Sibelco to take mining ban to media

Mining company Sibelco has been forced to close its major mine eight years earlier than expected and says it will take the matter to the mass media.

The North Stradbroke Island miner, which accounts for 60 per cent of sand construction and on the island, will be forced to close its operations in 2019, despite a promise last year that it could remain open until 2027.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh made the announcement, which will see the closure of 94 per cent of mining on the island, on Tuesday.

Sibelco owns all three mines on Stradbroke Island, and both the Yarraman and Vance mines will close in accordance with original plans, in 2015 and 2025 respectively.

All mining will be banned on the island from 2025 and to increase tourism 80 per cent, 22 000 hectares, of the island will become national park.

Sibelco is hotly opposing the new direction for the island and will take its fight public with a full-page advertisement in a state-wide paper and further advertisements on three commercial television networks on Thursday.

The company’s spokesman, Paul Smith said the unprecedented decision by the state government will risk all other mining in the state at risk and that Enterprise had a lease to mine until 2027.

"The public is fairly removed from our little island in the sun but this affects all of Queensland as it is a deliberate attempt to remove the sovereign rights of a mining company or in fact anyone who owns a lease," Mr Smith told AAP.

"This is saying that you can no longer be guaranteed a renewal of lease and you can no longer be guaranteed – if you have an existing lease – that you are allowed to conduct your business on there."

The Queensland Council has also made its unhappiness with the unexpected decision known, via a statement on its website.

‘Events of this week where QRC member Sibelco had existing mining leases cancelled on a political whim make promoting the state as an exploration destination all the harder, however we are a confident lot, and this will not deter us in our determination to restore investors’ faith in Queensland,’ QRC Chief Executive Michael Roche said.

Roche warns that the state will be losing out on profits from its most lucrative industry if the changes go ahead.

‘With the world clamouring for our minerals and energy resources and some of our larger mines coming toward the end of their life, we need to encourage explorers to find those next big deposits to retain the economic stimulus this sector brings to the state,’ said Mr Roche.

‘Unfortunately, with the policies we are seeing out of government such as Wild Rivers declarations, proposed strategic cropping land legislation, and now the cancellation of mining leases, Queensland’s rating as a secure place to invest has taken a tumble.

Smith has accused the government of playing political games with the company, saying the Premier has broken a promise as part of a preference deal with the Greens.

"This is about winning marginal seats in Brisbane and is not about protecting the environment or building a sustainable economy for islanders," Smith said.

"This Bill makes no sense, the people of Stradbroke Island don’t want it and it doesn’t give time for an economic transition.

"The premier’s decision is ludicrous and questions the viability of our operation before 2019."
Smith said 650 people employed with Sibelco at its three mines would be put at risk.

The local community is joining to fight the mining ban, and establish some certainty for their future.
Sustainable Stradbroke says the decision to close the mines on the island “has created considerable uncertainty for Sibelco Australia’s operations as well as the NSI community.”

“Since the 1950s, sand mining on NSI has underpinned the strong community and prosperity we see today. We believe there is an economically sound, environmentally and socially responsible means of achieving a sustainable future for NSI up to 2027 and beyond,” its website reads.

“Results from a recent independent opinion poll show 81% of Queenslanders support a continuation of sand mining on NSI to 2027 and do not want an early shut down of mining on the island. “

Image: Sustainable Stradbroke

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