Appeal lodged against Williamtown sand quarry

Williamtown Sand Syndicate – trading as Newcastle Sand – has forecast a February 2019 commencement of mining operations on the proposed 42ha sand quarry in Williamtown, NSW, just north of Newcastle. The company has offered “long term supply agreements” for future customers.

However, the fate of the controversial project lies in the determination of the appeal against the NSW Independent Planning Commission’s (IPC) green light in May to go ahead with the project, amid stringent objections by residents.

The appeal, filed on 5 June, will focus on a range of issues including critical endangered species, air quality, traffic, hydrology and the spread of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl [PFAS] chemical from the Williamtown RAAF Base.

The Commission concluded that the Cabbage Tree Road Sand Quarry project would not result in unacceptable impact to biodiversity and that the applicant had identified practical control measures to monitor and manage impacts to air quality.

Newcastle Sand general manager Darren Williams told Quarry the operation would ensure proper environmental management throughout the life of the project that is anticipated for 15 years.

“We will adhere to the guidelines of the environmental protection licence,” Williams said. “We are going to have air quality data tracked. There is nothing to hide. All the relevant data will be on our website once we become operational.”

The Commission was satisfied with the “appropriate quarrying equipment and methodologies”, including the use of GPS equipment to ensure extraction was above the maximum predicted groundwater level, and noted an “exposure pathway for PFAS as a result of the project is unlikely to exist”.

None of the range of 28 PFAS compounds were found anywhere, according to soil analysis from 22 locations across the site, the Commission was informed.

Williams said they would adhere to conditions set by the Commission including being restricted to extraction above the maximum predicted groundwater level and a limit on trucks – 10 trucks per hour in and 10 per hour out – in the construction and operation to extract sand “capped at 530,000 tonnes per annum”.

High value customers

On 9 May, the IPC granted development consent to Newcastle Sand to extract 3,250,000 tonnes of fine to medium grade, low silt and high silica content sand from Williamtown, NSW, just north of Newcastle.

“We are after specific targets – high value customers like the glass industry that uses high silica content sand. Our sand is not for landscaping. We are after the right market, including the export market. We will ensure the end users are high value customers,” Williams said.

He said the project would benefit the local community as the operation envisaged employing local contractors and truck drivers from the vicinity.

“On top of that there will be a $17.25 million royalty paid to the Port Stephens Council. Infrastructure and other facilities of the Port Stephens area will be improved. This royalty will be ploughed back to the community,” he said.

Beyond the local community, the broader Sydney construction materials market would also benefit from the project.

“There is a significant amount of infrastructure work going on in Sydney. We have already received significant inquiries for sand from big players in the resource sector from here and even Newcastle,” Williams added.

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