Opponents of sand mining at Lennox Head say an existing mine operator in the area has ‘snuck in’ a proposal for a massive expansion just before Christmas to avoid public scrutiny.
Town planner Steve Connolly has lodged a development application (DA) for the mine new on behalf of McGearys Quarries, an earth moving company based at Woodburn.
The site has been mined by McGearys since 1995 but the group No Sand Mines For Lennox says the company’s existing DA has expired and the land has not yet been remediated.
Submissions on the DA and Environmental Impact Statement close Monday January 29, the day before school goes back.
Whether the timing is deliberate may be a moot point. Nevertheless, not all councillors were aware of the DA’s lodgement, including Cr Jeff Johnson, whose ward covers Lennox Head.
Mayor David Wright was part of the Joint Regional Planning Panel decision that approved a much smaller mine in the same area some some years ago and the group No Sand Mines for Lennox is calling on him ‘to extend this consultation period to at least the end of February to enable the community to evaluate the more than 200 pages of documents’.
‘We also call on Ballina Council to finish its evaluation of the over-extraction from the Ballina Sands mine in the same street as directed by council at its November meeting before assessing the new application,’ said the group’s spokesperson Amelia Hicks.
But Cr Johnson said the investigation had now concluded – and it showed Ballina Sands had undertaken ‘significant extraction beyond their consent’.
He told Echonetdaily that the council would now consider whether to proceed with court action against the company.
Ms Hicks said the McGearys proposal estimated that 1.9 million cubic metres (equivalent to 3,610,000 tonnes) would be extracted from the consolidated quarry over a period of 30 years ‘with much of the work taking place over six years’.
1.9 billion litres of water
She said the sand removal would displace ‘some 1.9 billion litres of water on the Newrybar flood plain’ as well as generating ‘thousands of truck movements’.
Cr Johnson, meanwhile, described the timing ‘just after council has dealt with one operation’ as ‘poor, especially given the environmental impact to the flood plain and North Creek.’
‘Now we have a DA for another substantial development. I would encourage as many people as possible to read it and make submissions by the deadline,’ Cr Johnson said.
North Coast Greens MLC Dawn Walker and Ballina MP Tamara Smith have added their voice to the chorus of opposition to the new mine.
Ms Walker said that sand mining had caused ‘significant environmental damage across the Northern NSW coastline’ adding that ‘this proposal for a massive new sand mine at Lennox Head should be treated with great concern.’
‘The Greens stand with the community and share their concerns about the potential impacts of this mega sand mine and I’ll be keeping a close eye on the decision made by Ballina Shire Council,’ Ms Walker said.
Ballina Greens MP Tamara Smith, who has met with No Sand Mine for Lennox several times, has formally raised her concerns with Ballina Shire council about over-extraction and the fragility of the environment and community surrounding the historical sand mine areas in Lennox Head.
‘When a community signs off on an extractive industry for 20 years on the proviso that at the end of that time the land will be repatriated, the peace on the roads will be restored and the strain on the environment will cease, then that’s what should happen,’ she said.
‘Instead the community has been duped and the land is not being restored which makes a mockery of the repatriation agreements with the mining industry.
‘Council have a duty to ensure that developers meet their agreements lest we lose complete faith in the planning system,’ Ms Smith said.