Sand is being taken from the North Shore of Noosa and exported to China.
Sand is being taken from the North Shore of Noosa and exported to China. Nicholas Falconer

Radioactive sand bound for China

TONNES of potentially radioactive mineral sand is being dug out of the scrub behind a Sunshine Coast beach and apparently being shipped directly to China.

A stream of trucks has been removing rich black sand from a large stockpile near the Third Cutting on Noosa North Shore since at least last week.

The sand is being loaded directly into shipping containers on the back of trucks which cross the Noosa River on the ferry and then take their load straight to the Port of Brisbane.

The operation is believed to be remediation of an old mining site by the State Government and that the radioactivity levels of the sand are very low at worst.

Similar clean-ups are under way at Rainbow Beach and North Stradbroke Island, where sand mining will be phased out by 2027.

Kew-based company Victorian Ferries won the State Government contract to remove the material from the Noosa North Shore in what is believed to be a 10-week operation.

The same company carried out the remediation at Rainbow Beach where various sand mining by-products, including radioactive materials, were removed.

Noosa North Shore locals say they believe the sand is being taken directly to China where Ilmenite – an iron titanium oxide and the primary ore of titanium – will be removed .

Ilmenite is the primary ore of titanium, which is used to manufacture strong, lightweight metals parts for aircraft, artificial human joints and sporting equipment.

It is also used in the manufacture of titanium dioxide for paint pigments.

The stream of trucks leaving the site has sparked interest among locals on Noosa North Shore.

“Who gives them the right to cut through the bush, pick this stuff up and sell it in China?” asked one resident who contacted the Daily.

“They reckon they’re getting $100 a tonne for it.

“What’s the story?”

Ian Seels, the president of the Noosa Parks Association, said he was not aware of the project but if it was to improve the environment of the area, he would be all for it.

The association fought long and hard to stop sand mining in the area before finally succeeding in 1970.

“If sand is removed as a one-off or for a very specific purpose, I don’t think the parks association would be opposed as long as the purpose was environmental improvement,” Mr Seels said.

“But if it is in any way, shape or form the start of any prolonged sand mining for any other purpose, we would be vehemently opposed and want to know what and why.”

Noosa MP Glen Elmes confirmed Victorian Ferries Pty Ltd was carrying out the work. “They’re removing the tailings, the leftover sand after treatment, which can be low-grade radioactive,” he said.

“There’s a sign on the property warning people to stay away. They’ve got this area there they’re cleaning up and at Rainbow Beach and Stradbroke Island where they are doing the same thing.”

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