QLD sand mining set to reignite Green debate

The QLD state government is extending sand mining leases in North Stradbroke Island, potentially setting off an environmental stoush.

Miner Sibelco’s spokesman Paul Smith said the company wants the confusion in the leases to be cleared up so mining can go on in the long term on the island off Brisbane.

The company has asked Mines Minister Andrew Cripps to modify its mine path and make lease tenures more straightforward, the Courier Mail reported.

Under the previous government’s policy, Sibelco runs with a layered tenure where rehabilitation takes place on areas officially labelled national park.

“The Government has asked lots of questions and we’ve provided lots of data,” Smith said.

“We’ve got a commitment from them that they will have a look at it and they’ve talked to the Quandamooka people (traditional owners),” Smith said.

Minerals on Sibelco’s Yarraman mine leases is due to dry up in two years but the company is hoping the Enterprise mine would be allowed to go on.

It is due to shut down in 2019.

The path the Enterprise mine takes would be expanded by only around 2 per cent but this would change within its lease to have easier access to resources.

“We haven’t set any date for the extension but the current time frame is very restrictive,” Smith said.

Island resident and scientist Jan Aldenhoven said she sympathised with the mine workers who were anxious about their future but argued Sibelco had already been given sufficient extension by the previous premier Anna Bligh.

She said the community would be hurt by an extension.

“It’s a backwards step and the primary benefit is for a Belgian mining company,” she said.

“It will cause protests.”

The island’s prospects include its extraordinary environment, businesses, education and eco-tourism proposals.

The quarrel has divided island residents.

Bligh consented for mining until 2025 in 2011, but conservation groups slammed her for yielding to pressure from Sibelco.

She announced a plan in Parliament in 2011, stating 'mining may have been part of North Stradbroke's past but won't define its future'.

Smith argued restrictions under Bligh’s scheme would mean mining ended by 2019, with only the tiny silica Vance mine operating.

“We’re the only operation that has a mining lease and a national park operating concurrently,” he said.

“It was done on the basis that the land would not be mined in the future.

“If we want to do some fauna work, we have to get a permit to work in a national park and at the same time I have to meet my environmental authority to mine. It’s driving me nuts.”

Sibelco cut jobs at its troubled Vance mine in April this year as it reduced production at the operation.

It planned to continue production until June when it expected to have sufficient silica to meet contract requirements.

Cripps’ spokeswoman said the Government would keep its promise of extending the mine.

“The Government…believes mining can be appropriately balanced with the preservation and protection of the island’s unique environmental and indigenous values,” she said.

“There are ongoing discussions…regarding the continuation of mining operations. No decisions have been made.”

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