A Very Public Campaign To End Mining

Mining has been a part of the Minjerriba history since 1949. The sand mining industry on Stradbroke Island began with shovels and trucks on Main Beach. This developed over time to large-scale dredging operations and up until 2019 mineral leases covered approximately 60% of the Island. Lines in the Sand A History of Mineral Sandmining on Queensland’s Barrier Islands states that in 1997 the then mine owner CRL commissioned a new mine at the Ibis-Alpha ore-body.

“The new mine became a focal point for the anti-mining campaign and Brisbane-based conservation groups, including the QCC and the Greens, formed the Stradbroke Island Action Coalition (SIAC) which also included the QLC, now strongly opposed to mining. The SIAC organised a number of protests on the Island to highlight their concern including a public rally, held in August 1996,98followed by a blockade of the road to the new mine site which caused delays in the commissioning of the mine” (Sweett, p66).

The author goes onto say that the blockade continued for over a month, but ended after disagreements within QLC and lack of support from SIMO and community.

Stop Ming StradbrokeFigure 1. 1997 Around 60 people gathered at Dunwich March 26 to protest against sand mining. Image retrieved from FOSI Facebook Page.

Originating in 1989, Friends of Stradbroke Island (FOSI) championed the singular campaign to end sand mining, today they have a substantial online presence with web archives going back to 2009. Spear heading the Save Straddy campaign graphic pictorial coverage of the mines damage to the landscape appeared in print media and online with Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian and Courier Mail and local press, also extensive television coverage.

Addressing young academics in 2018 Quandamooka man, Dale Ruska’s states that his great grand-father monitored the number of truck loaded with sand going off the island on the barges to the mainland. Minjerribah is the second largest sand island in the world.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports April 30, 2015 that the state environment department investigation of Sibelco’s illegal removal of sand from the island began in 2008 when a warrant was executed at Sibelco’s offices and seizing incriminating records, including internal emails. The ABCs national 7.30 Report revealed that in 2010, 50, 000 to 100, 000 tonnes of non-mineral sand per year was sold over two decades without a permit. Green groups make…”a marginal estimate of an amount of around $80,000,000 worth of the sand that was unlawfully taken and sold” (Osborne, p.109). Following a bungled prosecution by the state’s environment department, controversial North Stradbroke Island sand miner Sibelco was acquitted on technical legal grounds of two charges of extraction of non-mineral sand without permits. Stradbroke sand mining company was prosecuted on the wrong charges writes Richard Carew.

In June 2010, Premier Anna Bligh announced plans to convert more than half of NSI to national park by 2011, and the complete phase-out of sand mining by 2027. This created considerable uncertainty for sand mining operator, Sibelco (a Belgium owned mining company), Australia and the community. This was also a time marking the end of the Quandamooka people’s 17year struggle to gain native title recognition. With a trade union background and State Organiser for the Building Workers Industrial Union from 1951 to 1978 Uncle Bob Anderson, Ngugi Elder of the Quandamooka was a co-applicant.

‘The Federal Court recognised the Quandamooka People’s exclusive native title rights over about 2,264 hectares of land. The group therefore has exclusive rights to possess, occupy, use and enjoy the area to the exclusion of all others’ Quandamooka People’s native title determinations North Stradbroke Island 4 July 2011. Sibelco began negotiations with government, proposing a staged end to mining by 2027. However, in a surprise announcement in March 2011, the Premier declared an accelerated shutdown timetable by 2019.

Sibelco set about a targeted campaign of its own to undermine the sitting government. Public relations agency Rowland was engaged by Sibelco to develop and implement a multi million dollar public affairs strategy to influence public opinion and political decision-making, to ensure the continuation of sand mining until at least 2027. ‘Straddie Mothers’ campaign saw 98,980 personalised letters distributed to key mainland state electorates between February and April 2012. Retrieved from Sub_120.pdf aph.gov.ay Parliament of Australia. Appendix 1.Sibelco acknowledged spending $91 000 to advertise in Premier Campbell Newman’s Ashgrove electorate during the 2012 state election and his subsequent election in 2013, extended Sibelco’s mining leases. Rowlands self-evaluation states “The strategy was extremely successful with all objectives met or exceeded, and the overall goal exceeded through the government’s commitment to extend sand mining operations to 2035 – eight years beyond the goal deadline”. Retrieved from Sub_120.pdf aph.gov.ay Parliament of Australia

All the while the Quandamooka people formed an indigenous land use agreement with the Bligh Government in July 2011, when the Bligh Government shortened the mining leases. That 2011 agreement was recognised under the Federal Government’s 1993 Native Title Act. However in 2013, Campbell Newman’s LNP government extended the timeframe of sand mining company Sibelco’s mining leases. The Quandamooka people say the LNP spoke with mining company, Sibelco, but not with them.In 2014 Aunty Evelyn Parkin and her sister Grace Graham, Quandmooka elders lodged High Court legal action against the Queensland Government on the bases that the Newman Government’s 2013 legislation – to extend sand mining leases, “contravenes the 1993 Native Title Act.”

REFERENCES

Richard Carew. https://www.smh.com.au/opinion/stradbroke-sand-mining-company-prosecuted-on-the-wrong-charges-20150430-1mx98h.html

Lines in the Sand; A History of Mineral Sandmining on Queensland’s Barrier Islands

Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJf43sVQG6A Dec 13, 2018.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports April 30, 2015

https://www.smh.com.au/opinion/stradbroke-sand-mining-company-prosecuted-on-the-wrong-charges-20150430-1mx98h.html