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Victoria’s quarry sector is set for a shake-up following Earth Resources regulation update to the State’s extractive industries.
Introduced in January, the regulations address requirements for work plans, rehabilitation and annual reporting. They also focus on infringement offences.
Replacing the outgoing 2010 regulations, the new update will provide a modernised and streamlined approach to extractive industry regulation.
WORK PLAN REQUIREMENTS
Earth Resources will be making changes to the risk management area of work plans.
The new regulations clarify that a risk management plan must include performance standards, requirements relating to sensitive receptors and noting the roles and responsibilities of workplace personnel accountable for implementing the plan.
REHABILITATION PLAN REQUIREMENTS
Changes to rehabilitation requirements aim to provide a sense of certainty to the community for the future uses of quarry sites.
Current rehabilitation plans will continue until 1 July 2021 during the transition period.
A requirement to include post-quarry land use along with criteria and steps to ensure rehabilitation is achieved.
The plan must also outline a risk assessment and plan for long-term management of the risks associated with a rehabilitated landform.
A total of 19 new infringement offences have been introduced in the January regulation changes.
Changes include extensions to cover people and corporations along with changes to penalty units.
Infringement notices that previously required full criminal prosecutions are now able to be issued by Earth Resources Regulation.
There are minor changes to annual reports starting from the financial year commencing 1 July 2020.
Reporting is now required to be completed at most 31 days after the end of the financial year (an extension can be granted in some circumstances).
Annual reports now need to include resource estimates for the amount of stone resource available for extraction plus production data.
Stone density before extraction, the stratigraphic unit of the stone and its maximum depth before extraction are also required to be reported.
Statutory declarations are not needed under the new requirements.
The Queensland Government has introduced a new mine dust health service hotline for current and former quarrying and mine workers suffering from lung disease.
Quarrying and mine workers now have access to a new lung disease hotline announced by the Queensland Government.
The Mine Dust Health Support Service hotline – 1300 445 715 – will be available to the public from 2 March. Both current and former workers from quarries and mines are expected to receive faster access to vital services with the new phoneline.
“Easy access to accurate workplace health information and free services is essential for concerned and affected workers and their families,” said Assistant State Development Minister and Member for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert.
“My constituents, both past or current mine workers, tell me it can be a challenge to navigate various public and private sector organisations to find information and services.
“The one-stop shop will provide them expert advice and support on navigating the system – from pre-health screening to accessing post workers’ compensation claim support services and everything in between.”
The hotline is also open to the families of workers and doctors seeking screening and diagnosis information.
“The Government introduced laws in 2017 that deliver stronger workers’ compensation protections for Queenslanders suffering from black lung or other forms of dust lung disease,” said Member for Rockhampton Barry O’Rourke.
“For those who have developed these insidious diseases through their work, support is available. The Palaszczuk Government has ensured simpler, faster workers comp claims and extra lump sum payments for people with black lung or silicosis.”
Respirable crystalline silica (RCS) is a major health concern for quarry workers.
The Palaszczuk Government has also supported mine and quarry workers through statewide safety reset sessions along with increasing maximum penalties for offences to $4 million and powers for the regulator to issue fines without going to court.
This follows new regulations and exposure standards for dust control across the country.
The New South Wales Resources Regulator recently added dust management to every health and safety inspection at NSW quarries to discourage an over-reliance on personal protective equipment.
The IQA will also this year be introducing workshops on RCS to Institute members and other industry professionals. This follows a 50 per cent reduction in the workplace exposure standard for RCS approved by Australia’s work health and safety ministers in December 2019 – from 0.1mg/m3 to 0.05mg/m3.
Victoria’s quarries may gain new leases of life post-operation after the state’s earth resources regulator unveiled a strategy to improve site rehabilitation.
The new strategy released by Earth Resources Regulation seeks to deliver site rehabilitation across the entire life cycle of a quarry project, while also improving the sector’s public standings.
The Regulatory Practice Strategy for the Rehabilitation of Earth Resources Siteswill enable quarries to develop an effective rehabilitation plan.
Planning will commence before extraction to guarantee the land will be rehabilitated after quarrying activity.
“Effective site rehabilitation underpins confidence in both the resources industry and the regulator – the commitments made upon approval of a project must be fulfilled when it is finished,” said Earth Resources Regulation’s executive director Anthony Hurst.
“We’ll ensure rehabilitation is completed to protect communities and the environment, if an operator fails to meet their obligations.”
Successful quarry rehabilitation has improved the safety and stability of decommissioned sites in the past. Niddrie’s Newport Lakes and Valley Lake, along with The Royal Botanic Gardens in Cranbourne, were all previously quarries.
“We will work with operators to help them consider the range of site rehabilitation options, engage with local communities and work progressively towards the preferred rehabilitated landform,” Hurst said.
Under the new strategy, education and enforcement of environmental rehabilitation will also be introduced by regulators.
The strategy also applies to Victorian mines and other resources sites.