Beware of myths about the end of sandmining

Beware of myths about the end of sandmining

Although there are different views about sandmining ending finally at the last remaining sand mine, the so-called ‘Enterprise mine’, on 31 December, 2019, most would agree that Straddie’s future should be grounded in truth, not myths or lies.

In addition to myths about employment and the impact of ending sandmining (e.g. see the ‘Future’ tab), unfortunately, one or two people connected to the native title corporation (QYAC) have claimed “the ending of sand mining came about through the 2011 (native title) determination”, or words to that effect. That claim is not true. In fact, in March, 2011, destructive sandmining was extended for 8 more years. When sandmining ended on Fraser Island in the 1970’s, 6 weeks notice was given after the Inquiry into sandmining concluded it caused ‘permanent and irreversible environmental harm’.

The 8 year extension on Stradbroke occurred with the knowledge and at least tacit consent of those controlling the native title claim. A share of the annual Royalties from mining was then paid to the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation (QYAC). That would have amounted to a very substantial amount of money over the ensuing decade.

Although Labor subsequently repealed the Newman Government’s attempt to extend sandmining even further, it should not be forgotten Labor’s 8 year extension occurred despite a long campaign, begun in the 1990’s, against renewal of expired sandmining leases and the end of mining. The end should have come much earlier than 2019.

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Sandmining at Yarraman mine on Stradbroke Island, September, 2011.
The 'Enterprise' mine on Stradbroke Island in 2010, prior to Labor's extension to 2019.

Prior to the 2011 renewal of key expired leases, opponents (who included some native title claimants) had legal advice that there were strong arguments against renewal. The Bligh Labor Government trampled over the rights of these objectors. It side-stepped the usual process for applications for renewal, and used special legislation to extend the leases and prevent the Courts deciding whether renewal was lawful.

Sibelco had been mining on expired leases, and had no right to renewal. These facts were acknowledged by the Bligh Government in parliament. The explanatory notes to the 2011 Bill introduced into parliament by Labor’s Kate Jones, the then Environment Minister, admitted:

The Bill's objective would be '…achieved by renewing or extending certain leases needed for mining.' (page 3)
'..the Bill also renews a key lease at Enterprise Mine, which expired over three years ago, prior to the current leaseholder acquiring the mine and without which the mine would not be able to operate.' (page 6)
“the holder of a mining lease does not have a right to renewal” (page 6)

This is a quote from an analysis of what occurred in 2011, by the well known Brisbane QC, Stephen Keim – “In 2011, the then ALP Government legislated to extend mining on the Island at the Enterprise mine until 2019. This was achieved by legislatively renewing particular expired mining leases, side-stepping the usual application and decision process and extinguishing the judicial review rights of native title claimants, environment groups and others who had objected to renewal (North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability Act 2011 (Act No. 11 of 2011))”.

Also, it should not be forgotten that in June 2010, the Bligh Government actually announced that it would legislate to ensure mining would not end until 2027 – this was the same year the mining company told the Australian Stock Exchange that it would end mineral sand mining! – see letter to the ASX.

enterprise mine
The 'Enterprise' mine on Stradbroke Island in 2010 before expired mining leases were renewed by the Bligh Government

It is very unlikely the 2027 date would have been announced by then Labor Premier Anna Bligh without those controlling the native title claim knowing about it, and without communication with the Stradbroke Island branch of the Labor Party. The branch President, Howard Guille, emailed members of the Stradbroke community his branch’s position favouring further sandmining, the night before the Bligh Government announced, on 20 June, 2010, its initial 2027 end date for sandmining. (In 2014, Guille also opposed a community group motion calling for the repeal of Newman Government legislation to allow sandmining to continue to 2035).

A concerted campaign, by those who were opposing renewal of expired mining leases, exposing the Bligh Government’s initial end date as coinciding with the wishes of the mining company, forced the Bligh Government to amend the 2027 date to avoid further ridicule. Whatever view you may have of the end of sandmining, it is important the truth prevails, not bare assertions which defy established, provable facts. Stradbroke’s future should be based on truth, not myth or histories concocted to benefit vested interests.