Health fears in the spotlight

Residents attended a public meeting about the proposed development at Sutton Forest.
Residents attended a public meeting about the proposed development at Sutton Forest.

The state government has refuted claims that a proposed sand mine at Sutton Forest would cause serious illness.

Several residents have expressed fears a proposed sand mine, by applicant Sutton Forest Quarries Pty Ltd, which has been on public exhibition since May 2018, could cause silicosis. 

Silicosis is a chronic lung disease caused by the long-term inhalation of dust containing free crystalline silica. 

According to Safe Work Australia, silicosis can occur when silica or sand powder is produced or used, silica or sand are used as abrasives, rock is drilled or removed from the earth, or when stones are processed.

Two people, including a spokesperson for the hospital and a person with a background in occupational health and safety, said they had concerns that mining activity could lead to a risk for residents at a public meeting on July 31.

A departmental spokesperson said the “Department of Health has not identified silicosis as a potential risk for people in neighbouring properties”.

Noise concerns were also raised by residents at the meeting, including nearby property owners and representatives from Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy.

The departmental spokesperson said the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) had raised noise issues for the proposed quarry.

“The noise modelling in the EIS does not appear to include all relevant operating equipment and hence may underestimate the noise levels predicted and impacts to nearby residents,” the spokesperson said.

“The noise issues will be reassessed by the EPA once additional information is submitted.”

A map of the proposed site, as shown in the Environmental Impact Statement.

A map of the proposed site, as shown in the Environmental Impact Statement.

Environmental breaches recorded by the EPA were also a hot topic during a question and answer session at the meeting.

The department confirmed the joint venture partner Hi-Quality Waste Management Pty Ltd had recorded eight EPA breaches in the last two years and this would be taken into account.

The proposed development requires landowner’s consent, given it does not require a mining lease.

There is currently no landowner’s consents provided for the project.

“The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act stipulates that in the absence of landowner’s consent, the project cannot be determined,” the spokesperson said.

“However, this does not prevent a development application being lodged, and every application must be properly assessed.”

Concerns were also raised about the applicant seeking development consent for 30 years, however the project life is 45 years.

The department said if the development was approved they would “consider any future application to expand or extend the life of the quarry.”