BBC Documentary about the importance of phosphate

Here are some fairly compelling reasons why investing in phosphate is a good idea (in case you needed to know!)

1. Phosphorus is the world's most important element – it is called the "bringer of life".  All organisms need phosphorus to sustain life – it is the backbone of DNA.

2. Without phosphorus the world could not feed itself and supplies in most countries are running short.

3. Morocco is the world's major source but that country is surrounded by failing or unstable states.  Morocco's hold on the phosphate market has been described as one of the world's most impressive quasi monopolies in history.

4. The price of phosphate has tripled since 2000.

5. Demand for the product continues to grow every year. 

These and some other facts feature on a 19 minute BBC audio programme found by one of our shareholders.  We thought you might be interested in hearing it in full so here's the link:

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-26138372

The BBC web page also has a link to an earlier written article on the same topic which covers some of the information in the audio programme.

TV film about Phosphate Mining in Tunisia:

We regularly comment on the environmental benefits of Chatham rock phosphate – it's low in cadmium, will have a low carbon footprint and will involve low run-off of phosphates into water ways if used as a direct application product.  After watching the documentary at the link below, describing how phosphate is mined in some parts of North Africa, we also think we can add social responsibility to our list of strengths.

As you know phosphate is a globally valuable commodity, necessary for manufacturing everything from fertilisers and detergent to wine and cosmetics.  It has long been one of Tunisia's (along with Morocco and other North African states) principal sources of export earnings.  

But some of the mining communities that deliver phosphate have long-standing social and economic grievances and are suffering from severe environmental impacts.  This film, aired recently on Al Jazeera television and recommended by one of our shareholders, centres on an area responsible for the start of the Arab Spring protests of four years ago and reveals the unpleasant and dangerous impacts of phosphate mining on these communities.   

 We think it is another demonstration of  the comparatively benign nature of seabed mining of phosphate such as we propose.  The world needs phosphate for the human race to survive, and it has to be mined somewhere.

Check out:  http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/peopleandpower/2015/01/phosphate-fantasies-201512081124803638.html

Radio NZ Coverage: Mining industry relations on the rocks - Row over EPA bill

Featured on Radio NZ’s Morning Report this morning and updated as a news story on the website this afternoon

Mining industry relations on the rocks

Chatham Rock Phosphate is threatening legal action against a branch of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and has criticised the Environmental Protection Authority.

Two months ago, the company lost its bid to mine the ocean floor off the lower South Island.

It now faces a bill under the Environmental Protection Authority's cost recovery scheme for $605,000.

Chatham Rock said it never wrote a blank cheque to the EPA for costs, and accused the authority of what it describes as a lack of financial discipline.

It said attempts to debate the bill would only incur fresh costs.

This latest dispute followed an attack on the EPA by mining groups, with its head Rob Forlong saying he sometimes felt guilty about the level of fees he has to charge.

Row over EPA bill ( 4′ 51″ )

08:37 Relations between the mining industry and state agencies have plunged to a new low.

Straterra Position Paper - What went wrong with CRP's and TTR's marine consent decisions

Mining lobby group Straterra has written a short paper identifying what went wrong with Chatham Rock Phosphate's and Trans Tasman Resources’ marine consent decisions and recommended solutions for the key issues to be addressed.

http://www.straterra.co.nz/assets/Uploads/Straterra-position-paper-Enabling-Responsible-Seabed-Mining-March-2015.pdf

 

NZX Announcement: Proposal by Chatham Rock Phosphate to list on Overseas Stock Exchange, acquire other Phosphate assets

2 April 2015

NZX Market Announcement

Proposal by Chatham Rock Phosphate to list on Overseas Stock Exchange, acquire other Phosphate assets

Chatham Rock Phosphate shareholders will be aware from recent communications that, since the refusal of the Chatham Rise marine consent application, CRP has been assessing its overall business strategy.

We can now report that a decision has been made for CRP to evolve from its single project focus into a more diversified company, principally involving other phosphate projects, both on and offshore.  Other marine mining opportunities involving other commodities will also be evaluated by our team. 

The main drivers for this evolution in our strategy is not only the desire to reduce investor risk, but also to take advantage of (and therefore retain) the significant institutional knowledge and expertise that exists within our management team and our partner organisations. This knowledge spans marine and environmental science, the development of offshore mining projects, and extensive knowledge of the phosphate market, both locally and internationally.  

We also consider that Chatham’s ability to finance the eventual resubmission of the marine consent application will be enhanced if both existing shareholders and potential new investors don’t face the same binary EPA-decision risk as in the past. 

The acquisition and development of these new projects within Chatham would be significantly easier if CRP was listed on a more recognised and liquid overseas stock exchange. The Toronto stock exchange is the most logical one as it is a leading exchange for mining stocks and also has a major fertilizer component. We have considered various options for the most cost effective way of listing and identified a reverse takeover of a listed stock as most effective.  

Accordingly one of our significant shareholders, Aorere Resources Limited has, with the support of the Chatham Board, signed a sale and purchase agreement with Toronto Venture Stock Exchange (TSX.V) listed Antipodes Gold (AXG) to acquire its core assets. Antipodes Gold is also dual listed on the NZAX.

Included as a condition in this sale and purchase agreement is that, subject to the fulfilment of a number of prior conditions, AXG make a share based takeover offer for Chatham under the Takeovers Code which will, when completed, result in CRP being owned 100% by AXG. Due to the expected relative values of the two companies at the time the takeover will take place, existing CRP shareholders will own approximately 92.5% of the merged entity.

The requirement to make the takeover offer will only arise however if the other conditions in the agreement (finance, due diligence, taxation confirmations, necessary approvals and consents) are satisfied and at least 70% of Chatham shareholders first commit to accept the takeover offer. The full takeover offer terms are yet to be formed and it is important to note that no takeover notice has been given and no shareholders have, at the present time, given any such commitments. 

If the takeover is completed the merged entity will then change its name to Antipodes Phosphate to reflect its primary focus on the phosphate market.

It is then proposed that other projects will be acquired, by issuing equity, by the now dual (TSX.V and NZAX) listed Antipodes Phosphate and the enlarged group would subsequently seek to raise further funds in local and overseas markets. These funds would be utilised to advance the projects held within the group, including the Chatham Rise project, the other five permit applications already filed in Namibia, and the newcomers to the portfolio.   

The outcome of these proposed transactions is considered by each of the respective Boards of Directors to be in the best interests of the shareholders of all three companies involved. Please note these transactions are at an early stage and, as noted above, are subject to a substantial number of conditions. These conditions will now be worked through and it is anticipated that, all going smoothly, the transactions would be completed in August this year. 

We welcome shareholder feedback on this proposed transaction. A copy of the Aorere Resources market announcement follows this announcement for shareholder information.

Chris Castle

Chief Executive Officer

 

 

 

2 April 2015

NZX Market Announcement

Proposal by Aorere Resources to acquire gold joint-venture held by Antipodes Gold Limited. 

Aorere Resources (AOR) shareholders have previously been advised of the desire of the directors to invest in New Zealand based minerals projects that fit our investment criteria. A number of possible projects have been investigated subsequently with none of these matching up. 

However, more recently two very interesting gold related projects have been identified and subjected to preliminary due diligence. As a result of this a conditional sale and purchase agreement has just been signed with Antipodes Gold (AXG) to acquire the shares of their wholly owned subsidiary, Glass Earth (New Zealand) Limited (GENZL). GENZL holds joint venture interests in two Waihi based gold prospects with Newmont Mining Corporation (Newmont).

 Subject to the following conditions it is proposed that AOR acquire GENZL for consideration of $1 million comprised of $800,000 in shares and $200,000 in cash. AXG would subsequently settle any existing liabilities and then intends to distribute the AOR shares to its own shareholders, with the aim of becoming a completely clean dual-listed (NZAX and TSX.V) “shell” company.

The agreement is subject to a number of conditions. These include:

  • obtaining counterparty consents (such as Newmont’s consent and completing a pre-emptive rights process with them);
  • relevant approvals being obtained;
  • the tax implications of the transaction being confirmed;
  • finance for the transactions being arranged (with the present intention of the AOR Board being to realise some of its existing investments);
  • AXG putting in place arrangements to distribute the Aorere shares it receives; and
  • Completing due diligence investigations.  

In addition it is a condition that AXG make a share based takeover offer for Chatham Rock Phosphate (CRP) which will, when completed, result in CRP being owned 100% by AXG. The obligation to make a takeover offer is contingent however on at least 70% of CRP shareholders committing to accept such a takeover offer and the other conditions above being first satisfied. 

AOR has facilitated this potential takeover as it considers it will be a positive development for CRP, one of AOR’s most significant investments. Due to the expected relative values of the two companies at the time the takeover will take place, existing CRP shareholders will own approximately 92.5% of the merged entity, which will then change its name to Antipodes Phosphate to reflect its primary focus on the phosphate market.

The outcome of these proposed transactions is considered by each Board of Directors to be in the best interests of the shareholders of all three companies involved. Please note these transactions are at an early stage and, as noted above, subject to a substantial number of conditions. These conditions will now be worked through and it is anticipated that, all going smoothly, the transactions contemplated would be completed in their entirety in August this year.

A copy of the CRP market announcement follows this announcement for shareholder information.

Chris Castle

Managing Director

Email: chris@crpl.co.nz

    

NEWS RELEASE 15-3

April 1 2015 

ANTIPODES GOLD ANNOUNCES RESTRUCTURING DEAL

to PURSUE GOLD & PHOSPHATE OPPORTUNITIES

WELLINGTON, New ZealandAntipodes Gold Limited (TSXV and NZAX: AXG, the “Company”) announced today that that it has signed an agreement to sell its gold exploration interests and undertake a reverse takeover of a listed New Zealand based phosphate development company.  Both these transactions will require shareholder approval.  An Information Circular and requisite supplementary reports will be provided to shareholders prior to the Special General Meeting, expected to be held in June.

The planning of these transactions is at an early stage and subject to a number of conditions, including those set out below.  These conditions are being worked through:

  • Completing due diligence investigations;
  • Confirming the tax implications of the transactions;
  • Obtaining counterparty consents;
  • Obtaining relevant approvals (shareholder and regulatory);
  • Securing interim financing for the transaction costs and G&A expenses;
  • Ensuring a process to distribute shares it receives as part payment: and
  • The requirement to make a takeover offer only arises if the other conditions in the agreement (finance, due diligence, taxation confirmations, necessary approvals and consents) are satisfied and at least 70% of the target company shareholders commit to accept the takeover offer. 

As shareholders are aware, the Company has been seeking equity funding for some time, to advance its gold exploration interests in the Hauraki region in the North Island, New Zealand.  In parallel with this, the Company and Newmont Mining Corporation (“Newmont”) have been rearranging their joint venture management and equity interests in order to facilitate the Company’s ability to raise funds and move forward on exploration.  As equity funding could not be raised, the Company has sought to further restructure its business activities.

Sale of Gold Exploration Interests to Aorere Resources Limited (“AOR”)

The first transaction proposed is with AOR, an investment company listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange main board (refer below for more information).  In this transaction AOR will acquire the Company’s gold exploration assets by purchasing all the share capital in the Company’s wholly owned New Zealand subsidiary, Glass Earth (New Zealand) Limited (“GENZL”) for NZ$1 million (C$950,000).  Exploration liabilities owed to Newmont will remain in GENZL as will potential royalty obligations relating to the exploration permits.  Other trade liabilities in GENZL are to be settled as part of the sale process. 

Recent encouraging drilling results at the Waihi West permit have been incorporated in the transaction value.  The gold exploration assets are subject to pre-emption rights, exercisable by Newmont. 

Should Newmont not pre-empt, AOR will pay for the GENZL shares by issuing NZ$800,000 in AOR fully paid ordinary shares and NZ$200,000 in cash.  Some of the sale proceeds will be applied to meeting current debts and transaction costs.  It is intended that any surplus AOR stock be distributed to AXG shareholders, subject to any regulatory requirements. 

This should leave AXG as a listed shell company to undertake the second transaction, being a reverse takeover of Chatham Rock Phosphate Limited (“CRP”).

Reverse Takeover of Chatham Rock Phosphate Limited (“CRP”)

CRP is listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange Alternative board (refer below for more information).   It holds a mining permit over an area off the coast of New Zealand with significant seabed deposits of rock phosphate and other potentially valuable minerals.

 CRP applied for a Marine (environmental) Consent to mine this in July 2014 and was declined in February 2015.  CRP has advised that it is likely to pursue a re-submission of its Marine Consent application and has recently announced that it intends to raise NZ$1.38 million (C$1.3m) by a rights issue to its existing shareholders, in order to advance this project.  CRP applied for five marine phosphate prospecting licences offshore Namibia in mid-2012 and has recently sought to accelerate the licensing process.  

Subject to satisfaction of the various conditions referred to above, AXG may make a takeover offer for all of CRP’s issued shares, by issuing new shares of its own in exchange, such that, on completion it is intended that the Company’s current shareholders will retain 7.5% of the post-transaction Company.  It is likely that Antipodes Gold would then be rebranded as Antipodes Phosphate. 

General & Administration Costs and Transaction Costs

The Company’s ongoing minimalist G&A costs and its transaction costs to plan, prepare and carry out these transactions will be funded by AOR and/or parties associated with it.  It is intended that AXG issue fully paid ordinary shares to AOR to discharge the resultant debt.

Antipodes CEO Thomas Rabone commented: “We are pleased to be presenting this deal to our shareholders. Potentially, it allows the company to meet its debts while providing our investors with a new shareholding and a new direction.  As an NZ-listed minerals portfolio company, Aorere will be positioned, as the new holder of our gold projects, to maintain and develop their encouraging potential – and this transfer is designed to provide AOR stock  to our current investors to still participate in that opportunity.

Plus, by undertaking a takeover for Chatham Rock Phosphate, the ongoing holders of AXG stock will gain an additional investment position – in an experienced junior resource company that is evolving to adopt a more diversified strategy.

This proposed transaction allows for the better realization of value from the Company. We consider it to be in the best interests of the shareholders of all three companies, and will be welcoming our own shareholders’ feedback.” 

Disclosures

  • Aorere and CRP are arm’s length parties.  Mr Henderson, a director of the Company joined the AOR board of directors in 2014. 
  • There is no formal letter or agreement with CRP in respect of the proposed takeover offer. The takeover offer will be made under the New Zealand Takeover Code by the Company directly to the 800+ shareholders of CRP.  CRP is in favour of the takeover.
  • An exemption or waiver to the requirement for a Sponsor will be sought from the TSX.
  • Completion of the transaction is subject to a number of conditions, including Exchange acceptance and disinterested Shareholder approval.  The transaction cannot close until the required Shareholder approval is obtained.  There can be no assurance that the transactions will be completed as proposed or at all.
  •  Investors are cautioned that, except as disclosed in the Management Information Circular or Filing Statement, to be prepared in connection with the transaction, any information released or received with respect to the RTO may not be accurate or complete and should not be relied upon.
  • Trading in the securities of Antipodes Gold Limited should be considered highly speculative.

The TSX Venture Exchange has in no way passed upon the merits of the proposed transaction and has neither approved nor disapproved the contents of this press release.

About CRP

Chatham Rock Phosphate is an NZ-listed mineral exploration company, focused on the development and exploration of a marine phosphorite deposit offshore New Zealand.  CRP holds a Mining Permit of approximately 820km2 in respect of the Chatham Rise Phosphorite Deposit located in the offshore Exclusive Economic Zone of New Zealand.  CRP has announced a decision to evolve from its single project focus into a more diversified company, focusing on both on- and offshore phosphate projects. For more information, visit www.rockphosphate.co.nz

About AOR

Aorere Resources, which holds approximately 8% of CRP, is an NZ-listed portfolio investment company, focused on selected New Zealand early stage oil, gas and minerals projects.

Aorere is capitalising on the networks developed and experience gained from establishing and managing Chatham Rock Phosphate, to develop a revised investment portfolio that is proposed to now include AXG’s gold permit interests.  For more information, visit aorereresources.co.nz

About AXG

Antipodes Gold has been focused on establishing gold resources in New Zealand’s Hauraki region – host to low-sulphidation epithermal gold-silver deposits including the Newmont-owned Martha gold mine. For more information on the Company’s properties, and to subscribe to further news updates, please visit antipodesgold.co.nz.

 Thomas Rabone

President and Chief Executive Officer

+64 22 649 9690

thomas.rabone@antipodesgold.co.nz

Neither the TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) nor New Zealand Exchange Limited has reviewed this release and neither accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

NZX Announcement: Rights Issue

Dear Chatham Rock Phosphate shareholder or stakeholder,

This announcement has just been filed on NZX.

Shareholders will receive the offer documents shortly after 17 April – no action is required by you before then.  

Regards, 

 

Chris Castle

Chief Executive Officer

Chatham Rock Phosphate Limited

Email: chris@crpl.co.nz

Cell: +64 21 558 185

Skype: phosphateking

www.rockphosphate.co.nz

 

Tuesday, 31 March 2015 

Rights Issue

As previously advised to the market, the Board of Chatham Rock Phosphate (CRP) has decided to offer a rights issue to shareholders of CRP. The offer price will be $0.006 per share, to raise up to approximately $1.38 million in aggregate.

Shareholders recorded on the register as at the record date will receive renounceable rights to one new share for every existing share held. The rights are intended to be quoted on the NZAX Market.

Applicants may also apply for additional shares under an oversubscription facility. The facility will be subject to shortfall availability. The current timetable for the Offer is as follows:

On behalf of the Board, 

Chris Castle

Chief Executive Officer

Email: chris@crpl.co.nz

NZ Herald - Chris Castle and Linda Sanders: Phosphate mining rejection hypocritical

Dear Chatham Rock Phosphate shareholder or stakeholder,

 

This article was published earlier this week in the NZ Herald. I include both hard copy and the link.

 

Best regards,

 

Chris Castle

Chief Executive Officer

Chatham Rock Phosphate Limited

Email: chris@crpl.co.nz

Cell: +64 21 558 185

Skype: phosphateking

www.rockphosphate.co.nz

  

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11418191

Chris Castle and Linda Sanders: Phosphate mining rejection hypocritical

On pastures, Chatham Rise phosphate minimises waterways pollution because, unlike superphosphate, it binds to the soil so very little leaches into waterways. Photo / NZME.

Phosphate is crucial to plant growth and there are no local land-based sources. For the sake of our farms and waterways, and our economy, New Zealand needs this product's strong environmental benefits.

Yet a decision-making committee of the Environmental Protection Authority last month rejected Chatham Rock Phosphate's mining application, primarily because of perceived uncertainty over environmental effects.

The misguided decision shows the law needs revising to focus on risks associated with uncertainty and how environmental effects can be monitored and managed. After all, crossing the road has uncertainty, but the risks can be managed.

Chatham Rock Phosphate (CRP), a New Zealand public company, proposes mining 30sq km a year to extract 1.5 million tonnes of phosphate nodules for use in New Zealand and Asia-Pacific. The area is on the Chatham Rise, about two-thirds of the way to the Chatham Islands, at a depth of 400m.

The committee focused on potential environmental effects, but gave no weight to what we believe are considerable environmental benefits:

On pastures, Chatham Rise phosphate minimises waterways pollution because, unlike superphosphate, it binds to the soil so very little leaches into waterways.

It needs less frequent application as the fertility effect lasts three years, not one.

The local product has almost no cadmium, a heavy metal that stores in the soil and can be a health hazard. The current Moroccan product has among the world's highest concentrations.

CRP's product has a much lower carbon footprint because it doesn't need to be shipped from overseas.

It also offers a strategic security of supply. Almost all phosphate supplies come from politically unstable areas, mainly in North Africa.

CRP would be an ethical producer of farm inputs, and New Zealand wouldn't be exporting its pollution. Importing all our phosphate requirements shows the hypocrisy of wanting the benefits of highly productive farming while exporting our environmental footprint to countries that mine phosphate on land, which involves severe social and environmental distress in communities.

The committee discounted the project's economic benefits by focusing on a World Bank nominal phosphate price, a figure with no relevance to how the phosphate market operates.

Why would CRP pursue a marginally profitable project? We advised NZX in January that based on current exchange rates our annual profit before royalties and taxation would be almost $100 million. Only a few New Zealand companies generate profits that high.

New Zealand would benefit from CRP paying $34 million in annual taxes and royalties, plus millions in port charges. Jobs - many high-value and knowledge-based - would be created in the port, on the mining ship, in environmental monitoring and broader scientific research, in the agriculture and hospitality sectors and on the Chatham Islands.

The income earned by extracting phosphate would be $9.7 million per sq km, compared with $9000 per sq km annually from bottom trawling.

The committee concluded mining would have no significant impact on fishing yields or fishing industry profitability, marine mammals or seabirds. Despite this, they worried about our mining being in a Benthic Protection Area. These are areas where bottom trawling of fish is banned under the Fisheries Act.

The committee ignored CRP's proposed no-mining areas that would maintain comparable environmental protection on the Chatham Rise until marine protected areas can be enacted.

Ninety-six per cent of New Zealand is under water and development and environmental effects already take place there, particularly commercial fishing. Why is it okay for bottom trawling to be environmentally unregulated and damage 50,000sq km of seafloor every year, yet CRP's 30sq km is a greater threat?

Chris Castle and Linda Sanders are directors of Chatham Rock Phosphate.


NZX Announcement: Media Release - CRP gives further guidance on future strategy

Media Release

5 March 2015                                                           

CRP gives further guidance on future strategy 

Chatham Rock Phosphate (NZX:CRP) has continued to develop its future plans following the refusal of its Marine Consent application.

As previously announced, CRP has no intention of abandoning its Chatham Rise phosphate project and is continuing to develop strategies for progressing the project. Of critical importance to this is preserving its experienced and highly specialised executive team and maintaining the support of its key partners. CRP is pleased to advise of strong progress on both counts.

It is increasingly likely that CRP will pursue a re-submission of its Marine Consent application. However before it makes a final decision to do so CRP intends to continue to work with the Environmental Protection Authority to seek clarity on the interpretation of the EEZ legislation and the EPA’s policies and procedures for managing the consent process. CRP is also contributing where possible to the discussions about changes to the EEZ legislation and will incorporate any changes in our plans.

It is encouraging that the Government is investigating changes given the procedural and legal concerns with the process that CRP has previously detailed.

Executive Team

The core executive team at CRP consists of:

  • Chris Castle – CEO
  • Robin Falconer – Principal Scientist
  • Ray Wood – Chief Operating Officer
  • Linda Sanders – Corporate and Affairs and Stakeholder Communications.
  • Najib Moutia – Vice President – Sales and marketing

This team is supported by non-executive directors Robert Goodden and Jill Hatchwell.

The Board and Executive team have each confirmed their commitment to supporting CRP and progressing the project over the next 12 months.

 In so doing they have each agreed to significant reductions in remuneration to reduce overheads for CRP. They may each potentially receive remuneration at a later date through CRP shares (priced at VWAP) as compensation. However any such issue of shares would be subject to shareholder approval at a later time.

Capital Requirements

Considerable work is going into reducing overheads in CRP, working through cash requirements for the next 12 months and settling final costs associated with the Marine Consent process. The purpose of this work has been to develop a 12 month budget for keeping the project moving forward (including provision for a small amount of scientific and technical work), continuing work towards a re-submission of the Marine Consent application and increasing CRP’s focus on its Namibian permit applications. This capital requirement has been assessed at $1.25 million.

CRP intends to conduct either a rights issue or share purchase plan offer to shareholders in the near future as a first step towards funding this capital requirement. Given the prevailing market price of shares CRP is conscious that the offer will be highly dilutive and therefore will ensure shareholders have first priority to invest. Any shortfall from such offer will then look to be placed to non-retail investors.

Shareholders are encouraged to contact Chris Castle should they have views on how the capital raising should be conducted.

Business Strategy

CRP is also using the current time to assess its overall business strategy. One option is for CRP to increase its focus on its Namibia permit applications in the short term to help diversify CRP’s risk from primarily focusing on a single project.

Because of the significant expertise that CRP has developed through the Chatham Rise project, it is also being approached with new offshore mining opportunities and other onshore and offshore phosphate mining opportunities. CRP intends to continue to explore these opportunities and potentially further diversify its activities.

 

Chris Castle +64 21 55 81 85 or chris@crpl.co.nz

NZX Announcement: Media Release - CRP considers reapplying for marine consent

Media Release

18 February 2015                                                       

CRP considers reapplying for a marine consent

Chatham Rock Phosphate is considering reapplying for a marine consent to mine phosphate nodules on the Chatham Rise seabed, managing director Chris Castle said today.

We have decided an appeal is a pointless exercise.  Assuming we win on points of law, we would still need to go back before the same decision-making committee (DMC) who collectively overlooked the key merits of our project, appeared to misunderstand important evidence and submissions and selectively ignored CRP’s information to reach a “no” decision. 

Although they accepted the findings of scientific experts which showed negligible effects in areas such as fish, seabirds and mammals, why would we expect them to look at the other issues any differently the second time around?  While the DMC’s views as to the level of information and certainty that was required to satisfy them were wildly unrealistic and at odds with the intent of the EEZ Act, the reality is that they could simply apply that reasoning again to reach a conclusion that they are unlikely to have an open mind about. 

We have not committed to reapplying at this stage as we need to have confidence the process and the law is workable and the decision makers are technically competent.

However, we have no intentions of giving up. 

This project is too important for New Zealand, as well as our shareholders who have already invested $33 million in this project. 

As well as failing to take account of the economic benefits, the decision makers more importantly failed to consider the critical environmental benefits this project brings to New Zealand.

Chatham Rise rock phosphate would reduce pollution in New Zealand waterways from phosphate run-off and would reduce the application of the toxic metal cadmium on New Zealand soils, as our product contains among the lowest concentrations in the world. It would also drastically reduce New Zealand’s carbon footprint caused by transporting fertiliser inputs from the other side of the world.

We would be an ethical producer of farm inputs, and New Zealand would not be exporting our pollution to other countries.

While the EPA decision has decimated CRP’s share price, we believe it will recover.  When we established CRP in its present form five years ago, it had a market value of NZD 2 million, and a granted exploration licence.

Since then we have raised NZD 33 million, achieved a granted mining licence, completed one of the most comprehensive environmental impact assessments ever submitted, and collected vast amounts of data and scientific reports about the Chatham Rise – much of it used for public good science.  We also have a team of directors and executives who remain fully committed to the project, even though they won’t be getting paid for a while. 

The market value of the company early last week was NZD 40 million, now it is now back to NZD 2 million again.  However CRP now has an extended management group that is the envy of other players in the marine mining sector and a recognised place in the phosphate industry.  Accordingly we are in a very strong position and much better equipped to build on that NZD 2 million platform than we were five years ago. 

Corals

One of the key areas we are most concerned about are the findings on stony corals.  The decision said this was a unique, rare and vulnerable ecosystem.  The DMC  ignored unchallenged evidence that this is a common species found throughout the EEZ. 

We acknowledged the corals may not appear in a thicket or community elsewhere. Our proposed mitigation was to avoid those thicket areas by excluding them from our mining plan but that was not accepted.

We produced the best available evidence, and significant data to identify where the relevant communities were, and develop measures which would have addressed the risks posed to those communities.  We committed to ground-truth the modelling work, adjust mining exclusion areas and move the first three years of mining blocks while ground-truthing occurred.

So, the DMC effectively ignored a solution to their major concern and took a zero-risk/avoidance approach, which is not required by the EEZ Act.

Uncertainty

There are numerous instances where the committee found the scientific evidence insufficient and highlighted its “uncertainty”. This also occurred with the Trans-Tasman Resources application.

The DMC appeared to be unwilling or unable to understand the reality of working in New Zealand’s oceans. There will never be complete information and every environmental decision will have to accept some level of uncertainty.  This DMC’s decision has elevated the EEZ Act’s information principles to a level which, for this project, is both unrealistic and unachievable.

Assuming we decide to undertake another application we will need to clarify, for a new decision-maker, the confused thinking of this DMC on issues they identified as having too much uncertainty.  The information is there and there was an appropriate answer provided to every question – the DMC simply didn’t appear to understand it or otherwise believed it was less risky to decline consent.  

CRP deserved a better and more balanced consideration of its application, and a DMC which appropriately put the issues of risk and uncertainty into their proper context.  That didn’t happen.

The committee showed poor understanding of the purpose of modelling or how it works – and that it is extremely conservative, usually overstating effects several fold.  Its insistence on the need for ground-truthing shows a complete lack of understanding of how modelling is used routinely in land-based applications in New Zealand with great confidence and in marine projects around the world.

The DMC seemed to go hunting for a basis to decline, thus the discussion around uncertainty in relation to much of the modelling, ignoring the conservatism that was identified.  It read as if they were looking for a no or very low impact activity and that is all they were comfortable with granting.

The DMC’s interpretation of the purpose of the Benthic Protection Area coinciding with our application area (BPAs are simply no-fishing zones covered by the Fisheries Act), meant in their eyes the project could not proceed anyway. This is even though these BPAs were established without consideration of interested parties other than the fishing industry, do not maximise the conservation values of the EEZ, and will be reviewed and modified as part of the establishment of marine protected areas.

To attain the level of information and “certainty” about effects required by the DMC would require test mining, an activity that itself requires a marine consent.  This would require the expenditure of hundreds of millions of euros for a purpose-built ship and dredging system to carry out test runs on the Chatham Rise, to obtain certainty about effects. 

But the DMC in fact created a dead-end street, in that they would not even contemplate a short-term consent of a limited duration as a “test” because of the possible risk to the stony corals.  No rational applicant or investor would make such an investment in order to achieve the certainty of information this DMC considers is required. 

If there is so much uncertainty about projects such as ours, why has the government allocated rights to the resource under the Crown Minerals Act and allowed such marine consent applications to be considered, when they stand no realistic chance of being consented?

It seems this committee simply found it easier to say no than yes.  This was despite our proposing more than 60 adaptive management measures to comprehensively deal with every potential concern. 

Understanding financials

The other major concern we have with the DMC’s reasoning is their apparent inability to understand economics.  They relied on a World Bank nominal price for fertiliser to assess the economics of the project, a figure with no relevance to the way the phosphate market operates.

Why would we pursue a project that is at best marginally profitable?  We issued an announcement to the NZX only last month advising that based on current exchange rates our profitability before royalties and taxation would be close to $100 million a year. 

There are few New Zealand companies that generate profits of that level, and it is unfathomable to understand how that could be considered modest.

In terms of wider economic benefits CRP would pay port charges of several million dollars a year, and external employment opportunities would be created in the port, in the hospitality sector, on the mining ship, undertaking environmental monitoring, and in the agriculture sector – including many on the Chatham Islands.

The income earned per square kilometre of seabed affected by a single mining pass is NZD 9.7 million, compared with only NZD 9,000 annually from bottom trawl fishing. This income from mining is achieved without any impact on fishing yields or fishing industry profitability, according to joint statements signed by fish scientists and fisheries experts.  

Applying again

Our decision to consider resubmitting will depend on whether the Environmental Protection Authority, charged with interpreting the relevant legislation, can make significant changes to its processes.  We would not expect to re-litigate areas not in contention and we would expect the EPA to sharpen its act in terms of the quality of its processes and decision-makers, and the way it manages costs.

We remain convinced the law needs changing – it is obvious in order to avoid the same sort of outcome with other similarly well-prepared applications.  Even the committee said we had produced hugely detailed information - yet it still fell short of the legal requirement, as the DMC saw it.

Even more farcical, we need a marine consent (which we have been denied) to go out and get the additional information the DMC considered was required – how logical is that?  The EPA has tied the process completely up in knots and created a closed loop. 

The process needs to have better communication between the DMC and the applicant, offering the opportunity to identify concerns and options for solutions.  It needs to embrace the purpose of the Act and become solution oriented, rather than focusing on reasons why the project should not occur.  Otherwise what is the point in having such legislation in place – it simply becomes Clayton’s law.

This is not a victory for conservation – it is actually a tragedy for New Zealand’s countryside. The hypocrisy of our opponents is unbelievable, willing to export our environmental footprint to other countries by continuing to import polluting products. 

96% of New Zealand is under water and it is morally indefensible to not accept that some development and environmental effects will take place there. In addition, conservation costs money. The scientific outcomes and the taxes and royalties from projects like ours will help lay the groundwork and pay for the surveys that will identify areas of the marine estate most deserving of conservation.

The fishing industry is essentially entirely environmentally unregulated and destroys 3000 km2 of new seafloor and re-scrapes 47,000 km2 of already damaged seafloor every year – vastly more than the 30 km2 of seafloor we propose to mine every year.  Yet fishing claims we are a greater environmental threat.

The EPA needs to be neutral, rather than advocating as an environmental protector without due regard for other considerations, and if the Government seriously wants to promote development then it needs to speak up about the potential benefits of the project.

The decision makers must have the right mix of expertise to assess the merits and risks of marine projects. Our DMC didn't. The DMC needs at least one scientist who has the mental firepower to understand all the evidence, and at least one person who understands how risk and uncertainty is managed in the real world.

New Zealand can become a world leader in marine technology and expertise worth billions of dollars. Not a single person in the DMC, the EPA, the NGO's, or any of the opposition see that what is at stake is potentially a lot more to New Zealand than phosphate. And that is without including the significant environmental and economic benefits of our product, including low cadmium, low carbon footprint and low run off into waterways.

Media misinformation

CRP would also like to address some of the more seriously incorrect claims of fact made in the media over the past week, most particularly in the Sunday Star Times.

Firstly CRP is not proposing to dredge a “huge swathe” of the seabed.  It is proposing to mine 30 km2 a year.  This compares with 50,000 km2 the fishing industry bottom trawls every year. That is a “huge swathe”. The total CRP project mining footprint of 450 km2 for 15 years is only one quarter of 1% of the Chatham Rise. 

Secondly it was never “generally agreed” $169 a tonne is required for the project to break even.  CRP has never stated a break even market price. However, as the mining cost is roughly the cost of transporting the product from Morocco, the world price would need to be near zero before we could not compete in the local market.

Thirdly while New Zealanders might not know much about the 4.1 million km2 Exclusive Economic Zone as a whole, the 19,000 km2 of the Chatham Rise is the best studied area of the EEZ. This is largely thanks to the work CRP has undertaken, building on the 63 years of work since phosphate was first discovered on the Rise in 1952.

Despite what environmentalists might wish for, significant amounts of the money spent on scientific research is spent by companies seeking to get a financial return.  While SST writer Rod

Oram’s claim that $5 million a year is spent on marine science is rubbish – NIWA’s vessel Tangaroa costs an estimated $20 million a year to operate - these numbers are insignificant compared with the $100 million spent by CRP and TTR in recent years and the $70 million in present day terms spent by scientists previously in the CRP resource area.

The weirdest claim in the SST was this: “The minerals they want for farming on land are the ones that help make the fishing grounds so fertile.  We need logical choices. Threatening fishing to further farming is not one.”

Firstly, as noted before, the DMC found our proposal does not threaten fishing.

Secondly there is no fishing in the area we are proposing to mine, which is why the fishing industry unilaterally surrendered it as a no-fishing zone.

Thirdly there is absolutely no way phosphate helps make fishing grounds fertile.  The phosphate is bound within the phosphate nodules and cannot enter the water column.

Fourthly, no fish species have ever been observed eating rock phosphate nodules. 

A couple of commentators have picked up the idea of spatial planning, a concept we have advocated all along.  CRP’s marine consent proposals included recommendations on how spatial planning could be used to manage the potential effects on the coral communities.

 Marine spatial planning is a big issue for New Zealand. We believe a critical first step is to review the benthic protection areas enshrined in fisheries regulations as they don’t consider other uses such as minerals.  They could be modified to achieve the same conservation goals while allowing other uses of marine space, and not just areas chosen by the fishing industry because they have no commercial quantities of fish.

 

Chris Castle +64 21 55 81 85 or chris@crpl.co.nz