Saving Straddie’s Sand


After seven decades, sand mining operations have stopped in Australia’s North Stradbroke Island.

North Stradbroke Island—affectionately nicknamed “Straddie”—is the world’s second-largest sand island. Located about 30 kilometers (20 miles) southeast of Brisbane, Australia, Straddie is a major tourism draw in Queensland, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year to enjoy the beaches, wildlife, and surfing.

The island also attracted corporations interested in mining minerals from the sand. Although it contributed millions of dollars to the island’s economy, sand mining has been a controversial enterprise because of its impact on wildlife habitats and Aboriginal archeological sites. Nearly all of the vegetation gets destroyed at mining sites and the recovery is slow.

But after nearly seven decades on the island, sand mining activities have stopped in recent years due to expired mining leases. In 2011, the Australian government passed the North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability Act, which placed deadlines to phase out activity at the island’s three mines. In December 2019, the Enterprise mine, the last one still operating on the island, was scheduled to stop operations.

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Image via NASA Earth Observatory