Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Offshore Sand Mining should be considered in the Sydney Construction Materials Strategy

Sydney has a voracious demand for sand and is set to consume increasing amounts of sand from Newnes Plateau and five other very environmentally sensitive areas.  The Colong Foundation, however, proposes that offshore sand extraction should be considered as an alternative option in the Sydney Construction Materials Strategy currently being developed by the Department of Planning.

‘The Government and Opposition parties placed a blanket veto on offshore sand mining in 1990s.  This political stance assumes that mining ocean sands must have a greater environmental impact than quarrying land-based resources such as outstanding scenery, unique ecosystems and even community amenity where mining occurs next to residential areas.  I think the major parties should rethink their stance on sand mining,’ said Keith Muir director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

‘Large offshore sand deposits, especially those subjected to bottom trawl fishing, the marine equivalent to clearfelling forests, are no longer high conservation environments.  I can imagine that some offshore areas might be mined a few kilometres offshore with less impact than land-based quarrying, he said.

“However, the close offshore marine sand deposits by proposed for mining by Metromix off Royal National Park in the 1990s should not be developed.  I am aware of the dangers of near shore ocean mining in depths less than 40 metres where mining might interfere with natural replenishment of beach sand by ocean currents.  Similarly mining areas covered with sewage sludge might release unacceptable toxic pollution’, he said.

‘Newnes Plateau is being investigated as a potential 500 million tonne resource but the area has very high conservation values.  It should not become the substitute sand resource for the diminishing resources of Kurnell Peninsula and Penrith Lakes.

‘A Sydney Construction Materials Strategy is currently being development by the Department of Planning.  It should make a comparative assessment between the potential quarrying areas to identify those that could be developed and those protected from mining, Mr Muir said.

‘Of course the mining industry wants to develop every identified deposit, but Government should decide where the sand resources are to be mined for the next 50 or so years.  The risks of mining sand further offshore should be properly considered against the impacts of land-based quarrying.  The Department of Planning should take a thorough and public review of the alternatives and present to Government only those options that cause the least environmental and social damage, said Mr Muir. 

For more information contact: Keith Muir, (02) 9261 2400 (wk) or 9550 3615 (ah)