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Blue metal quarry expansion may hit legal wall

Last year, quarry operator Gunnedah Quarry Products (GQP), a MacKellar Excavations subsidiary, applied to increase the annual extraction rate at its blue metal quarry at Mary?s Mount, New South Wales from 50,000 tonnes to 360,000 tonnes over a 22-year period, as well as increase its total project area from two hectares to 18.9 hectares. 
After overcoming a number of hurdles that have lasted almost 18 months, including strong opposition from local residents, the development application has now been approved by the NSW Northern Region Joint Planning Panel. 
The panel had previously deferred the development application due to concerns that the haulage route followed the same route as a school bus and that a residential building was situated within the blast zone. However, panel chair Garry West said that GQP has since ?satisfactorily? amended the application to resolve these matters.
?The proposed development project area has been amended, providing an adequate 250m buffer between the dwelling and the proposed pit boundary,? he explained. ?A condition of approval of the application is that haulage will cease operations during the time that the school bus will be travelling along the same route as haulage traffic.?
MacKellar Excavations director Brendon MacKellar told the Namoi Valley Independent that he was happy with the panel?s decision to allow the expansion, stating that the project would benefit the local area. 
?We are now moving on, and the result has been good for our company and the community,? he said. ?We are putting a $3 million upfront investment into the project and when we are fully operational, we will employ up to 100 people, creating jobs in the town and district.?
West agreed that the quarry would have a positive impact on the community. ?The proposed development will create additional employment opportunities for up to 15 full-time employees and approximately 10 contract truck companies,? he said. ?Expansion of the mine will affect the economy of the local area as market demand for blue metal products has increased markedly over the past 12 months and this is expected to continue.?
Breaching consent
The local council, however, is less convinced, especially given that the long-running quarry had been accused of breaching its current consent. Specifically, Gunnedah Shire Council received complaints alleging that the quarry was exceeding its current extraction rate and running haulage trucks outside of permitted times, leading the council to seek legal advice on the issue. 
Michael Silver, the council?s director of planning and environment, said that the council was considering two options to resolve the concerns: either taking the matter to the NSW Land Environment Court or serving GQP with an order requiring compliance with the quarry?s current consent, particularly with regards to truck movements. 
Silver said the council wanted to ensure the proponent complied with the conditions of its current consent ? such as requiring the completion of roadworks ? until the new, recently approved consent became active, which could take two months or more. 
Despite MacKellar?s reassurances that he would comply with both the current and new consents, legal discussions surrounding these issues are still ongoing.
Source: Namoi Valley Independent, NSW Joint Regional Planning Panels

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