Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Can Sibelco Hold Back The Gushing Waters?

Since October last year water has been gushing at an alarming rate from dunes and rushing through normally dry watercourses near the Yarraman mine. Yarraman is the nearest mine to Point Lookout and clearly visible from the headland lookouts.

New lakes have formed, where there were none, drowning areas of vegetation. The damage has occurred outside the mining lease in areas north of the well-known Keyholes. In January a number of FOSI members together with an scientific expert accompanied representatives of the traditional owners to inspect the off-lease water flows and environmental impacts.

The miner Sibelco appears to be locked in a battle to control the outflow from the island’s sensitive hydrological system and aquifer. Miners have a long record of this kind of damage to the island with drowned forest and drained lakes as their legacy.

But…. this was not meant to happen again. The “science” had advanced, more knowledge meant more predictability and greater ability to control the waters that are necessarily encountered in deep dredge sand mining.

The consequences of months of sustained leaking from the island’s sensitive hydrological system are probably unpredictable too. It remains to be seen if Sibelco presumably under the authority of its regulator, Queensland’s Environment Department and Minister Powell, can find a solution and prevent a recurrence. Environmental damage to off-lease areas in fact contravenes the conditions of the mining lease.

The best solution naturally is to activate the precautionary principle and abandon the risky dredge mining before the litany of damage overwhelms Stradbroke’s precious environment.