SPOTLIGHT: An aerial view of the proposed Forest Glen sand mine.
SPOTLIGHT: An aerial view of the proposed Forest Glen sand mine. Julian George

Revealed: Asian investment link to Coast sand mine

THE men behind a 105-hectare sand mine proposal in Forest Glen were part of a foreign trade mission to China with Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson prior to lodging a development application.

Michael Mullins and Trenton Clark, directors of Maroochydore Sands Pty Ltd, were part of then- State Minister Ian Walker's delegation to China in April, 2013, alongside Cr Jamieson and about 40 other business figures.

A Sunshine Coast Council spokeswoman said Cr Jamieson first met Mr Mullins and Mr Clark on the trade tour but the Mayor "does not recall there being any detailed discussions around this sand extraction proposal at that time".

"The Mayor was not involved in any discussions with investors in relation to this project on that mission," the spokeswoman said.

RELATED: 10 contentious Coast developments

Mr Mullins and Mr Clark were in the delegation as directors of Valesco Capital, a company they founded which specialises in investment immigration in the building materials sector.

Valesco Capital's website says the company is looking to raise funding to invest in sand and aggregate quarries in Australia, with opportunities for foreign investors under 132 and 188 Visas to invest in Australian quarry sites.

A change in government policy had also led to an increase in inquiries from Chinese nationals about Australian investment opportunities the website reads.

Mr Mullins and Mr Clark also established Future Quarry Resources in 2011, its aim, to "identify, secure and gain approval of greenfield quarry and sand assets".

The pair is also listed as contacts for Quarries Australia, a company looking to link foreign investors to sand and aggregate quarries in Australia while helping them qualify for permanent residency.

Maroochydore Sands was originally known as Forest Glen Sands Pty Ltd, the business name change coming into effect on January 23, 2013.

Maroochydore Sands is directed by Mr Mullins and Mr Clark and has a diverse shareholder base with shareholders listed in Brisbane, Toowoomba and Canada's Edmonton, Alberta, according to Australian Securities and Investments Commission documents.

A council spokeswoman said the council was "not aware of any potential sale to foreign investors of this site".

KEY DATES:

  • June 10, 2009: Council grants preliminary approval for a golf course and associated infrastructure on the site, intended as the relocation site for Horton Park Golf Course. Bulk earthworks application is refused and approval lapses.
  • April 14-20, 2013: Maroochydore Sands directors Trenton Clark and Michael Mullins and Mayor Mark Jamieson are part of then-Minister Ian Walker's Chinese Trade Mission.
  • September 16, 2014: CPR Group, registered lobbyists for Maroochydore Sands, begin meetings with some Sunshine Coast Councillors and representatives.
  • February 19, 2015: Development Application MCU15/0030 is properly made with Sunshine Coast Council, seeking approval for a 105-hectare sand extraction plant on property at Forest Glen.
  • October 13, 2015: Sunshine Coast Council website lists MCU15/0030 sand mining extractive industry as one of region's "significant developments".
  • October 13, 2016: Council to decide fate of application after council officers and State Government recommend approval.

Maroochydore Sands Pty Ltd is seeking approval to extract between 100,000 and one million tonnes of sand per year from the site which sits alongside Maroochydore Rd, west of Kunda Park.

The site was listed as a "significant investment" on the Sunshine Coast Council's website in mid-October, 2015, after a development application was lodged in early 2015.

The council had met with CPR Group, registered lobbyists for Maroochydore Sands, on four occasions from September 16, 2014 before the site was listed as a significant development on October 13, 2015.

On October 27, 2015, CPR Group, acting on behalf of Future Quarry Resources, met with Cr Jamieson, Cr Ted Hungerford, Craig Matheson and Marc Cornell for a project update according to the Queensland Integrity Commissioner's register.

Cr Hungerford and Cr Dickson, who also met with CPR Group once, both said they were standard meetings where someone presents or provides a briefing on a proposal which may or may not eventuate into an application that comes before the council.

Both Cr Hungerford and Cr Dickson have stated they will not be supporting the development.

State Government and council officers have recommended approval of the operation, stating "materials extracted from the site must not exceed an output of 250,000 tonnes per annum".

One of the arguments in favour of the development is the need for building materials on the Coast and the ability of the mine to provide materials at a cheaper rate to the local market.

In recommending approval, the council officer's report says "the applicant states that the available resource can efficiently supply high quality sand to the Sunshine Coast and surrounding areas for an estimated 30 years".

The report also states: "vehicles would travel past the Forest Pines estate and enter Maroochydore Road... some of the haulage would then travel east down Maroochydore Road and turn into the Kunda Park Industrial Estate. The rest would turn west towards the Bruce Highway."

The council's economic development branch advised it was generally supportive of "the identification, protection and appropriate exploitation of the region's key natural resources".

The branch said the availability of sand resources with a reduced transport cost would have potential to benefit supply chain cost, viability and business development in complementary industries.

The branch also noted the employment benefits generated would be "negligible" given the proposal would only have two on-site employees per shift plus intermittent contractors like drivers or maintenance personnel.

A council spokeswoman said the council would consider the development application on its merits at Thursday's meeting.

Maroochydore Sands director Michael Mullins was unable to respond to a series of questions before deadline yesterday.



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