QNA on Unlawful Sand Mining on Minjerribah (Nth Stradbroke Island)

Unimin Silica mine N Stradbroke Island Transnational mining company UNIMIN and its predecessors (CRL & ACI) have been taking sand unlawfully from Straddie (NSI) since the 1990s. It has been doing so under the pretext that the sand is used as a mineral i.e. for the production of glass. The state government has provided a licence for this but not for selling course sand in landscaping.

Some people who live on the island and want it to be protected from further destruction are wary of coming forward, afraid of reprisals by vested interests. Here is a QNA with an environmentalist who lives on the island about what has been happening. That person asked not to be identified.

How was the sand taken off the island? White silica sand is taken off NSI in two ways.

1. Trucks of white sand used to leave the island travelling on the regular vehicle ferries and disembarking at Cleveland. It appears the trucks then distributed the sand directly to landscape and building supply businesses.

2. A special barge pushed by a tug that goes up Brisbane river , some of that is for legitimate uses like glass but it appears some was sold to building and landscape businesses as well. But exactly which distribution routes are the subject of the court case, is uncertain.

Who took it off? Names of companies, managers and/or workers involved? It was UNIMIN that unlawfully took and sold the non mineral sand to landscape and building supply businesses. Its predecessor ACI (a glass manufacturer) apparently did the same thing.

How much was taken? Qld Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) has said up to 100,000 tonnes per year.

What lease(s) on the island was the sand taken from? There are three active white silica sand leases, MLs1124 ML7064 and ML1108. ML1124 has already expired and 7064 will expire next year. So these are two of the 20 odd expired leases that the government must decide if they will renew or not. The picture (above) shows where sand is currently being taken from now. It doesn’t expire until 2025. The country is pristine, home to threatened frogs, endangered heath land and is the catchment to two creeks.

A complex of high ridges rise from the valleys which locals refer to as the roof top of the island, with views in all directions. See interview with Dale Ruska about that. It’s an area renowned for wildflowers and masses of pink boronias in spring.

Kangaroo at the PointThe premier, Anna Bligh, earmarked this  country  for National Park on 20 June 2010.

Environmentalists are calling on the state govt to cancel ML1108 in light of the seriousness of the unlawful taking and selling of sand. The illegal sand should have been used to help reduce the holes left after the legal part of operations- mining for silica mineral.

Were both CRL & Unimin involved? CRL was not involved. CRL did at one stage own ML1108 but didn’t mine it and later sold it to Unimin

What Charges were laid by DERM in the court action against UNIMIN? Unimin had been charged by the Environment Department for selling building sand from the silica sand mining process on North Stradbroke Island off Brisbane. It faces penalties of up to $800,000 and could be pursued for compensation.

Are EPA [Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM)]docs publicly available? Where? No EPA docs on the case are publicly available as far as we know but you have a legitimate right to go to DERM media advisor and ask the questions and seek what is available – that would seem like a good idea.

How did the sand miners get away with the theft for so long? It would appear regulatory checking and audit systems failed. But again a question you could ask media advisor of mines department and DERM. But one thing you can say- Unimin hid this side of their operations from stakeholders by failing to detail it in public documents such as their Environmental Studies Report and Plan of Operations and at community stakeholder meetings.

What is to stop the miners from doing it again? Proper checking by the regulators and proper application of the law for wrong doers. This case on Stradbroke will be a true test of whether the government is serious about protecting the environment and penalising those that do the wrong thing. Under the mineral resources act, the government has the power to cancel a lease for breaches of lease conditions. Environmentalists are calling on the govt to cancel the lease.

Subsequently I wrote to DERM about the issues raised in this interview. I have followed up the email with a telephone call and other emails. So far I have received only a link to the Premier’s June 2010 announcement about a national park on Stradbroke Island [See Mining ends on North Stradbroke Island statement by Premier and Minister for the Arts, Anna Bligh, Sunday, June 20, 2010]. I have dealt with that document in an article titled

Quandamooka claim for Land Rights frustrated by 16 years of unlawful sand mining

Here is the email that I sent to DERM:

From: Ian Curr
Sent: Monday, 19 July 2010 5:46 PM
To: DERM media
Subject: UNIMIN charges

Dear Ms/sir,
UNIMIN had been charged by DERM for selling building sand from the silica sand mining process on North Stradbroke Island off Brisbane.
I understand that the offences Unimin is currently charged with are:

a).     Contravention of the Environmental Protection Act 1994;
b).     Contravention of the Forestry Act 1959
c).     Contravention of the Integrated Planning Act 1997.

What are the specific claims made in the charges?

What are the particulars of those charges?

Under the Mineral Resources Act, the government has the power to cancel a lease for breaches of lease conditions.

Is it the intention of DERM to recommend the cancellation of any mining leases on Nth Stradbroke Island.

If so, which ones?

Regards,

Ian Curr
Ph: 07 3398 5215
Mob: 0407 687 016
Email: workersbushtelegraph@gmail.com
Web: Workers BushTelegraph

Ian Curr
July 2010

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