Quarrying & Mining Magazine

We need to yell harder

There is a lot of uncertainty at this moment in time, but one thing can’t be argued, the importance of the aggregate industry to our national health. By Andy Loader, First Rock Consultancy.

There has been a lot of talk recently about the supply of natural sand in the Auckland region in the face of public opposition (rational or not) and the dredging of natural beach sand.

Not surprisingly, existing and future manufactured sand operations have been receiving a lot of press as an alternative.

However, manufacturing sand, with very fine crushing, is energy intensive so it is more costly to produce than mining natural sand.

I have been involved in a sand quarry on the edge of the Woodhill exotic pine forest, which is planted mainly on sand dunes. This quarry has featured twice in this magazine and is operated through a lease agreement with the local Maori land owners and extracts quality sand from an area that has been logged. The Woodhill Group has a 35 year consent on about 10 million cubic metres of dune sand. This sand deposit has a different fineness than river or marine sands but is has been tested as suitable for use in concrete manufacture.

So in regard to the future supply of sand in the Auckland region, the Woodhill Group has enough reserves at current rates of usage to keep the Auckland concrete market going for many years to come. And, this deposit of dune sand, in my opinion, is a much more environmentally friendly option than other resources being extracted now or in the future.

The land is used currently for forest planting and at the end of the rotation after the trees are logged, the ground is cleaned of stumps and then the sand can be extracted. After the extraction, the land is rehabilitated and returned to the owners as flat land suitable for any use they may require.

The extraction of this sand deposit doesn’t require anywhere near the same amount of fuel and energy as river or sea based operations – which works in favour of ticking the ’emissions’ boxes.

Meanwhile, it is interesting to reflect on how our industry has ended up in a situation where demand is outstripping supply. As an industry, have we made it clear enough of the essentiality of aggregates to any infrastructure development and maintenance? The transport sector has been very vocal – and as we all know – the squeaky wheel. Remember when the farming community drove their tractors up the steps of Parliament – that turned heads.

We consume about eight tonnes of aggregates per head of the population each year on an ongoing basis just to maintain things as they are. Aggregates can only be produced where nature has provided the natural resources, so town planning authorities and designers should have this fact in bold ink on the cover of their manuals.

Legislation regarding resource management and projects design should have ‘aggregate’ stamped in bold all over it.

Our schools should be teaching ‘aggregates’ as a matter of essential fact in their social studies programmes. The media should be putting aggregates into any coverage and discussion about projects.

Public prejudice has built up over years of environmental hysteria and misinformation. In my experience, the majority of people change their view on ‘extraction’ quite remarkedly once they become aware of what it takes to produce critical aggregate supplies for infrastructure.

So, what is the answer? We don’t know where this country is heading as it wobbles its way through some very nonsensical debates. But, what is certain, we won’t be going anywhere in the future without aggregates.

And, it is up to us – our industry – to make this message loud and clear. Start defending yourself, or stand by and watch the consequences.

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