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Making the best of 2022: Newcastle Sand

Newcastle Sand

Newcastle Sand was recently approved as a State Significant Development in New South Wales. Director Murray Towndrow speaks to Quarry about growth prospects in 2023 and the importance of adopting unified compliance requirements for quarries.

How did Newcastle Sand perform during 2022?

The New South Wales Hunter and Sydney regions experienced one of the wettest periods ever recorded, with rainfall exceeding long term averages by 60 per cent in the first six months of the year. This in turn resulted in many construction projects experiencing significant delays, which ultimately reduced demand for sand products for a portion of our customers, including concrete batch plants and civil construction sites. The reduced demand during the first half of the year was made up for during the second half of the year with demand exceeding our optimised production outputs by 50 per cent in November. In November, we recorded our busiest month on record with total monthly sales exceeding 62,000 tonnes and a daily sales record of 3789 tonnes, or over 110 trucks.

What has changed in terms of your product offerings?

Newcastle Sand’s customer base has transitioned as we have progressed through our varied sand resources. Our product offerings include screened sand for civil construction, concrete specification sand, washed sand and a high-grade, low iron, high silica content white sand, which is processed for glass making at New South Wales’ only glass furnace in Sydney. Increased demand for washed sand and concrete specification sand increased the need for additional washing capacity and
the business made the decision to invest in a new wash plant in January 2022 that will triple our output capacity. Following the ordering, design, fabrication and international sea freight, the new plant is scheduled for commissioning in January 2023, and we look forward to satisfying the markets demand with a quality product and the same great service.

What special provisions do you have in place that stand out from an environmental standpoint?

Being one of the most recently approved sand quarries for State Significant Development in New South Wales, we have some of the strictest environmental controls and compliance measures. These include providing environmental offset both onsite and offsite, ground water monitoring, maximum extraction levels, real-time dust monitoring, maximum annual limit and maximum hourly truck movements, to name a few. All these environmental compliance items are closely monitored by the Department of Planning and Environment and annual reporting is submitted for assessment. Newcastle Sand has a full-time principal consultant engaged to ensure we are compliant.

In your experience, how can sand quarries improve their accountability level?

It’s a bit of a “us and them” environment at the moment with many historic council- based Development Applications operating on different levels of environmental compliance. On one hand, you have a 40-year-old quarry with a mud map you can hardly read and a total of five conditions to comply with and no compliance accountability. On the other hand, you
have a recently approved quarry that had to spend over $1 million to gain approval with extensive environmental reporting and studies and an ongoing environmental compliance that costs over $300,000 to report on annually, and then the customers expect the sand to be cheap. Environmental compliance costs money and as sand resources become scarcer these costs will be passed on to the consumer. Consumers have a responsibility to ensure their sand is coming from an environmentally compliant operation and authorities, both local government and state, have a responsibility to ensure compliance is enforced and consistent across all approvals.

What are some of the common challenges sand quarries are expected to face in 2023?

We are anticipating strong demand throughout 2023 with a full order book and contracted allocations, that will see us sell between 450,000 tonnes and our maximum 500,000 tonnes of product. Residential housing and subdivision work is expected to be strong for the first six months of next year, at a minimum, as the backlog of presold lots and dwellings that were part of the Covid recovery initiatives is delivered. Following this, we are expecting large infrastructure projects to begin. These are projects that have been mooted for many years and were progressed and accelerated in the planning phase over the last two years and are now ready for delivery over the next two to four years.

Any last words?

With a strong demand forecast and our new plant being commissioned, it will be a busy start to the year that will hopefully be closer to average in terms of rainfall. Throughout 2023, Newcastle Sand will focus on running the quarry more efficiently in terms of material winning, plant feeding and overall operational costs. We will also be making significant efforts towards site rehabilitation of areas where we have reached maximum extraction levels.

For more information about Newcastle Sand’s operations, visit: www.newcastlesand.com.au

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