December 15, 2017

Mine closure: from quarry to riches

Carefully considered environmental plans can take future quarries through their useful lives to become highly sought-after entertainment centres, racetracks, shopping centres or even business and residential parks.

If a large-scale quarry is conceived and planned correctly it can be profitably operated for many years or decades with the ultimate goal of turning it into an asset for society and especially for surrounding communities.

This type of “second-life” usage should be considered for all quarries and can be integrated into environmental management plans (EMP) as part of the overall environmental rehabilitation of the property.

Potential value

This is according to environmental consultant Alan Cluet who was speaking at the KwaZulu Natal regional meeting of the Aggregate and Sand Producer’s Association of Southern Africa (Aspasa) recently. He said that quarries in urban areas especially could be developed to become sought-after properties  and that more rural quarries had potential for other types of uses such as farming, water storage etc.

Regions such as KZN (and other parts of the country) with beautiful landscapes and a high percentage of income derived as a result of tourism can especially make use of exhausted quarries to enrich surrounding and even to solve problems of urbanizing and industrializing populations, such as landfills etc.

Alan Cluet speaks to regional members of Aspasa at Newcastle recently


He added that Aspasa has done much to change the paradigm of quarry rehabilitation by assisting Government to regulate the industry, as well as through its initiative to audit members for environmental compliance on an annual basis. More recently the introduction of Aspasa’s own environmental management system (based on ISO14001) helped quarries to align themselves with modern-day environmental management requirements.


Downstream benefits

“This shows that any quarry’s EMP need not be a hindrance, but should rather be a basis for the responsible re-usage of the land. If followed correctly it can save quarry owners a fortune and can leave the land in a state that is highly saleable.

“Beyond guiding quarries on land use, EMPs also serve as a record of the operation’s usage rights, responsibilities and compliance. In the event of an environmental accident these management systems can also assist quarry owners in court and show how management was conducted before the event rather than after,” said Alan.

He added that management of a quarry needed to be realistic as an EMP is legally binding and closure plans need to be adhered to. Provided environmental stipulations are met; and the public is extensively consulted with prior to plans being finalized, then there is no reason why quarry owners cannot and should not plan quarries to have a useful life after mining operations have ceased.

Into the future

He said that already some forward-thinking quarries overseas and in South Africa had already adopted this approach and designed environmental management and quarry closure plans that allowed the quarries to be developed into various types of land uses. Examples locally include: Tyger Falls Waterfront in Western Cape, Eagle Canyon in Gauteng and The Quarry Centre in KwaZulu Natal.

In conclusion he said quarry owners could put in place action plans to develop their properties. These included:

Reviewing existing quarry plans and possibly adapting them to include concurrent usage, rehabilitation and closure plans that are centred on further development of the property upon the completion of quarrying.
Working with communities to find out what their future requirements may be and if the type of land use proposed is acceptable and in-line with their requirements.
Working with local Government and municipalities to get inclusion in Integrated Development Plans (IDP) and regional development plans
Developing partnerships now with authorities and development companies to plan and get the buy in of potential stakeholders and financiers
Work at changing opinions of neighbours, communities and authorities about operational quarries and educate them on the importance of sand and stone in the development of our country and their region. Show them how future plans for the property can benefit them.

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