Native title questions after mining extension

THE state government said this week's proposed changes to the North Stradbroke Island Sustainability Act do not breach native title agreements with the indigenous Quandamooka People.

The amendments, put to Parliament this week by Mines Minister Andrew Cripps, allow sand mining on the island after 2019 to 2035.

Mr Cripps said the amendments did not require the government to alter the Indigenous Land Use Agreements with the Quandamooka People and said the mining leases to be extended were not in national parks.

He said the legislation was to protect jobs and help the island switch from a sand mining-based economy to other industries and it was too early to phase out sand mining in 2019 as there was no alternative economic activity.

Quandamooka Yulluburrabee Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Cameron Costello, who said he was not consulted before the amendment was put to parliament, contested Mr Cripps’ claim the land use agreements did not have to be altered.

“We don’t believe that is true and the only way people can continue to use our land is by amending the land use agreements,” Mr Costello said.

“The government cannot extend the mine leases without consulting us or without breaching the land use agreements so we are consulting our lawyers.”

Straddie miner Sibelco welcomed the move and said it gave its operations certainty and the island time to build other industries.

Sibelco’s Paul Smith said the land use agreements did not have to be altered because the leases being extended were outside the land use agreements.

“Sibelco continues to be a good neighbour and we have worked hard to ensure our operations are in accordance with the Native Title rights of the Quandamooka people,” Mr Smith said.

 “By continuing the life of sand mining, we are also ensuring the continuity of job security for a large number of indigenous and non-indigenous families on NSI and the continuation of our support for the Island community.”

Cleveland MP Mark Robinson said the last election, where he won the three major booths on the island, gave the LNP government a mandate to continue mining on Straddie.

“It is estimated Sibelco Australia Limited injects close to $130 million annually into the Queensland economy and the mining industry employs around 14 per cent of the island’s total workforce,” Mr Robinson said.

“This critical employment and economic investment in North Stradbroke Island would have been lost had the former Labor administration’s green-driven agenda been allowed to continue.

“It will take time to develop the private sector interest and investment to encourage the development of nature-based recreation, tourism and education on the Island and I’m certain residents will be relieved to have a more sensible, well-planned end to sand mining under the Newman Government.”

But the Australian Conservation Foundation claimed the Enterprise mine did not have federal approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and extending the mine’s life was detrimental to the environment and disrespectful of native title.

The foundation’s Jess Abrahams said the leases should not be extending while the federal Environment Department was investigating approval for the mine under the Act.

“Minister Cripps also claims mining will not impact the Quandamooka people’s Indigenous Land Use Agreement, but any extension of mining leases requires a further suppression of the Quandamooka people’s native title rights and interests,” Mr Abrahams said.

“The Quandamooka people must be properly consulted and given the opportunity to give or withhold their consent before this occurs,” he said.

Enterprise mine on North Stradbroke island will be allowed to operate until 2035 under an amendment to the North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability Act brought before parliament on Thursday. Photo: Judith Kerr

Enterprise mine on North Stradbroke island will be allowed to operate until 2035 under an amendment to the North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability Act brought before parliament on Thursday. Photo: Judith Kerr