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Quarries essential to sustainable construction industry

Only with the coordinated efforts of South Africa’s legal quarrying industry will the construction of appropriate infrastructure be able to take place.

This is according to surface mining industry association, ASPASA, director, Nico Pienaar, who says that the quarrying industry in South Africa is technically advanced and able to supply materials for modern construction techniques. However, many of the country’s quarries are under threat due to illegal operations and ill-considered borrow pits, which are undercutting the prices of formal quarries and bringing many to their knees.

However, he warns, without well managed quarries operating in our towns and cities the cost of construction will become unaffordable for Government, developers and even for homeowners. If allowed to disappear we will see similar problems arise as with the Eskom energy and water crisis, where too little is done too late and the citizens will bear the brunt.

No tomorrow

“Imagine we need specialised materials to build a dam wall, tunnel or hospital or private contractors need high strength concrete for mine shafts, high rise buildings or advanced new construction techniques. Imagine we can’t supply them because our formal quarrying industry – with its mining experts, blasting professionals, mineral processing engineers and skilled workers – have left the industry due to the quarries closing. Illegal miners and small-scale borrow pits don’t have the skills nor the expensive capital equipment to produce such materials.

“By supporting illegal miners or establishing ill-considered borrow pits to meet short term construction requirements more cheaply, Government departments, municipalities and construction firms will be complicit in the demise of our quarries and will spell the inevitable demise of the formal construction industry in South Africa. And, while short term price gains may seem attractive, it undermines the livelihoods of thousands of workers who are gainfully employed in the formal quarrying sector with its strenuous health, safety and environmental laws, as well as compliance with employment criteria etc,” says Nico.

He explains that quarries by their nature need to be situated close in- or close to our towns and cities to avoid expensive transport costs that will make them unaffordable. All too often residents only see the negative side of quarrying, such as the use of heavy equipment on site, blasting or increased heavy vehicle traffic and get upset at the mere thought of having a “big, dirty quarry “nearby. Little do most people know, however, that formal registered quarries belonging to the association are far from being bad neighbours.

Compliance matters

Legal quarries which are members of ASPASA must obtain mining, water usage and environmental permits and have to abide by the strictest regulations possible just in order to begin quarrying operations. Once in operation they are heavily regulated (in terms of the impact on surrounding communities) and have to comply with the strictest possible regulations relating to noise, dust and water pollution among others. An additional benefit is the creation of direct and indirect jobs that are sustainable over a long period of time.

In fact, the quarry industry has never been more responsible and committed to the communities they operate in. With the Government’s commitment to building new homes and the rising population growth, a strong demand for infrastructure development is required and this needs to be supported by legal quarry operations in every town and city. “We are calling for Government, contractors, developers and the formal construction industry to recognize the important roles played by well resourced, well equipped, formal quarries and to support them in the interest to sustainable construction,” concludes Nico.

<<Fast Fact>>

Quarries create employment for surrounding communities

The value of well-run quarries in our cities and towns was recently underscored by research suggesting that every job in the quarrying industry creates a further five jobs in downstream operations.

These figures therefore suggest that quarries are major contributors to regional job creation efforts; and as an industry is a major driver of the national economy accounting for substantial revenues and the creation of many thousands of direct and indirect jobs.

The research done in the USA by the Phoenix Centre for Advanced Legal and Economic Public Policy Studies shows that quarries are not only beneficial to the development of physical infrastructure but are also major contributors to the building of strong local economies. Furthermore, it showed that the benefits lasted for an extended period of time ranging from 20 years to longer.

Aspasa, Nico Pienaar, Tel: (011) 791 3327, Fax: 086 647 8034, Email: nico@aspasa.co.za, Web: www.aspasa.co.za