Two years after a New South Wales operator applied to increase production by an additional 167 per cent, a court-sanctioned conciliation has granted consent to the operation.
As previously reported by Quarry, Gunlake Quarries, which operates a hard rock site near Marulan, NSW, proposed to increase its production rate from 750,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) to two million tpa.
The operator also sought approval to extend its quarry footprint by 150 per cent to approximately 63ha, step up its blasting frequency from once a fortnight to twice a week, conduct primary crushing 24 hours a day and increase its truck movements from 164 to 440 daily.
The NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) – an independent panel of experts in planning and public administration – had previously noted in its 27 February assessment that “the commission is not yet persuaded that the economic and social assessment adequately addresses the social costs identified as important by the community”.
Gunlake’s managing director Ed O’Neil was reported as saying he was “frustrated” that the PAC had refused the application, since the NSW Department of Planning had recommended “conditional consent” earlier this year.
According to PAC’s assessment, Gunlake’s request was refused on the grounds it wasn’t in the public interest and that insufficient consideration had been given to rail options or upgrading the haul route to Austroad standards.
Gunlake had ruled out rail options in earlier submissions to the Department of Planning and Goulburn Mulwaree Council.
However, the matter did not make it to a full hearing, after the NSW Land and Environment Court issued approval with conditions this month following conciliation between the quarry operator and the Department of Planning, ‘aborting’ the need for a four-day hearing before the court.
According to reports O’Neil said, “[PAC] got it wrong and it never should have gone to appeal … It’s clear they [PAC] didn’t know what they were talking about,” he said. He argued PAC made a decision “based on policy, not planning grounds”.
“I’m very disappointed that we’ve had to go to all this time and effort. It’s been a complete waste,” O’Neil said.
Gunlake Quarry’s consent conditions include daily truck movements capped at 370 (as opposed to the requested 440), and a 25-year approval, as opposed to its request of 30 years. However, it has been granted approval to increase its production to two million tpa and will be allowed to blast twice weekly and primarily crush 24 hours per day.
Quarry makes bid to expand more than 150 per cent