New site proposal sparks additional dust concerns

In December 2017, civil engineering and resources company Fulton Hogan announced its intentions to develop a 170ha site in Templeton, located west of Christchurch, New Zealand. This is in order to supply an estimated 180 million tonnes of aggregate needed in the area by 2041.

It is understood the company currently operates three sites around Christchurch and aims to use the new proposed quarry as a replacement for its Pound Road quarry, which has a remaining lifespan of five years.

The announcement came as local residents continued to voice concerns over the potential adverse dust effects from the nearby Winstone Aggregates’ Yaldhurst quarry.

As previously reported by Quarry, the Yaldhurst quarry – which is located approximately 6km from the proposed site – had its dust emissions independently tested twice in early 2017 after local residents voiced their concerns to local government officials.

Multiple residents even wore face masks for protection after it was suggested the dust contained 30 per cent silica, a toxic by-product that can trigger pulmonary issues and the lung disease silicosis.

In an information brochure sent to residents who reside near the proposed site, Fulton Hogan said it would provide its services for approximately 25 to 40 years in order to “keep up with ongoing demand for aggregates for greater Christchurch”.

Its brochure also stated that the effects of the quarry would be "largely confined to the site itself and there will be minimal impact beyond the immediate area". The company also announced it was working on “key quarry management plans” to control its dust emissions.

Fulton Hogan’s South Island regional manager was contacted about how the company planned to mitigate dust, respiratory health and air quality risks but Quarry did not receive a response at time of publication.

The company is set to submit resource consent applications to the Selwyn District Council and the Environment Canterbury (ECan) department within the next few months.

Addendum – 2 February 2018

Quarry has been reliably informed by New Zealand's Aggregates and Quarry Association (AQA) and Q&M (Quarrying & Mining) magazine that the silicosis fears raised by the Yaldhurst residents have been disproven.

In a media release dated 26 January, 2018, Wayne Scott, the former IQA President and now CEO of the National Health and Safety Council for the NZ Mining and Quarry Sector (MinEx), said that testing to date near Canterbury quarries had shown no evidence that the active cause of silicosis – respirable crystalline silica (RCS) – was present at any harmful levels.

"New Zealand's limit on RCS is 0.1mg per cubic metre," Scott said. "Any risk of RCS exposure is to quarry workers, not neighbours who most often are hundreds of metres from a quarry face with a huge amount of air space between them. MinEx is currently working with WorkSafe [NZ] to continue reducing any risk to quarry workers."

Scott added that MinEX, the AQA, and medical and environmental authorities had been at great pains to emphasise the low chances of residents developing RCS from quarry dust emissions.

"We need to dispel some of the myths that are emerging that quarry dust is laden with RCS," Scott said. "Another round of monitoring is being undertaken by [Environment Canterbury] at some Canterbury quarries which by mid-year I expect to confirm that RCS is virtually undetectable and no serious health risks arise."

Scott conceded that while most NZ quarries have good dust management practices in place, there are still some operations that need "to lift their game because any dust that emerges from a quarry … is annoying to close neighbours".

With thanks to Alan Titchall of Q&M and Brendon Burns of the AQA for their advice and counsel.

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