Development of a mineral sands (ilmenite) mine in Central Queensland resulted in complaints of land and vegetation clearing without planning approval.
Goondicum Resources conducted the unauthorised clearance of a 50m by 800m road access easement in August 2014, at a property run by cattle farmers Rob and Nadia Campbell.
The road section was designed to create a shorter haulage route from the mine to port at Gladstone.
The Campbells said notice of the clearing was given by email on a Friday afternoon, the day before their wedding.
“We were away getting married on August 16 and on the Friday before the wedding, once we'd already headed down to Agnes [Water], they emailed us, telling us they were sending the bulldozers in on the Monday and Tuesday,” Nadia Campbell told the ABC.
The Campbell’s complained to the Department of Environment (DoE) about the land clearing, which sent investigators who confirmed the work was not authorised.
Goondicum managing director Mark McCauley admitted the company did not have the correct approval for the clearing, which served to realign a surveyed road.
“We should've waited for the approval, or put the road on the existing road reserve, or we should have obtained vegetation clearances,” he said.
“We are working with all departments to get a vegetation clearance in retrospect.
“We can't hide from the fact we should have waited for approvals.”
The land in question is crown land, which the Campbells could not dispute being used for mining purposes, but could negotiate for compensation.
So far Goondicum has control of a 500 hectare lease for the mine within the 7000 hectare property, a lease which was formed 15 years ago and renewed in 2012, however an application is in place to extend the mining lease over another 2800 hectares of land on the property, which would acquire nearly half of the land used by the Campbells.
The DoE Wildlife Management Unit will investigate the matter further for compliance with “obligations relating to flora and fauna given the works on the road reserve and on State Land have interfered with animal breeding places and pass through areas mapped as being core koala habitat and of State Biodiversity Significance”.
The smell of dead wildlife, fur, and a dead native bird were found at the site after clearing took place, which is a known habitat of the endangered Glossy Black Cockatoo and the native Pebble Mound Mouse.
McCauley said the company undertook flora and fauna surveys and used a spotter/catcher while clearing.
However, since then the Campbell’s have been threatened with legal action by Goodicum.
A letter from the company’s lawyers told the landholders: “Unless you immediately desist from your conduct in harassing our client's employees and contractors, it will without further notice commence proceedings against you for a restraining order.”
McCauley told the ABC that he had an obligation to ensure his employees would not be told they were breaking the law.
North Burnett Council mayor Don Waugh told Australian Mining the land in question had been surveyed decades before for a gazetted road, although it was not built and used for grazing land instead.
“Goodicum have always worked very well with council, so we have not had a problem in that area, they have sought approval and support and confirmation from council and we’ve given that all along,” he said.
Mayor Waugh said he was in support of the mine, which will employ around 50 people from the local region, and that it was regretful that relations between the landholders and Goondicum had soured.
“Rob and Nadia Campbell are very nice people, they run an excellent property up there, and in any other circumstances it would be unfortunate to have a mining lease take over it, but the fact that a mining lease has been granted, and these people from the mine are working within their jurisdiction, and they would love the Campbells to work with them, but that’s not the case apparently.”
“Its not the first time there have been confrontations between them relating to roadworks… there may be something deeper there than legality.
Mayor Waugh said he would like to be involved with relations between the landholders and the mining company.
Goondicum Resources is owned by Canadian miner Melior Resources.