Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy Rector fears proposed sand mine could disturb way of life at shrine

A proposed sand mine has left the fathers and brothers of a Sutton Forest shrine uncertain of their future.

Shrine of our Lady of Mercy Rector Father Damian Mosakowski spoke out against the proposed Sutton Forest sand mine at a recent public meeting.

Father Damian said he was concerned that noise and vibration would leave the fathers, brothers, visitors and pilgrims of the shrine unable to pray or meditate.

The proposed sand mine, which is about 50 metres from the shrine’s grotto, is likely to produce noise and vibration daily.

Father Damian said he didn’t know what the fathers and brothers would do if the proposed mine was approved.

“We’re against the project because the goals of the shrine cannot be reconciled with the goals of the mine,” he said.

“[The shrine] is a place where it’s mostly silent. People come here to pray, meditate and spend time wandering around the chapels. Behind the grotto there will be trucks reserving and beeping, and there will be grinding of sandstone.”

According to the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), prepared by RW and Corkery and submitted to the Department of Environment and Planning, daily truck movements would average about 134 truck movements or 67 loads of quarry products.

There will be a maximum of 332 daily truck movements, or 166 loads of quarry products, that will occur during peak sales periods.

The proposed sand mine, which is about 50 metres from the shrine’s grotto, is likely to produce noise and vibration daily. Photo: Madison Ibrahim

The proposed sand mine, which is about 50 metres from the shrine’s grotto, is likely to produce noise and vibration daily. Photo: Madison Ibrahim

According to the EIS, the extraction method will be blasting, and there will be between six to 12 blasts per year.

In a statement provided to the Southern Highland News, a Department of Planning and Environment spokesperson said the Environment Protection Authority has raised noise issues at the site.

“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.”

The impact of the proposed mine on the local water supply was also a concern for the fathers and brothers.

“As much as the proponents are presenting a model which is not so much impacting, we will not know that until after they start to dig, then we will have data that will be available afterwards,” Father Damian said.

The EIS has specifically addressed the shrine and said “it is considered unlikely that the proposal would significantly change the existing amenity experienced by the community and visitors alike and that the economic benefits would be significant to the local and regional economy.”

However Father Damian said a drop in visitation numbers would be to the detriment of the Southern Highlands tourism industry.

“We have thousands of visitors [each year]. These people need to eat somewhere so they go to restaurants and cafes in the Southern Highlands and they support families in the community,” he said.

“When they find out this is going on, I don’t know how they’d feel.”

A Department of Environment and Planning spokesman said the department was aware of public concerns in regard to the proposal.

“The Department received more than 440 community objections regarding the Sutton Forest quarry proposal as well as detailed advice from 12 Government agencies,” the spokesman said.

“These submissions raised many issues relating to biodiversity, water resources, air quality, noise and blasting, traffic and transport and social impacts, including on the neighbouring Shine of Our Lady of Mercy.

“The applicant will now have to address all issues in a Response to Submissions (RTS) report, which is expected to take many months and will be made publicly available on the Department’s website when it is completed. The Department’s request for a RTS detailed 61 separate matters which the applicant must address.

“The Department will then undertake detailed assessment of all issues raised by the community and other agencies, in the light of the applicant’s responses.”

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