Canadian-owned mining company, Goondicum Resources, may face charges after it admitted to bulldozing hundreds of trees without State approval. While Goondicum Resources had obtained permission to construct an access road between its Goondicum mine and Gladstone Port, the company proceeded to clear up to 900 metres of native bushland outside of the approved road reserve. Goondicum Resources’ managing director has now said that he hopes to gain the requisite State approval retrospectively.
Goondicum Resources runs an ilmenite mine located east of the township of Monto in Central Queensland. Although the breach primarily concerns State land, the mine is operating under a mining lease on a grazing property owned by Rob and Nadia Campbell. Despite the grazing property having been in Mr Campbell’s family for generations, Mr Campbell may not refuse the lease, and instead can only negotiate for compensation.
The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP) has inspected the property following a complaint lodged by the Campbells who discovered dead wildlife amongst the bulldozed debris. The primary breach has been identified as the clearing of land without State approval 900 metres outside of the designated road reserve area. However, in light of the Campbell’s discovery, the DEHP has alluded that the impact of Goodicum Resource’s breach on both the flora and fauna in the area may amount to an act of Environmental Harm under Queensland’s Environmental Protection Act 1994. Importantly, the land cleared has previously been identified as core koala habitat and of State biodiversity significance. Accordingly, the DEHP are currently working with its Wildlife Management Unit to determine the scope of the impact. Moreover, the DEHP has criticised Goondicum Resource’s failure to implement appropriate erosion and sediment controls along the road construction site. This discrepancy is to be the subject of serious consideration as the construction has occurred in both the Burnett River and Kolan River Catchments, which are deemed as ‘high value’ according to the Wide Bay Burnett Riverine Aquatic Conservation Assessment.
The managing director of Goondicum Resources, Mark McCauley, has conceded that the company “didn’t have the appropriate approval for the 900 metre realignment” and that instead of proceeding with the illegal land clearing, the company “should have waited for the approval, or put the road on the existing road reserve, or we should have obtained vegetation clearances”. In light of this admission, Mr McCauley is now seeking State approval retrospectively so that the construction of the access road may continue. However, Goodicum Resources has not admitted the same degree of liability in respect of the other identified impacts. Notably, in respect of the potential harm done to local wildlife, Goondicum Resources has defended itself by asserting that it had employed a professional spotter/catcher who worked closely with contractors to minimise any potential harm to local wildlife. In addition, Mr McCauley went on to state that “we’ve got bulldozers clearing trees. I can’t guarantee that there will be nil impact on animal life”.
While many may applaud the DEHP’s response, it is still questionable as to why such breaches are being allowed to occur in the first place, and whether enforcement would have ensued had the DEHP not received the Campbell’s complaint. In April 2014, the Auditor General presented a report to the Queensland Parliament criticising the Queensland Government’s regulation of the resources industry, and thus protection of the environment. Perhaps breaches such as that committed by Goondicum Resources is exactly what the Auditor General was referring to.
Written by Rebecca Jancauskas
Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: November 30, 2014.