No silicosis risks and good dust management now shown

Posted on 25 June 2018

People living near quarries in Yaldhurst near Christchurch are now confirmed as having no reason to fear being exposed to dust that can cause the dangerous lung disease of silicosis, says the National Health and Safety Council for the mining and quarrying sector, MinEx. 

The Aggregate and Quarry Association says the results of the combined ECan, CCC and CDHB Yaldhurst area wide testing near Canterbury quarries shows dust issues can largely be managed within existing resource consents.

MinEx CEO Wayne Scott says the combined agency testing near quarries that were at the centre of silicosis claims, now confirm no evidence that the active cause of silicosis – Respirable Crystalline Silica – is present at levels that would cause any harm. New Zealand’s limit on RCS is 0.1mg per cubic metre, among the world’s lowest. 

“If there’s any risk of RCS exposure it’s to quarry workers, not neighbours, who most often are at least 100 metres from a quarry face, with a huge amount of air space between them. MinEx continues working with quarries and WorkSafe to reduce any risk to quarry workers,” says Mr Scott.

“It needs to be understood that all dust is recorded. This includes diesel particulates, and dust from roads, farms and riverbanks – not just dust created by quarries.” 

“That said, while many quarries have good dust management in place, all operators need to continue to lift their game, because any dust that emerges from a quarry – as from any farming or earthmoving operation – is annoying to close neighbours.” 

Mr Scott says Canterbury quarries are currently working on a voluntary Code of Practice that will provide councils and residents with reassurance that issues such as nuisance dust can continue to be properly managed. 

The Aggregate and Quarry Association chair Brian Roche welcomes the Canterbury dust test results. 

“We’ve had a lot of claims made about dust, and now we have the facts. Most of our members work hard to meet dust limits set by councils as part of a resource consent, along with controls on noise and traffic movements.”

“These results show dust can be managed under existing planning law. If quarries were pushed well into the rural hinterland, that would increase the cost of every home, building and road, because the big cost in quarrying is transport.

“Christchurch alone needs to set aside the equivalent of 27 rugby fields (27 hectares) every year, just to keep up with demand. Sources of aggregate need to be kept close to what’s being built or costs escalate markedly.” 

Mr Roche says from next year onwards, national supplies of aggregate will begin to be exceeded by demand, amid ongoing issues to get new quarries or extensions consented.

“The AQA would like to engage with the new Government, as it commences its home building and transport programmes, to ensure a continued supply, at reasonable cost, of the very foundation of the New Zealand economy.”

“On the back of these monitoring results, our industry also wants to engage with Canterbury councils, so we can discuss how we can work together to ensure dust, noise and transport issues from quarries are framed and managed under appropriate management practices, and ultimately resource consents.”