Blakebrook Quarry, located northwest of Lismore in New South Wales, was handed the penalty by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment after failing to carry out the assessment before starting extraction works in its south pit, which was a requirement of its approval conditions.
The operation – along with Tuckombil Quarry in Alstonville – is part of Lismore City Council’s Northern Rivers Quarry and Asphalt business unit, which supplies products including aggregates, roadbase, metal dust, fill material and drainage rock to local markets.
According to the council, the quarry has an estimated basalt resource of 13.6 million tonnes, approval to extract at a rate of 600,000 tonnes per annum until 2039 and an annual turnover of around $12 million.
A NSW Department of Planning and Environment spokesperson said compliance officers had contacted the company on numerous occasions since 2011 about the failure to submit the required groundwater assessment, which was supposed to be submitted by 30 June, 2010.
“Despite the department issuing a notice of intention to give an order in September 2011, a subsequent warning letter in January 2012 and a draft order in March 2013, the company has not submitted the required ground assessment,” the spokesperson said.
He went on to say compliance officers confirmed extraction of hard rock was started in the south pit without the ground water assessment, which must be approved by the department.
“The department has confirmed works in this pit have continued as recently as December 2015,” the spokesperson commented.
“In addition to the $15,000 penalty, the department has issued an order to the company to conduct monitoring, and provide the groundwater assessment by a specified date.”
Lismore City Council now faces the prospect of stronger enforcement action, which could include being taken to the Land and Environment Court if it does not carry out the monitoring and provide the assessment in time.
The department spokesperson said its compliance officers are able to conduct unannounced spot checks and NSW can issue the highest on the spot fines in the country for breaches of conditions.
Compliance officers also carry out regular inspections and audits as well as offering education and training to companies to ensure they are sticking to the rules.
This is not the first Lismore City Council has been hit with an unwanted bill relating to the quarry. In February 2015 it was told to pay out $300,000 for resurfacing after asphalt product supplied by Blakebrook Quarry to neighbouring Richmond Valley Council for a roadworks project was found to be defective.
Lismore City Council declined to comment on the groundwater assessment when approached by Quarry.