Monday, 23 December 2013

Extension of sand mining to 2035 no certainty

The passing of the Bill by parliament did not receive much publicity probably due to the sacking of the Parliamentary Crime and Misconduct Committee occurring on the same day.

Importantly, under the amendments to the North Stradbroke Act, which became law on 27 November, no application for the extension of sand mining at Enterprise mine can be made before 2019. In other words, 2019 remains the end date for mining for another six years.

The key section relating to the timing of applications to extend the Enterprise mine leases is 11C of the amendment act https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/LEGISLTN/ACTS/2013/13AC063.pdf

11C allows applications for renewal “within the renewal period”. Section 11C(3) defines the “renewal period” as, in effect, during the last year of the current term.

31 December, 2019 is the expiry date of the current terms of the Enterprise leases, including the main one, ML 1117- see Schedule 1 of the 2011 Act. https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/LEGISLTN/CURRENT/N/NorthStradA11.pdf

Schedule 1 has been amended in some respects, but the 31 December, 2019 dates in column 2 were not altered. (The 31 October, 2025 dates in column 2 relate to the Vance silica mine lease.)

There is nothing to stop a future parliament amending the legislation, just as the current parliament has just amended the 2011 Act, – including by repealing the Newman amendments altogether. If that occurred, it would mean that sand mining would end at Enterprise mine in 2019.

Apart from the obvious potential for a change of government before 2019, as members know there are a number of issues which may throw up further obstacles to the planned extension. These include:-

The current criminal charges against Sibelco have yet to be decided by the Magistrate. A verdict is expected in the first half of 2014. A guilty verdict may lead to the further charges of stealing and fraud and will throw up further questions relating to Sibelco’s fitness to mine on Stradbroke;

The native title owners, through the chair of the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation, Cameron Costello, have publicly stated that they intend to challenge the planned extension in the Federal Court. If a successful challenge is made, the planned extension is unlikely to proceed.

The commonwealth environment department is investigating whether the Enterprise mine commenced in 2004 (and has continued to operate since) without approval under Federal environment laws. The consequences of a finding against Sibelco are unknown.

All this means that FOSI needs to continue to point out that North Stradbroke Island deserves a better future. In recent times, committee members have noticed a change in attitude on the island. People generally had become accustomed to mining ending at Enterprise in 2019. The idea that this could be extended to 2035 is repugnant to many people who have previously not voiced their opinions, including a significant number of island business owners.