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Think sustainably beyond sand mining

Sand mining has damaged the fragile, unique and biodiverse beach, dune, forest and wetland ecosystems on Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) for over 70 years.

Sand mining on Minjerribah was always a short-sighted economic strategy – degrading the natural environment to exploit a finite resource which is vulnerable to global market fluctuations, and which provided limited flow-on benefits for the local community.

FOSI has campaigned for several decades for an end to sand mining on Minjerribah. We believe that an end to sand mining is a crucial step in ensuring the future of the island as a unique tourist destination for travellers from all over the world.

The sand mining legacy

Sibelco’s mining leases on the island expired at the end of 2019. FOSI now calls on the State Government to rigorously monitor compliance with all Sibelco’s end-of-lease obligations, to give the island the best chance of recovery from sand mining’s lasting impacts.

The end of sand mining provides a chance to create a more resilient economic base for the island. The Queensland Government’s Economic Transition Strategy (now known as “Minjerribah Futures”) involves an investment of $24.75 million to enable the economic transition away from mining towards education, cultural, and eco-tourism, with expanded research and educational activities on the island to complement the increase in tourism.

Sibelco’s mining rehabilitation plan is expected to take five to six years before revegetation can begin, and this long-awaited opportunity is not without its risks.

Sandbanks fan out from the South Passage, between Moreton Island and North Stradbroke Island.

All Eyes on Earth by NASA’s Planet Labs CC BY-NC 2.0

An environment and people focused economy

Many of the physical impacts from sand mining on the island are irreversible and have made its ecosystems more vulnerable to natural disasters. Bushfires and cyclones, which regularly affect the island, are expected to be more frequent, intense and less predictable as a consequence of anthropogenic climate change.

It is critical that long term sustainability of the island underpins all major decisions over the next few years. The State Government funding must be spent wisely to yield a return for the environment, residents and visitors alike.

Various projects in the pipeline include new recreational trails, camping upgrades and the development of new eco-tourism facilities. All these projects are aimed at stimulating Minjerribah’s economy by drawing more visitors to the island. Whilst we are generally supportive of these initiatives, we urge decision makers to ensure that the environmental impacts of future developments are minimised.

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