Plant & Equipment

New law demands application from operating quarry

Margaret River Earth Cartage (MREC), the current operator of a quarry located in Margaret River, Western Australia, has been supplying sand and gravel to the local development industry for 30 years.

It was said the site had also been used for extraction activities prior to the current operator’s ownership, with sand being extracted by contractors predominantly for road construction and housing development.

Despite this, MREC was recently mandated to apply for an extractive industry licence due to the Shire of Augusta-Margaret Rivers’s introduction of the Extractive Industries Local Law 2014.

Matt Cuthbert, the council’s acting manager of planning and development services, explained to Quarry that the local law, which was passed in August 2014, had been introduced to allow for the regulation of three extractive industries within the shire that were operating under a “non-conforming use right”, including MREC.

“These industries commenced prior to the need to obtain planning approval for that type of development, and so have existing use rights under planning legislation which allows them to continue to operate,” he said.

“Up until now these extractive industries have operated outside of any local government jurisdiction. In order to create a level playing field for all extractive operations, the shire council sought to implement a framework through which some accountability could be administered similar to that which applies under the planning scheme.

“We are aware that there are other local governments in the state [WA] which have introduced local laws relating to substantially the same issue,” Cuthbert added.

Unclear future?

As part of its licence application under the new law, MREC was required to supply the council with information similar to that needed for a new quarry proposal. This included a report detailing the quarry’s current operation and processes – including extraction method, hours of operation and haulage routes – a site plan outlining its excavation strategy, and a report on its environmental impacts.

The application document concluded by stating, “The operator seeks council’s favourable support in issuing an extractive industries licence so that ongoing sand and gravel extraction operations can continue…”

Cuthbert emphasised, however, that the local law had not been introduced with the intention of stopping any extractive industry from operating.

“The local law sets out that if an operator satisfactorily provides all the prescribed information with its licence application then it will be granted a licence,” he stated. “The extractive industry licence is primarily focused upon ensuring that these extractive industries operate consistent with parameters placed on other operations (operating times, rehabilitation, dust control) and to enable the shire to have some legal capacity to enforce these controls.”

Cuthbert did not explain what outcome MREC would be faced with should its application be refused but it is believed the quarry operator would have a right to appeal the decision to the WA State Administrative Tribunal.

The community consultation period for MREC’s licence application closed on 22 January, 2016. Cuthbert said the shire had received submissions both in support and in objection to licences being issued for the various extractive industry sites.

“A recommendation [on MREC’s application] will be formulated for the shire council’s consideration in the coming months,” he stated.

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