In September 2011 a NSW court found sand mining company Sibelco guilty of allowing a dam wall at its mine in the Upper Hunter (NSW) to collapse, releasing up to five million litres of sediment laden water which seriously polluted Middle Brook.
Sibelco’s environmental management systems don’t work
This episode demonstrates that Sibelco’s systems for environmental management do not work. The New South Wales court found Sibelco did not even know they polluted 2.8 kilometres of creek in the Upper Hunter, impacting the habitat of local animals, and making the water undrinkable for neighbours.
In convicting Sibelco, Her Honour Justice Nicola Pain noted:
“a neighbouring landowner noticed the sediment in the water and notified the EPA. The alarm was not raised as result of any system in place on the mine site. This suggests more could have been done to monitor the dam wall and have in place a system to deal with the possibility of collapse.”
Sibelco can’t be trusted
Sibelco’s recent failure in New South Wales demonstrates that sand mining company Sibelco can’t be trusted to protect the environment on Stradbroke Island. For example, a similar incident could happen on Stradbroke where sand mining occurs near Eighteen Mile Swamp, part of Stradbroke’s newly declared National Park and an internationally recognised wetland.
Community is locked out from seeing Sibelco’s damage to Straddie
Under threat of prosecution for trespass the community is locked out of the vast areas of Straddie which are still covered by sand mining leases. This means the damage is hidden from the community, unlike in the Hunter valley where a neighbour intervened.
Sibelco fails to respond to community concerns
In 2010 local environment groups (FOSI and SIMO) wrote to Sibelco regarding concerns over damage to the island’s aquifer and waterbodies. Our queries were framed on the advice of a renowned expert. Sibelco has failed to respond. Given past environmental damage and Sibelco’s recent conviction in NSW lcoal groups and residents are very concerned. See letter. (Note: The mining company now called Sibelco used to be called Unimin.)
Sibelco also guilty of illegally taking and selling sand
This is the not the first time it’s been demonstrated in court that Sibelco can’t be trusted. In July 2010 Sibelco was found by Queensland’s Court of Appeal to have acted illegally by taking and selling sand for construction and landscaping purposes, instead of using it for rehabilitation They are due in court in November 2011 to face criminal charges. See more about the unlawful taking of sand.
Government extension of sand mining for 14 years is irresponsible
Local environment groups are not prepared to accept baseless assurances from Sibelco or the government that sand mining won’t have serious devastating long term impacts on Stradbroke. The Bligh government’s 2011 legislation to extend Straddie sand mining for another 14 years is irresponsible and incompetent given the repeated court findings against Sibelco.
Sand mining must end immediately, the precautionary principle must be applied. The economy of nature based tourism in these areas would be ruined if this happened on Stradbroke.