Qld gov’t soft on sand thief

Sand mining on North Stradbroke Island.

Environmentalists are calling for the state government to cancel a mining lease on North Stradbroke Island, off the coast of Brisbane. Huge quantities of sand on the island has been illegally mined and sold to landscape and building industries.

On July 3, the Queensland Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by mining company Unimin against a Supreme Court ruling in December 2009 that it had carried out illegal mining and sale of the sand.

The Bligh state government has pledged to phase out sand mining on Stradbroke and recognise most of the island as a national park. Environmentalists called on the government to immediately cancel Unimin's mining lease.

Up to 100,000 tonnes of sand a year, worth more than $80 million, has been illegally mined and sold from the island over more than a decade.

Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland president Simon Baltais said in the July 6 Courier Mail: "The illegally removed sand should have been used to rehabilitate land, in accordance with Unimin's obligations under the Mineral Resources Act. We call on the state government to cancel Unimin's lease over the 'Vance' mine — the site of these unlawful activities."

The Bligh government is prosecuting the company for illegal mining, but local communities and environmentalists are campaigning for criminal charges to be laid. Dale Ruska, one of North Stradbroke Island’s Aboriginal traditional owners, accused the state government of being lenient on Unimin because of the royalties paid by the company.

Ruska said in the July 6 Courier Mail: "The state government collected royalties from unlawful sand sales — are they implicated in this unlawful operation by receiving the economic proceeds of crime and are they trying to cover this up by being soft with their prosecution of the mining company?”

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