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Byron Shire
October 22, 2021

Mining, not waves, destroyed Belongil

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Oh, spare me. The Belongil? Again? Could The Echo run that article from a few years back that detailed (with photos) the deep sandmining that destroyed the ancient solid dune base right across Byron Bay and Tallows and more?

Is there anyone left alive who knows there’s a place called The Sand Hills Estate in Byron Bay, and why? As a reminder, it’s where the YAC is, and there were huge sand hills there, which were mined out. Does anyone recall there was a freshwater lake there, just like the ones on Fraser Island that had to be protected from sandmining in the 70s? Byron’s lake was not protected, and it was destroyed by sandmining.

Are there still residents who recall the mining industry and politicians saying the mining was ever so important, for the space program no less, and that the beaches would be fine? Because a magic plant named bitou bush would hold the soft sand together after the ancient black sand was removed?

But it turned out the black sand was used for cheap insulation on power lines, the bitou bush became an ecological nightmare, and the soft sand washed away in the first big storm. Does anyone remember any of this? Or that we even used to have black sand? And that was when the mining industry/political fixers came up with: it’s a natural process and we need a planned retreat? Any of this sound familiar? Does anyone know what the black sand was, how it got there, and how long it takes to accumulate?

And the current cliff edge at Belongil? Anyone actually bother to look at a survey map? Because that edge just happens to be where the mining stopped, at boundaries of private land. Notice that otherwise the whole thing would have been mined, washed away, and the sea would likely be across Ewingsdale Road?

For goodness sake, anyone remember the radioactive tailings dumped as landfill around town, that was all supposed to be fine? Until some smart bloke wandered about with a Geiger counter and a few people woke up. Is that sand-processing plant still rusting on the beach at Kingscliff? You know, the one with the big signs that say ‘WARNING: RADIOACTIVE’?

For pity’s sake, what on Earth lets people make statements without any reference to the geological, industrial, or political history of the landscape, and line up as the poster boys for mining industry arse-covering, and yet claim to give a damn about the world?

Listen, John Vaughan may annoy people, he may be obstreperous and confrontational in manner, but he’s actually, in this case, right. Do. Your. Homework. Or. Don’t. Put. Your. Hand. Up.

Matt Hartley, Byron Bay


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  1. An article from an old Northern Star newspaper spoke of the ocean having broke thru what would be the Sandhills Estate now and sent seawater as far as the Norco building.The writer spoke of having to ride thru sea foam as deep as the horse .So Byron Bay has always been subject to damage to its “Terraces” even before sand mining,read thru all the old Northern Star newspapers from 1883 onwards to delve even deeper into history of damage to our our much love beaches and dunes.

  2. The whole coastline of NSW was so different before the rutile miners. We ( me and me Dad) fished the beaches from The Entrance to Ballina back 45/50 years ago and the coast had hugh dunes and beautiful billabongs ,teatree forests and birds. oh so many birds. The miners were operating on a small scale but as they pulled all the heavy mineral, I think it was rutile, all the beaches they raped changed very quickly. As I got older we surfed up and down the coast and saw the same changes. The sand moved faster with the base disturbed. They made some great rutile tracks which led to some good surf, but that’s another story

  3. VOS remembers those times of the OLD BB town…observing Pippis & walking 1/2 way on low tide to Julian Rocks…living on Wategoes & eating only banannas & flat-head…watching the old Jetty as a teenager…& then all the “throngs& traffic” moved in..& then the beaches & roads were all dissarranged…no place is sacred to Tourism..may the seas move in as the water -table emerges in the smell of effluence…So long gone was a PARADISE LOST!


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