Sand mining sparks protests
By Michelle Foal
and Bill Mason
BRISBANE — "Save Shoalwater Bay, Time is running out!" was the cry as protesters marched through the city streets on June 11. Carrying huge hourglasses with sand trickling through them, the group brought the threat of sand mining to Shoalwater Bay, near Rockhampton, to the attention of all those witnessing the colourful and vocal action.
The federal government has issued a mining lease for the area, against the advice of the CSIRO and the Australian Heritage Commission. It is one of the largest areas of wilderness left in Queensland, and it is of crucial ecological significance.
"For the federal government to issue sand mining leases in this area is an abrogation of its responsibility to the nation and is nothing short of vandalism," said Fiona McFarlane of the Wilderness Society.
Mining of the high dune system, formed over 720,000 years, would cause massive damage to the ecology of the area, and would cost the local communities millions of dollars in the degradation of the present infrastructure and the provision of extra services.
The Queensland Conservation Council has said the mining lease is a major incursion into an area listed on the National Estate.
QCC coordinator Rosey Crisp said Shoalwater Bay was the largest and most diverse undeveloped region on the east coast south of Cairns.
"The mining lease should not have been granted without an exhaustive survey of the biological resources in the area. It is unfortunate that mining will go ahead without even knowing what flora and fauna exist", she said.
At least two other major mineral sands developments are proposed in central Queensland. They include the mining of the Byfield area, south of Shoalwater Bay.
Australian Conservation Foundation Queensland coordinator Mark Horstman has warned of a national campaign of opposition if the state government decides to allow sand mining at the National Estate-listed Shelburne Bay on Cape York Peninsula.