TransTasman Resources has sought permission to conduct offshore ironsands mining off the South Taranaki coast in New Zealand.
The Wellington-based miner said the new project will benefit the country by $NZ150 million a year in jobs and maintenance contracts.
The area to be mined is about 66 square kilometres of sea bed, in New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), between 22 and 26 kilometres offshore.
TransTasman chairman Tim Crossley said the project will provide stimulus for the NZ economy in the form of approximately $NZ150 million worth of work each year, and that the company has already spent in excess of $NZ8 million on research into the environmental effects of the project.
"We would say no other past marine project, other than perhaps investigations into the Maui gas fields in the 70s and 80s, has been researched as deeply,” he said.
TransTasman is 90 per cent foreign-owned, has already spent more than $NZ50 million on the project since it was established in 2007 to explore, assess and develop the iron sands off the North Island's west coast.
The seabed mining process would see iron sand vacuumed onto a vessel where magnetite concentrate would be extracted, then pumped to a second vessel to be cleaned using fresh water, then be transferred to another ship to be transported to world markets.
The system allows for "single pass" mining where the seabed is vacuumed once and then backfilled in 300 by 300 metre blocks.
The submarine crawler which vacuums the sand would move at between 60m and 70m an hour.
TransTasman has a view to be mining by the second half of 2016, provided the permissions are granted by five EPA commissioners who are considering the marine consent application.
Hearings will be held around the North Island for the next two months.
Today the Environmental Defence Society has opened for objectors to the project, with lobby group Kiwis Against Seabed Mining.
Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) used Facebook to organise a silent protest outside the hearing.
KASM chairman Phil McCabe said before the hearing that the precedent-setting nature of the case, and inadequate evidence provided by TTR that seabed mining would not damage the environment, made a good case for a moratorium on the practice.