The South Taranaki Bight Project involves the excavation of up to 50 million tonnes per year of sand from the seabed and separating out the iron into an iron ore concentrate on an integrated mining and processing vessel.
The Project area is 65.76 km2 and is located between 22-36 km offshore from the coast of Patea and in water depths between 20-42 m. This is within New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the environmental effects are governed by the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012 (EEZ Act).
Around 10% of the extracted material will be processed into iron ore concentrate for export. The residual sediment (approximately 45 million tonnes per year) will be returned to the seabed via a controlled discharge below the mining vessel, usually backfilling previously extracted areas.
Iron ore concentrate from the mining vessel will be slurried to a transhipment vessel where it will be de-watered and stored ready for transfer to bulk carrier vessels for export to world markets.
Processing on the mining vessel involves separation of the ore from the seabed material using gravity and magnetic processes, and does not involve the addition of any chemicals or other products.
TTR has, since 2009, undertaken a detailed baseline study programme and modelling of potential environmental effects. Based on the environmental research conducted by NIWA and overseas experience, we have refined our extraction and processing methodology to minimise the potential environmental effects of our operations.
While the mining permit covers a relatively small area, the project will provide long term employment and benefits to the local Taranaki communities. The project will require approximately 200 personnel in total to operate the offshore vessels with approximately a further 50 staff being required in support, engineering, administration, environmental and other contracting roles.
NZIER estimate the Project will benefit the Taranaki regional economy by raising regional GDP by 3% or $240 million year and that the project should create around 170 indirect jobs throughout the rest of the Taranaki region.