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Thursday, 4 December 1986
Page: 3397

Senator JONES —On behalf of the Senate Standing Committee on Science, Technology and the Environment, I present a report on the Shelburne Bay sand mining proposal, together with the transcript of evidence.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Senator JONES —by leave-I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

Shelburne Bay is located on the eastern side of Cape York Peninsula less than 200 kilometres from the northern tip of the cape. It is at present a virtually uninhabited area of outstanding scenic and biological significance. The area is an immense wilderness of lightly vegetated sand dunes, covering hundreds of square kilometres. It is the ancestral homeland of the Wuttati Aboriginal people. From another point of view, the giant dunes of fine white sand are a valuable deposit of silicon dioxide, or silica. There is a proposal to excavate the silica sand, wash it, and export it to the Japanese and other markets at the rate of upwards of 500,000 tonnes per year.

Senator Vigor, Senator Townley and I made a visit to Shelburne Bay to ascertain for ourselves the environmental impact of the proposed sand mining operation. The majority conclusions of our Committee-from which Senator Townley dissents-were: That a land use plan for the whole of Cape York Peninsula was an urgent priority; that the north-east Cape York Peninsula was an area of high conservation and wilderness value; that there were huge resources of high quality silica sand available at Cape Flattery, where there is already a large mining operation; and that the economic benefits accruing to Australia are either uncertain or insignificant. On the basis of the evidence received, the majority of the Committee members were of the view that the proposed mining venture should not be allowed to proceed. The Committee was also concerned at the lack of consultation with the Wuttati people in this case. We were strongly of the view that in the formulation of land use plans for Cape York Peninsula there be full consultation with the Cape York Aboriginal people. If, however, the project is allowed to proceed, the Committee has made certain recommendations designed to minimise its impact on the local natural environment. In particular, we recommend the establishment of an environmental monitoring committee comprising the mining company, the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Queensland Conservation Council and the Wuttati people and convened by the Department of Arts, Heritage and Environment. I commend the report to honourable senators.