23 June 21
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:
That this council—
1. Notes with concern the proposed expansion of the White Rock Quarry in Horsnell Gully and the impact that this will have on health, the environment and air quality for residents in the Adelaide Hills.
2. Notes the risks posed by the toxic respirable crystalline silica dust that is lifted into the air by blasting.
3. Further notes that the South Australian Environment Protection Agency (EPA) does not specify separation distances in their guidelines for the operation of quarries containing silicates, and where the activity includes blasting.
4. Calls on the Minister for Energy and Mining and the Minister for Environment and Water to heed the concerns of the Residents Against White Rock Quarry, and
(a) reject Hanson Australia’s revised mine operations plan for the expansion of White Rock Quarry; and
(b) amend the current EPA guidelines to ensure minimum separation distances from residential properties.
This motion seeks to express concern at the proposed expansion of the White Rock Quarry in Horsnell Gully and the impact that this will have on the health, the environment and the air quality for residents in the Adelaide Hills. It notes the health risks of that. It calls on the minister to address deficiencies within the EPA protections and it calls for the Minister for Energy and Mining and the Minister for Environment and Water to listen to the concerns of the residents, to reject the revised mine operations plan for the expansion of the mine and to amend the EPA guidelines to ensure minimum separation distances from residential properties.
On 23 September 2020, Hanson Heidelberg Cement Group submitted a revised mine operation plan for the expansion of the White Rock Quarry, and this has been met with significant community opposition. There are lots of concerns that the residents hold, relating to community health, the environment and the air quality of the surrounding areas. The Greens stand with the community in opposing this expansion. We are calling on the government to reject this mine operation plan and instead back the community campaign for minimum distance requirements for private mines.
We know that the impact on the health and wellbeing of the community will be profound. Private mines should not be devouring our public landscape in this way. We should not see private mines in the Adelaide Hills pushing up against residential properties in this way. We are calling for the Minister for Energy and Mining and the Minister for Environment and Water to listen to the community's concerns and take action. It is not sufficient to simply go along to community meetings and nod sympathetically. People need the government to step up and back their interests against the interests of private corporations like the Hanson Group.
The Attorney-General spoke at the public meeting that I attended a few weeks ago. She spoke about distance requirements already being in existence within the EPA. The EPA evaluation distance guidelines in South Australia offer a very subjective individual assessment recommendation in terms of separation distances, and they do not mention the issue of respirable silica dust or blasting activities in this context.
If we look at what other jurisdictions are doing, they have a better system. The Northern Territory EPA separation distance guidelines recommend a buffer of 600 metres for qualifying activities with respirable silica crystalline present and a buffer of 500 metres from blasting activities. EPA Victoria has the 'Recommended separation distances for industrial residual air emissions' guideline, which has a delineation accounting for the presence of silica dust and blasting activities. There is no mention of silica dust in the SA EPA guidelines.
The proposed flattening of Mount Skye has many locals really concerned about what is going to happen to them and their community's health. They are concerned about the spread of silica dust and the potential risk of silicosis. Who can blame them, when one considers the appalling and deleterious health impacts that can flow from exposure to this dust?
There are other concerns for the community as well, though. Those concerns relate to air quality, noise, plants, the impact on cultural heritage, visual amenity and rehabilitation. In light of these concerns, I understand the government has informed Hanson Group Australia that more information is required and that the Department for Energy and Mining have indicated in the media that they will be requesting more information from the corporation.
We know what happens when private corporations are allowed to ride roughshod over our environment and community concerns. We saw the disgusting destruction by Rio Tinto of a cultural site, all for their own corporate greed. It is really important that a cultural heritage assessment is being conducted in relation to White Rock Quarry so that we can ensure that no culturally significant land is going to be impacted.
I think there is a real issue with these private mines. They are antiquated, they are an old-fashioned scheme, they have different legal protections to other mines in South Australia, and I think most residents would be alarmed by the idea that you could have a private mine pushing up into their landscape, devouring their landscape, destroying their amenity, and that we could see these mines in metropolitan South Australia.
It is high time that this parliament took a strong stance against vested interests, stood up to these large corporations that are devouring our landscape and said, 'Enough is enough. Back off, move away from private residences,' and put the community's health and wellbeing first and put our environment first at this time of climate crisis. I hope that all parties will come on board and support this motion.
Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.