In well managed quarries where ground water or run-off water is present it is common to see beautiful specimens of Koi or other fish swimming and thriving in the large bodies of water. in fact these fish are usually treasured additions to a quarry’s assets.
This attests to the non-harmful way in which water is used in our quarries and in many ways is taken as a sort of visual proof of a quarry’s environmental care. If such visible creatures as ornamental carp are growing and thriving, then it usually indicates that the overall health of the water on site on a quarry is good.
Nico Pienaar of the Aggregates and Sand Producers Association of Southern Africa (Aspasa), says that despite the massive earthworks and highly mechanised nature of quarrying, organised members of the industry are not polluters of water. As the process of crushing and sizing aggregates is a mechanical process there is no need for added chemicals and as a result very little chance of water becoming contaminated.
“Quarries are also not extractors and users of water, as water is used to clean aggregates and is treated and replaced back into the system either downstream of the quarry or into the ground water. Only small amounts of water may leave the plant in trucks, but this is usually a small portion of the overall amount of water used.
“Under the banner of Aspasa our members have undergone exhaustive compliance with water usage regulations of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF), as well as environmental impact assessments just to obtain the necessary licences and permits to begin operating. Thereafter they need to operate their quarries in such a way that it does not infringe on the environment nor the quality of water in the surrounds.
“In addition to all legal requirements, Aspasa members are also required to undergo independent annual environmental audits to ensure that individual quarries uphold Aspasa’ s About Face Environmental Audits which are based on international environmental management standards,“ says Nico.
While quarries that are accredited by Aspasa are vigorously protective of the environment, the same cannot be said for illegal quarry operators and temporary borrow pits that are occasionally granted temporary right to extract aggregates from an area. Wherever sand and aggregate pits are deemed to be polluting ground or surface water or are abstracting a volume of water that negatively affects surrounding communities or areas, Nico advises that complainants make contact with the association or with the local office of DWAF.
“In times of severe drought and water scarcity there is no room for the misuse of our valuable water resources. We therefore call upon the construction industry and other users to ensure that they procure sand and aggregates only from Aspasa members that are responsible water users and have the correct accreditation and certifications to prove that they are using water responsibly. It may also be a good idea to check on the health of their resident Koi fish,” jokes Nico.