Plant & Equipment

Residents vow to sand bag sand mine

Two days before Christmas, the New South Wales Government’s Planning and Assessment Panel approved Rocla’s proposal to extend its Calga sand mining operation by 36 hectares.
Residents are furious at the timing of the announcement, which was made on the Planning Assessment Commission’s website and allowed just 28 days for objections to be lodged.
Opponents argue the project will impact on flora and fauna, the region’s water supply and local indigenous cultural heritage and activists have set up a protest camp nearby. 
In a statement, Rocla said that it stood by its existing operation as well as the new expansion project. The company said any future Land and Environment Court challenge would be against the Government’s extension approval, and it would participate as appropriate. 
Rocla?s project will see stage four of the quarry site expanded to increase production from 400,000 tonnes to one million tonnes of sand per year. This will result in an increase in the extraction area and in operating hours.
The commission determined that an application to also open stage five of the operation should be refused and that this land should be included in a permanent biodiversity offset strategy to encompass 102ha.
The Planning Assessment Commission said it was satisfied the impacts of the project could be adequately minimised.
Indigenous and community concerns
Rocla Materials development manager John Gardiner said the concerns of residents and the Aboriginal community had been addressed very carefully by the department and the commission.
“From our point of view effects on residents have been examined thoroughly by an independent assessment process and they will be minimal,” Gardiner said. “Specifically the effects on the water table were dealt with very thoroughly in our own environmental assessments and reviewed by the departments of water and planning and by the assessment commission. The issue has been looked at thoroughly by competent people.
“I think there has been a lot of misunderstanding over the technical information contained in some very long documents,? Gardiner added. “We have undertaken to provide a buffer zone around the Aboriginal site and provide access and will endeavour to enable completely unrestricted access over time.”
Indigenous and community activist groups have aired their concerns about the Rocla expansion and have vowed to fight it. Darkinoong elder Aunty Bev said the site was integral to the initiation of young women into Aboriginal fertility rites and the carving was the symbolic nurturer of tribe. Mingaletta Women elder aunty Barbara Grew said she and fellow campaigner Aunty Anita Selway had been fighting the expansion for almost four years.
Community activist and Equilibrium Future Solutions president Ian Sutton has established a ?tent embassy? in bushland adjacent to the Rocla site and named it Camp Quoll. He said objectors would camp on site until the matter was resolved. 
“We are here to support the efforts of the wildlife park and the Aboriginal community in stopping this expansion and if their efforts fail we are prepared to take peaceful direct action,” Sutton said. He added that impacts on the water table would put further pressure on the endangered spot-tailed quoll and the area’s hanging swamps.
The Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park at Calga is determined that its gates will never close. General manager Tassin Barnard said 30 jobs were on the line and the Planning Department decision was far from the final step, with the Land and Environment Court the next port of call.
“Entry fees and proceeds from the shop will not only fund our conservation work, but will also go towards our ?fighting fund’ for the looming court battle,? Barnard said.
Sources: Rocla, The Telegraph, ABC News

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