The audit was undertaken by the New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment from May to August 2015, with the results released last week.
A department spokesperson confirmed to Quarry that it was the first co-ordinated sand quarry audit the department had conducted.
“The audit was undertaken in response to increased activity in the sector and potential changes in impacts on the community relating to traffic and groundwater impacts,” the spokesperson explained.
According to the audit report, demand for sand in NSW has been steadily increasing due to population expansion and infrastructure development in Sydney and on the far north coast.
“Sydney currently uses about seven million tonnes of construction sand annually, some 50 per cent of which is fine sand,” the report stated. “In the next 20 years, approximately 66 million tonnes of fine sand will be required to meet the needs of the construction industry.
“Sand quarries provide a critical resource … It is important, however, that the community has confidence these quarries are operating in according with their project approval conditions.”
Nineteen quarries were selected as a representative sample of the 28 approved sand quarries in NSW. Each site was identified as a potentially critical resource that was either in operation or close to commencing operations. Boral’s Peppertree Quarry, Hanson’s Tweed Sand Lake quarry and the Calga sand quarry were among those chosen.
During the audit period, compliance officers evaluated each quarry against its project approval conditions, placing a strong focus on land and groundwater management.
The recently released results showed a 92 per cent rate of compliance across the audited quarries.
“It’s great to see that generally, the sand quarries that were audited were operating at a high level of compliance,” the department spokesperson commented.
The most common non-compliance issues identified by the audit included inadequate revision and implementation of management plans, a lack of compliance with reporting requirements, such as annual reviews, and improper extraction depth management.
Each quarry operator will now be required to create an action plan to address any non-compliance issues. Compliance officers will conduct regular follow-up visits to ensure agreed actions are being implemented.
“The results of the audit campaign have been used in the department’s risk ranking tool and will guide future compliance activities of our officers,” the spokesperson stated.
When asked if the department anticipated further quarry audits (sand or otherwise) in future, the spokesperson responded, “Any future audits in the sector and their frequency will be determined using an evidence and risk-based approach, considering potential impacts on communities.”
The full audit report is available at www.planning.nsw.gov.au