Editor's Desk

Threatened plant creates additional hurdle for quarry

The application by the owners of Hunter Quarries to open a new quarry at Karuah East in New South Wales is now being scrutinised by the Federal Department of the Environment.

The department is specifically interested in the project’s impact upon the threatened plant species Tetratheca Juncea – more commonly known as Black-eyed Susan – despite the fact that steps have already been taken to reduce potential harm.

Grahame Chevalley, one of the owners of the proposed Karuah East quarry, told the Newcastle Herald that these days state government approval is usually sufficient to allow a project to proceed. However, because the quarry’s application was initially submitted in 2009, he said it would need to be assessed under old environmental laws.

According to the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure’s environmental assessment report, more than 6500 of the Black-eyed Susan plants are located at the quarry site. Under the original proposal, more than 2700 of these – or 41 per cent – would have been disturbed.

However the project’s infrastructure footprint was subsequently revised so that only 243 – or four per cent – would need to be removed. The proposal also stated that disturbed plants would be translocated to a suitable nearby habitat.

Satisfied with these changes, the NSW Planning Assessment Commission approved the proposal in June this year. However, a Federal Department of Environment spokesperson has told the Newcastle Herald the project will still need to undergo “a full federal environmental assessment”. This will use preliminary documentation and also “take into account expert scientific advice and public comments”. Chevalley reportedly said he expected this process would run smoothly.

Hunter Quarries owns an existing andesite quarry that is located next to the proposed Karuah East site. The current operation is expected to deplete its reserves within the next five years and the new project has been proposed to meet future aggregate demand in the Newcastle and Greater Hunter regions.

If approved, the Karuah East quarry would extract 1.5 million tonnes per annum of andesite for 20 years.

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