Friday, 30 April 2010

Unimin faces court on illegal mining charges

Investigations have revealed an alleged multi-million dollar sand mining scam orchestrated by Island sand mining company Unimin Australia Ltd. 

Unimin in court... Unimin’s NSI operations were under scrutiny when the miner faced court on illegal mining charges.
The company has been charged with criminal offences alleging that it illegally removed and sold sand for construction and landscaping purposes for the last decade. It did not have a permit under the Forestry Act - required for the sale of non-mineral sand.

The company has not yet been charged with ‘stealing’ the sand or with ‘serious environmental harm’ for not using the sand for rehabilitation of legally mined areas. Such charges would allow the Government to recoup the millions of dollars in profits that the company made from its activities, if it is convicted. The existing charges, being non-indictable, do not permit the State to use its confiscation of illegal proceeds legislation.

It was recently revealed by the Government that 50,000 to 100,000 tonnes per year since 1992 has been allegedly removed and sold unlawfully ie. up to 1.8 million tonnes of sand over that period. At a street value of $50 per tonne, a conservative retail price, this means the extent of the alleged illegality is simply staggering – in the vicinity of $80 million dollars.

Unimin claims that it has paid royalties. But as one island resident remarked, “It’s like saying its ok to steal a car, if you pay the rego”.

People gathered at the Cleveland Court House in force to protest against mining on the island. 
Imagine if you or I, with no permit, took an excavator and tip truck to the nearest beach, loaded it up with sand, and then sold it at the local landscaping centre on a Saturday morning. The authorities would shut us down in an instant! It wouldn’t matter if we sent the Government a cheque for 90c per tonne for royalties! Yet Unimin and its predecessor ACI apparently got away with it for two decades before the former EPA finally stepped in and stopped it.

The case against Unimin is continuing.