Sibelco can’t be trusted

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.

See: Media release from NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, 9 September 2011. This is also available at: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/media/DecMedia11090902.htm

Court finds Sibelco guilty again

Sibelco guilty of pollution

A recent NSW court finding against sand mining company Sibelco casts serious doubt over the Bligh government’s recent decision to extend destructive sand mining on Stradbroke Island for another 14 years.

The foreign sand mining company, Sibelco, which owns and operates the three sand mines on North Stradbroke Island, has pleaded guilty to 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.

“What happened 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” said Nikki Parker, spokesperson for Friends of Stradbroke Island.

“We 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 government’s recent extension of 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.”

“This is the not the first time it’s been demonstrated in court that Sibelco can’t be trusted. In July last year 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 rehabilitationThey are currently facing criminal charges.”

“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.”

Last week 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.”

“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.”

“A year ago we wrote to Sibelco about our concerns about 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 we are very concerned.”

NSW government media release about the charges against Sibelco:

http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/media/DecMedia11090902.htm

More on the criminal charges: Sibelco (under their former company name, Unimin) is currently facing minor criminal charges after Queensland’s Court of Appeal found they engaged in illegal activity by taking and selling sand for construction purposes.This sand has been valued at $80 million.Despite senior counsel legal advice that there is a prima facie case of the serious criminal charges of stealing and fraud the Queensland government is refusing to pursue these charges and has even refused to send all the evidence to the Director of Public Prosecutions for his assessment of appropriate criminal charges.

For more information:

Nikki Parker, spokesperson for Friends of Stradbroke Island

045 999 0737

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