1976 Fraser Island Environmental Inquiry: sand mining causes ‘major permanent and irreversible damage‘.
Both Government and Mining industry propaganda is designed to make the public believe that areas mined can be ‘regenerated’ or ‘rehabilitated’ back to their former state. This is wrong, areas are revegetated (ie trees and other plants are grown), but the natural ecosystems can not be regrown. When old growth forests (pictured right) are destroyed they can not be rehabilitated. These old trees have hollows that provide critical nesting sites for many popular native birds such as parrots (including the endangered glossy black cockatoo) and kookaburras.
These old trees and their hollow bearing trees are destroyed to make way for open cut sandmining (pictured below). Sandmining profits all go overseas to a wealthy Belgian family which owns the sandmines on North Stradbroke island.
Open cut sandmining practices also interfere with complex water tables and can also cause water pollution that can threaten endangered native frogs. – and other animals and plants.
It has been known since the Federal government’s Fraser Island Environmental Inquiry 35 years ago that sand mining on Queensland’s sand islands causes ‘major permanent and irreversible damage’.
The fact sandmining caused irreversible damage to the environment was the basis for then Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and then environment minister Kevin Newman, Campbell Newman’s father, to close down the Fraser Island sandmining industry in just six weeks.
The Fraser Island Inquiry report found that the ‘presence of Special Conditions purporting to restrain the pollution of lakes and watercourses cannot prevent the percolation of substances through the permeable sands of the Island into these water‐bodies, and their resulting pollution.’
In 1976 the Fraser Island Inquiry also found sandmining would pollute wetlands,making it clear that even 500 metre buffer between areas mined and wetlands was ‘totally inadequate’.
Recently, ecology expert warns of ecological loss and problems with sand mining
More recently ecology expert, Professor Carla Catterall, has stated:
The field of ecosystem restoration is currently in its infancy, something like the state of medical practice in the eighteenth century – attempts are being made which vary in their success, but whose outcomes have not been subject to the kind of scientific scrutiny that is needed in order to be even moderately confident of a successful outcome. Furthermore, even in the most promising of situations, there is an extremely high risk that restoration will fail to produce the hoped-for outcomes within the expected time frame (i.e. within a decade or two). Over longer periods, we simply don’t know as the work has not been done.
A scientific review of past attempts at restoring biodiversity and ecosystems (Hilderbrand et al. 2005) concluded that there is a very high risk that restoration projects will fail to achieve their objectives.
My own research into the use of replanted rainforest sites by birds, reptiles and insects has shown that, while ecological development looks encouraging in the first decade (with apparently 50% recovery after 10 years), there is substantial risk that many sites may never regain the other 50% of biodiversity, and at best it will require many further decades (see Catterall et al. 2008).
In the case of post-mining restoration of natural ecosystems to sand deposits of coastal Southeast Queensland, the failure risk is far higher, due to the unusual soil nutrient requirements of many plant species and the relatively poor ecological understanding of the fauna and flora. If the restored ecosystem only partially resembles the original, there is a further risk that it may lack resilience to fire, storms and climate change.