From the Secretariat (Issue 80)

By on May 29, 2015
Site Photo: E.B. Mawson & Sons Pty Ltd, Glenrowan Quarry

Quarries Versus Mines

DR ELIZABETH GIBSON, provides further concerns for the industry in relation to the proposed Risk Based Work Plans.

The CMPA is fighting an uphill battle with Earth Resources Regulation in the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (ERR) over their persistence in linking quarries with mines. The case in point being the proposed risk based work plan form with accompanying draft guidelines (see Sand & Stone issue 79). At the commencement of the development process, with the Earth Resources Reform Steering Committee, it was agreed to separate mines from quarries as evidenced by having separate working groups. However, in the resulting risk based work plan form and draft guidelines*, mines and quarries have been combined.

Differentiating between mines and quarries is crucial in CMPA’s view, so the quarry  industry not be tarnished by the issues with mines in community engagement:
• Quarries have a lower and different risk profile to mines.
• There is a commercial agreement between the landowner and the quarry operator.
• The construction material that is quarried is generally used in Victoria for Victorians.
• There are no toxic mine tailings.
• There are usually no underground tunnels or shafts.
• Extraction of minerals does not occur on site.
• Hence, there is no toxic waste resulting from the extraction of minerals.
• The construction material is not flammable unlike coal.
• Only ~$18,000 dollars has been used by the State government to compulsory rehabilitate quarries over the past 20 years, for mines this figure runs into tens of $millions.

Additionally, ERR suggests that quarries are treated exactly the same as mines across all States in Australia when this is clearly not the case. For example: in NSW, local Councils are responsible
for approving quarries. In WA quarries are not viewed as the same risk as mines with the mines rehabilitation fund not applicable to quarries where conducted on private land. In QLD the  definition of ‘mineral’ in the Mineral Resources Act 1989 excludes most materials used for construction purposes, quarry (or extractive industry) sites are largely approved and administered by local government, under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009.

Clearly, quarries are viewed as having a lower and different risk profile to mines by other State Governments. This perceived bias by ERR may put into question the accuracy of advice given by ERR and result in more onerous conditions and higher rehabilitation bonds for all quarries. However, it will be the small to medium sized private equity quarry operators that will suffer the most which appear not to have the support of ERR.

*NOTE: A seperate draft guidline for extractives has since been prepared

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