Sustaining environmental management through training

The role of the modern quarry manager has grown in the past decade. Gone are the days where only the plant and equipment demand the site senior executive?s attention. Environmental management now competes with many other facets and responsibilities in a quarry?s daily operations.

The extractive industry is one of Australia?s most regulated industries, often having requirements across the three tiers of government (federal, state, local), and environmental management is no exception. Managing the environment in relation to a quarrying operation requires resources and knowledge to meet ever increasing regulatory obligations and strive towards leading practice.

Knowing your environmental obligations, whether imposed through legislation such as the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Protection Act 1999 (EPBC Act) at the Commonwealth level, state-based Environmental Protection Act/s or council local law, or indeed through conditions of a development approval or licence, has become a prerequisite for today?s quarry manager.

Understanding and complying with these obligations can be more complex than it appears and for those with first-hand experience, it can be costly on the quarry operating budget, especially if done in reaction to a compliance issue. Environmental legislation is constantly changing and the expectations of the community and regulators are always increasing.

The ?social licence to operate? – a phrase coined to assist in improving business performance to minimise impacts on the surrounding community while increasing its understanding of industry?s efforts to manage these impacts – is well related to a quarry operation?s environmental performance and, in some respects, the industry in general. Unfortunately, the quarry industry gets confused with mining all too often; while some of the processes may share similar aspects, like the extraction of material, the way the processes are conducted and the industry manages its environmental impacts is very different.

In general, the impacts are less and environmental regulation is greater for the extractive industries than mining, due to its proximity to the receiving environment.

Due to the nature of the industry and quarry materials being a high volume, low cost product, being close to the markets that the industry services is essential. As such, this often results in quarries being located near the communities and infrastructure they support. The industry has for many years undertaken measures to protect its longevity and the environment (albeit not well understood or publicised at times) and technology has also assisted in the reduction of off-site impacts such as blast vibration. Environmental issues and concerns are, however, not an option for most quarries to ignore.

Community concern for protecting the environment has focused on the depletion and degradation of natural resources (biodiversity, water, air) and non-renewable resources. The sustainable development concept arose from the concern of depleting environmental values due to economic growth and development.

Australia?s National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development (1992) defines ecologically sustainable development as:
? using, conserving and enhancing the community?s resources so that ecological processes … are maintained, and the total quality of life, now and in the future, can be increased ?

Another way to think about ecologically sustainable development is that the present generation should ensure that the health, diversity and productivity of the environment is maintained or enhanced for the benefit of future generations.

Many people might question how ecologically sustainable development applies to them and the quarry industry. The answer is rather evident when we consider the measures employed across the industry today, whether in water capture and reuse, rehabilitation or recycling of construction materials to assist in prolonging virgin extractive resources. As inferred through the industry?s increasing regulation, there is a community expectation on government and business to undertake ecologically sustainable activities.

Ecologically sustainable development principles are used in deciding approval for projects involving activities that may cause environmental harm and those that are referred to the Federal Government under the EPBC Act. The same principles are used to regulate businesses that are required to undertake environmental performance reporting.

Environmental issues such as vegetation, fauna, surface water and groundwater, noise, air quality and cultural heritage are becoming major constraints to extractive industry development. In many cases, competing interests such as good quality agricultural land or biodiversity can mean that the development of these important, naturally occurring and finite resources is difficult, if not impossible, to gain approval for unless flexible, innovative solutions that meet the required environmental objectives and values for the area or region can be achieved and accepted by the regulatory body.

The industry in general needs to be proactive in managing these potential constraints to provide evidence to governments that these issues can be dealt with on balance and environmental values can be maintained while allowing for the extraction and supply of these ever important construction materials.


In 2011, IQA General Manager Paul Sutton conducted a listening tour of the industry to gain an understanding of the training needs of IQA members. Environmental management was a consistent request throughout this tour because minimal training resources, specifically catering to the extractive industry and environmental management, were available.

On listening to member requests and training needs, the IQA and Groundwork Plus have developed a Professional Development Program (PDP) for the industry to assist in managing environmental issues on quarry sites. The PDP, entitled Environmental Management for Quarries, is a two-day awareness training course covering 15 key modules that have been developed by industry people for industry people. The PDP includes a number of relevant quarry case studies and examples to enhance participants? understanding of the modules.

Having a vast experience in environmental management issues within the industry, Groundwork Plus also asks participants to identify environmental challenges within their own operations and, throughout the duration of the PDP, aims to provide potential solutions and actions that can be taken to provide the relevant application of learning within the workplace.

Overall, the primary objective of the PDP is to provide participants with an understanding of the potential environmental impacts associated with the activities undertaken at quarrying operations and also potential benefits to their business.

The Environmental Management for Quarries PDP is being respectively held in Melbourne and Launceston on 27-28 and 29-30 November, 2012.

For further information about the Environmental Management for Quarries PDP, contact Paul Sutton, IQA General Manager, tel 0429 438 554, email or visit

Clayton Hill is the general manager of Brisbane-based consultancy Groundwork Plus and the chairman of the IQA?s Queensland branch committee.

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