does not seem to have caught up with the actual environmental costs he proposes and opened them to debate. Rather he is rewarding a self serving lobby who dont see species or ecosystems, only minerals and money.

    One thing you can be sure of, if we asked those same self serving people to mine Gerrys head they would demure, they have pretty much proven theres nothing inside it of any note or worth.

  4. vto 4

    open cast?

  5. Croc 5

    Which important NZ fisheries are you referring to?

    According to MoF the deep-water fisheries in our EEZ include six of our 10 most important commercial species of fish squid, hoki, orange roughy, ling, hake, and jack mackerel. Only one of those, orange roughy spawns on sea mounts. Apart from the odd Hoki (ie negligible amounts) all other species in the top 10 species never encounter sea mounts.

    The situation is bad enough without resorting to hyperbole.

    • Marty G 5.1


      The Chatham Rise (where the permit Brownlee issued is for) is New Zealand’s most important fishing ground.

      Seamounts are important fisheries because they create upwells that bring nutrients into the photosynthetic zone – offering an opportunity for life that doesn’t exist elsewhere offshore.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.2

      Ah, another from the ignorance is bliss brigade.


      An artificial reef is a human-made underwater structure, typically built for the purpose of promoting marine life in areas of generally featureless bottom.


      Seamounts often project upwards into shallower zones more hospitable to sea life, providing habitats for marine species that are not found on or around the surrounding deeper ocean bottom.

      Reefs and sea mounts tend to promote a massive diversity of marine life that just isn’t found anywhere else.

      • Croc 5.2.1

        Yeah, I’m well aware of this. I trained as a marine ecologist and work in fisheries now. My point is perhaps a pedantic one, but the statement was made that sea mounts contain “some of our most important fisheries” which simply isn’t true. Sea mounts are spawning grounds for orange roughy yes. But not really important for any other major NZ fishery.

        I also take point with the “The Chatham Rise (where the permit Brownlee issued is for) is New Zealand’s most important fishing ground.” Based on what? Sheer tonnage of fish taken from that area, or value or what exactly?

        Don’t get me wrong, I agree with you wholeheartedly that sea mounts are unique features with diverse ecological and in many cases endemic species to each particular sea mount and should not be mined (let alone fished…). Perhaps you can step down from that ‘ignorance is bliss brigade’ high horse and take some advice from someone who has actually been on a fishing boat on the Chatham Rise? Your call.

        • Marty G

          fair enough but your point seems a bit pedantic. If I understand, you’re not arguing that seamounts aren’t important ecologies or vital for our fishing industry, you’re arguing over the definition of fishery. Like I say, fair enough.

  6. Jenny 6

    Now that Maori have been promised rights over the Seabed and Foreshore.

    Theoretically couldn’t Maori spike Brownlee’s plans?

    • Draco T Bastard 6.1

      Theoretically, I suppose – if you believe that such wasn’t part of the plan in the first place.

    • Jenny,

      I have a question for you.

      To the others please don’t mind me and apologies because I don’t want to threadjack OK but I don’t have another way of contacting Jenny.

      A couple of weeks ago you wrote that the Waihopai satellite dish was moved to neutral position even though the deflated cover could damage the dish with it’s weight.

      My question is how do you know this and where could I verify?

      Capcha: researchs. I swear this thing is sentient.

      [lprent: ‘sentient’ – After poking around in its brain for a while, I’d say that bacteria have better written code. ]

  7. Sonny Blount 7

    Labour awarded Neptune Minerals licences to mine over 50,000 km^2 of seafloor including over 50 seamounts in 2006.

    • mach1 7.1

      Do you mean the 2005 permits to sample with NIWA monitoring the sampling operations to provide an independent baseline environmental impact assessment, Or are you referring to Neptune preparing to lodge its first mining licence application in New Zealand to meet its goal of trial mining by 2010?,

      • Sonny Blount 7.1.1

        I refer to prospecting licences PL39 195(Kermadec) granted 2002, PL39 194(Monowai) granted 2006, amd PL39 205(Colville) granted 2006.

  8. Sonny Blount 8

    Trans Tasman Resources were granted licences (permit 50383) to prospect over 6000 km^2 off the coast of Taranaki and Waikato (Maui dolphion habitat) in 2008.

    • lprent 8.1

      I must say that the detail of debate has improved. Someone actually referring to the license numbers rather than repeating spinsters waffle…

      Help me out though, is there a place to read these online? I can’t seem to see a government site (work is so distracting)…

      • Sonny Blount 8.1.1

        I can’t get the crown minerals map to load so I got that info off the companies own websites.
        TTR was linked to in a Herald article from may 2008 iirc.

  9. When the mining thing started to emerge I added the black sands from Auckland to Taranaki to the list of threatened areas.

    The attention is now being turned to the undersea mountains and I predict that the next one is those black sands. Relatively easy to mine, rich in metals and they have been prospecting them already.

    A classic switch and bait, switch and bait. I mean how can a bit of sand dredging hurt. Yeah right.

  10. Dammed 11

    Our EEZ is an interesting challenge.
    It is about 10 times bigger than our dry land size.
    What are we going to do with it?
    If we don’t do something with it – sure as heck someone else will!

    • Marty G 11.1

      Um, do you understand the meaning of ‘Exclusive Economic Zone’? That means no-one else can do anything with it unless we give permission.

      • RedLogix 11.1.1

        Why are we even discussing this? Apparently the seabed never belonged to the Crown and therefore the notion of an EEZ is pure fairytale.

        It belongs to various iwi, and the notion of our ‘permission’ is a risible nonsense. Please stop talking as if New Zealand had anything to do with it.

  11. Zak Creedo 12

    Gee.. something never change.. It was martyG blogging the time I was here before to suggest that seamounts could use some constructive scrutiny.. because, people, they are known by virtue of location/s to aid ocean movements, impacts, swells and corrosion of shore lines.. methinks — emphasis thinks — how maybe some rearranging of said seamounts could render more beneficial oceanic movements etc..

    And yes, MartyG, you came on strong about cracking up ecosystems, a feature I had not overlooked at all, but opted to have folks consider maybe loss of some eco someplace in exchange for more nenign ocean activity around and along many coastal places human beings have come to make a life for themselves..

    Scrutiny.. then mebbe measure and monitor — Science-based of course — then constructive options.. rather than what looks here as all too often blind condemnation.

    • Marty G 12.1

      Gee. that’s some pretty serious geo-engineering you’re talking based on a hunch – pretty big costs for supposed gains.

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