Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Speech at the official opening of the Institute of Quarrying Australia, 46th Annual Conference, National Convention Centre, Canberra. \n

Download PDFDownload PDF




Mr Mike Canny, national vice president, Institute of Quarrying Australia, and Mrs Canny Mr Wayne Gregory, ACT branch chairman, Institute of Quarrying Australia, and Mrs Gregory Distinguished guests Ladies and gentlemen

Thank you for inviting me to open the 46th Annual Conference of the Institute of Quarrying Australia.

This is the second Annual Conference I’ve had the pleasure of opening - the first being your 39th in 1995, in Perth, as Governor of Western Australia.

To all those delegates who have journeyed from interstate and overseas, welcome to Canberra.

I hope you have time to enjoy the wonderful natural attractions that make this city such a lovely place to be.

One of the great privileges of my role as Governor-General, and formerly as a State Governor, has been the requirement to travel extensively across this great continent of ours to gain an appreciation of Australia’s infrastructure and its people.

This has provided me with an insight into the significant contribution your industry makes to Australia’s economy, its people and communities.

I became very familiar with quarries early in my military career.

Abseiling down and roping up quarry walls by day and night formed part of my Special Air Service military training.

The demanding terrain of quarries combined with various weather patterns produced the ideal environment for testing the physical courage of would-be recruits to the regiment.

Quarries have been an integral part of Australia’s development since its first settlement.

For more than 40,000 years before the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney Harbour,

well over 700,000 indigenous Australians mined the land for ochre and stone.

They depended on stone implements to gather and process their food, while ochre was a vital ingredient in art and religious practices.

Quarries and “processing” sites were developed to cater for the demand for these products, and transport routes were established for trade.

The arrival of Europeans gave rise to a different set of needs - namely shelter and community infrastructure.

As early as 1770, members of Captain Cook’s expedition noted the rock formation of the Botany Bay headland as being “eminently suitable for working into building blocks”.

However, despite the availability of sandstone, demand for low-cost housing necessitated the use of lower-cost construction materials, so wattle and daub, and bricks for the better class homes, were used.

Sandstone was extremely expensive and labour-intensive to quarry and was initially confined to use in foundations, sills and hearths.

By 1810, the need to improve the quality of building led Governor Macquarie to open a government quarry at the present-day Rocks area at Circular Quay.

As Sydney expanded, so did the country’s first formal road systems.

Rock, other than sandstone, was needed to provide a road surface that could withstand the grinding of coach wheels and the impact from iron-shod horse hooves.

This led to the sourcing of hard, durable rock for construction purposes - most probably at Prospect, just west of Parramatta.

The modern face of quarrying developed in post-war Australia with the great influx of migrants from war-ravaged Europe and the extensive use of concrete in building.

Prior to World War II, concrete was almost a specialist construction material in Australia - its use confined to major public works like dams or harbour works, and perhaps the occasional bathroom or laundry floor in a home.

Demand for aggregates was small and met, to a large extent, by small, family-owned quarrying enterprises.

The return of servicemen and arrival of migrants, in combination with the pent-up demand for a better standard of living after the deprivations of six years of war, led to an unprecedented demand for housing, community infrastructure and major public projects, such as the energy schemes of the Snowy Mountains.

Advances in civil and structural engineering design and the technology to use materials like reinforced concrete became available.

But it was the migrants from Europe with their skills in building and construction that, when combined with their powerful work ethic, provided the resources and

impetus to transform Australia’s urban and civil infrastructure.

Their expertise in the manufacture and working of concrete led to its widespread adoption as the ubiquitous building and construction material we know today.

The provision of industrial rocks for concrete, road-making, building and, in some States, lime for fertilisers, has been indispensable to the maintenance and development of our rural and urban environments.

The linkage between available crushed stone and community development is such that our current level of human civilisation and lifestyle would not be possible without quarrying.

Yours is an industry directly involved in nation-building.

Most Australians don’t appreciate the significance and value of quarrying, although the houses they live in, their places of work and the roads on which they travel would not be possible without it.

The statistics speak for themselves:

• 400,000 tonnes of aggregates from quarries within 100km of our cities and town centres across Australia are needed each day to satisfy our need for shelter and community infrastructure

• Annual production of aggregates for building and construction was an estimated 130 million tonnes in 2000

• The value, ex-quarry, of aggregates for building and construction was an estimated $1.3 billion in 2000

• Aggregate usage equates to 7 tonnes per person, per year

• A typical house uses approximately 60 tonnes of aggregates in its construction, and about 100 tonnes with driveway and yard

• The Australian quarrying industry directly employs over 7000 people (according to industry statistical returns to State and Territory Mines Departments) working in over 2212 quarries, ranging in size from major quarries producing more than 500,000 tonnes per annum through to one-person quarries and small borrow pits worked on an “as required” basis; and

• 25 per cent of the quarries produce about 75 per cent of the total aggregates.

It’s fair to say that our entire infrastructure and social fabric depends on and benefits enormously from readily available, high-grade, cost-effective aggregates.

They enable our agricultural and resource industries to get their goods to market on safe and efficient highways, railways and harbours, and provide the community with the construction materials for new libraries, hospitals and schools.

In the rebuilding of Canberra after the tragic bushfires in January, several hundred

Canberra families will directly benefit from the important role quarrying and quarry products play in the nation’s daily lives and wellbeing.

In Australia, I’m encouraged to see your industry grappling with the question of how to ensure that the economic and social contribution that quarrying makes to the country is not marred by the impact of its operations on the environment.

As natural resources dictate the location of quarries, there is the possibility that quarrying activities can impact on the environment and affect the amenity or lifestyle of people living near them.

My experience in combat zones around the world has made me very familiar with the trauma that can be caused by explosions and blasting.

However, improvements in explosive techniques and technology such as microsecond-delayed detonators, careful control of air release from explosion stems and more efficient explosives, now mean 70,000 tonnes of stone can be removed from a quarry wall without disturbing the amenity of nearby residents.

Finding a balance between these sometimes-competing interests represents a significant challenge - not only for the quarrying industry, but also for government and the community.

A balance between the economics of quarrying, preserving the environment and an enjoyable lifestyle for people living near quarries, is achievable provided quarries adopt the best quarrying and land management practices available - such as noise abatement, dust control, screening of quarries and post quarry use planning - and appropriate separation distances are maintained between quarries, their haulage routes and surrounding land uses.

Excellent examples are the quarry at Bass Point, south of Shell Harbour in NSW, where quarry products are transported by water and rail, and the location and direction of quarries in the hills behind Adelaide and Perth that are strategically sited.

Health and safety issues have been the focus of the Institute’s education program for three decades, and the industry can be justifiably proud of its record.

This is the result of all quarry staff - from the managing director down to workers with pick and shovels - taking personal responsibility for their own safety and those around them.

Now, what about the future?

Demand for aggregates is likely to continue at present levels and will most probably grow with the development of infrastructure in both urban and regional Australia.

Demand for rock-based products for buildings, recreational facilities and environmental improvement projects is also increasing.

The application of “sustainable development” principles will increasingly trigger further initiatives in recycling and reduction of emissions and wastes.

Pre-planning after quarry restoration and use before a quarry licence is issued also has

potential to assist in the resolution of potential land-use conflicts by providing planning authorities with appropriate analytical frameworks.

Today’s extractive quarrying industry not only provides valuable and much-needed construction materials, but also provides for long-term land use after quarrying, including housing, commercial facilities, hotels, tourist parks, car parks, entertainment venues, agriculture, parklands and gardens or recreational facilities.

Sand pits and limestone pits in the metropolitan area are being recontoured and used for sub-division development, waste disposal sites or for golf courses and other sporting facilities.

One only has to look at the magnificent Joondalup golf course in Western Australia for evidence of this.

Clay and gravel pits in the hills are being recontoured and planted with forest trees while hard-rock quarries, although not needing to be refilled, may well be used as waste disposal sites in the future.

The Penrith Lakes Olympic rowing venue in Sydney is another excellent example of integrated post-extractive land use, comprising elements that support urban development, conservation, passive recreation, environmental education and employment opportunities.

Whilst here in Canberra, an old quarry on the eastern slopes of Mt Ainslie is an artificial refuge for three uncommon ACT ferns (Cyathea australis, Adiantum aethiopicum and Histiopteris incisa).

The quarry’s vertical walls provide shelter from the northern sun and water seeps from rock crevices.

Gone are the days when quarrying was regarded as a dirty business.

Cleanliness is an essential part of today’s quarries as the safety, wellbeing and responsive functioning of the workforce demands a clean environment.

Today’s crushers, I’m told, produce such negligible dust levels that it’s possible to even enjoy jam and scones topped with cream inside the crusher house while the crusher is operating.

The continual development and export of technical expertise acquired through generations of innovation, hard work and with major contributions from migrants to Australia, continues to create rock products that enhance the quality of life for our communities.

As the professional body for quarrying, construction materials, and related extractive and processing industries, the Institute of Quarrying Australia is an educator, a conduit for knowledge and an advocate for standards and legislation.

It ensures that its members are at the leading edge of extractive technology and responsible environmental management by fostering operational improvements through ongoing education and training at operator, supervisory and management level, and providing technical support and training from work force level through to

senior management.

This conference is part of that commitment.

Its focus on the challenges facing the quarrying industry will help further improve your public image and address concerns about environment, health and safety and sustainability issues.

The ever-increasing community demand for your products can only be met by continued good quarry practice, best-practice safety management in the workplace, and careful and effective forward planning to gain access to rock and stone resources to meet demand and community expectations.

This conference is a chance for you to learn about new developments, understand what is available to improve your business, and broaden your knowledge.

It’s a wonderful opportunity for those working or involved in the quarrying industry to widen networks, renew acquaintances and share experiences.

It will allow you to consider innovations and ideas that technical speakers will present that maybe are appropriate to your business.

It’s, without question, a timely and highly important event.

It’s now my pleasure to declare the 46th Annual Conference of the Institute of Quarrying Australia open.

I wish you well in your deliberations.

Thank you.