Road Transport

What Santa might bring the quarry industry this Christmas

Or why the Australian extractive industry shouldn’t rely on Father Christmas this – or any other – year! A past IQA president pontificates.

It’s December and Santa will visit some 10 million homes across Australia. Just under three quarters of these are single dwellings and about a quarter are medium or high density units.

Assuming that on average, each dwelling consumed, say, 70 tonnes of quarry-based materials during building, then for Santa to make good on his benevolent promise, 700 million tonnes of crushed and sized rock and sand products have been used just to create our homes and chimneys.

Each year Australia uses 150 to 200 million tonnes of quarry products to enhance the built environment — for housing, public buildings, industry and engineered infrastructure such as ports, rail and roads — remembering, of course, that public roads are off limits to Santa who could not comply with traffic regulations anyway, let alone justify his illegal airspace incursions and clear animal rights violations.

Indeed, its doubtful whether his costume complies with workplace safety requirements — he wears no hard hat and he should have as a minimum a work permit, demonstrated competencies and a risk management plan for navigating slippery roofs and the confined space of chimneys.

Even the most rudimentary job safety analysis would pick this up. There’s also concern about his fitness for work, and we’ll say no more about the alleged sweat shop conditions of his elves, or of his signature greeting with its sexist and derogatory overtones.

Leaving aside such overt and countless breaches of contemporary standards, what might Santa bring to the quarrying industry this Christmas, given his super-human powers:

  • Improved public appreciation of the value to the community of conveniently located quarry materials?
  • Improved pricing of natural resources to reflect their true value and replacement cost to society?
  • A rebalancing in public and corporate thinking away from the cult of sustainability and towards the task of dramatically improving productivity?
  • The safest quarries and product transport networks in the world?
  • Or a skyhook? (with apologies to crane operators)

I’d suggest we might say “yes” to all of the above, notwithstanding that a commercially available skyhook probably requires a rewrite of the current laws of physics.

But the other more earthly items on Santa’s wish list are right within our industry’s locus of control.

If Santa can’t deliver on our wishes this Christmas (he could easily be detained by the authorities over flagrant rule breaking and airspace violations — or perhaps he may simply not deliver because he believes we’ve been naughty this year!), it’s a fair bet we’ll have to work ourselves to bring the list to fruition.

And why shouldn’t we? We have the experience. After all, our industry is 12,000 years older than Santa Claus!

Dugald Gray is a mining engineer, principal of quarrying industry consultant Ecoroc Pty Ltd and an IQA past president.

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