Sand mining finally ends

Sand mining finally ends

Sandmining officially ends today (31.12.19), with the loss of 30 mining jobs. Save Straddie has changed its logo to reflect the end of mining. The colours denote our hope, and the hope of most people who love the Island, for a clean and green future. Much damage has been done to the Island’s landscapes and ecosystems, and its lakes, swamps and aquifer. Rehabilitation should take many years.

We wish to acknowledge the years of hard work by a small number of people, including some Aboriginal residents of the Island, who maintained their active opposition to destructive sand mining, in some cases for decades. They put up with intimidation, backstabbing, and even assaults. But they stood strong with the aim of protecting the Island from further damage.

We also acknowledge the many who made submissions to Government opposing sand mining and generally made their opposition known by such steps as writing letters to newspapers and making online contributions.

The end of sand mining did not just happen. Even in 2015/16, the politicians dragged out the return to the 2019 end date, which had been legislated by the Bligh Government but overturned by the Newman Government. Before today’s date finally was reinstated, there was a concerted attempt to “compromise” on a 2024 end date. That would have allowed hundreds more hectares of landscape and layered, ancient sand dunes to be destroyed by Sibelco, the Belgian sand miner.

1997 photo protest camp near dunwich
A 1997 protest camp near Dunwich
The so-called 'Enterprise' mine in 2019
18 Mile Swamp endangered frog habit on North Stradbroke Island
18 mile swamp, east of 'Enterprise' mine

On 12 December this year, the truth about the jobs impact of ending mining on Stradbroke finally emerged in mainstream media when the ABC reported the statement by the Sibelco CEO that 30 sand miners will lose their jobs by today. 70 people will be employed in decommissioning and rehabilitating areas destroyed or damaged by sand mining.

Politicians and others, including Sibelco, had “grossly exaggerated” the end of mining impacts on the Island for years. One politician claimed/lied that “650 Stradbroke resident sand miners” would lose their jobs when mining ended. It really was a “Storm in a teacup”, begun by Sibelco and taken up by others wanting to exploit Straddie in a different way.

But now the truth has emerged, it is time for reflection. More consideration and consultation needs to occur, instead of the headlong plunge into building expensive ‘Tourist Attractions’ most people don’t want, and which most now see as completely unnecessary. And the environmentally destructive Toondah real estate plan must be dropped.

Major justifications for Toondah were the myths of jobs for ex-sand miners and the need for an economic transition imposed by Government. The Island’s ‘Economic Transition Strategy’ (ETS) is mostly NOT being spent on what people need. So far, more than $40 Million has been allocated – add up the figures in the ETS 2017-18 Annual Update.

The ETS largely is based on myths created by Sibelco, politicians and a few others. Given Straddie’s sensitive environment and the damage done over decades, the Island needs a break. And there is time for that, now the true facts have emerged about the jobs. Should there be an Independent Inquiry into the myths and lies about ending sand mining on Straddie?

The Inquiry could also examine the hyped ‘Economic Transition Strategy’ and its purposes. Put simply, the ETS is based on the myth that Government needs to “create” tourist attractions to replace a “mining economy” which largely disappeared years ago. The BS about the number of jobs has been exposed.

The misdirected ETS needs to be scrutinised and a change of direction is called for. For example, a building to house a whale skeleton in the iconic Point Lookout Public Reserve (Gorge Walk) is not wanted or needed. An Independent Inquiry could also allow discussion and submissions about how best to formulate a Management Plan for the Island, to ensure it is protected and preserved for future, and current, generations to enjoy. How many tourists can the Island sustain? How much water can continue to be extracted by SEQ Water from the Island’s depleted, and damaged aquifer?

Answers to these questions should be known if the Island is to be protected. Above all, Aboriginal people, including all Elders, not just those favoured by Government, should be genuinely consulted and invited to participate in real decision making, with traditional processes for reaching decisions respected. All Island residents and rate-payers should also be consulted and involved in decision making. And no more myths or deception! The truth should prevail from now on.