Gunong Pangga limestone quarry in Sarawak, Malaysia.  mining
Gunong Pangga limestone quarry in Sarawak, Malaysia. mining /Quarries

Proposed 20-year mine lease west of Rockhampton

A PROPOSED limestone mine with a 20-year lease about 40km west of Rockhampton has been recommended for approval after objectors to the project took it through the land court.

Metroof Limestone Pty Ltd has applied for a mining lease on a 39.65 hectare lot on Donovan Road, Wycarbah.

According to a decision handed down in the Land Court of Queensland in December by Peta Stilgoe, Metroof intends to mine, crush, screen and bag limestone and supply it to nearby underground coal mines.

"Metroof also recognises a potential to supply limestone and dolomitic limestone to agriculture in Central Queensland," Ms Stilgoe stated in the document.

Noel and Gladys Connor, along with Rockhampton Regional Council, were listed as "non-active objectors".

The Connors live nearby, separated from the site by Donovan Rd, and had, until recently, owned the site the mine lease hangs over.

The Connors's property and mine site sits on land suitable for cattle breeding and fattening.

Age and ill-health forced them to sell, but their remaining property still remains their sole source of income and they do not want the mine to affect productivity, Ms Stilgoe explained.

The Connors's concerns include the impact on groundwater, the "heavy use of available water in the area", damage to aquifers, possible sinkholes, noise and pollution from machines along with possible explosives used to free the limestone and the presence of trucks on Rosewood Road.

"The Connors chose not to be active parties and have not filed any evidence in support of their position," Ms Stilgoe said.

However, she said "the Connors's objections involved questions of sound land use management, adverse environmental impact, and appropriate land use".

Ms Stilgoe said an Environmentally Sensitive Area risk assessment report from August 2018 notes that mining will expose no more than two hectares of ground at any time and direct interference with surface water flows will be minimal.

She said after reading the report, it was her opinion there was low likelihood the Connor's land would be directly impacted.

"Surface water from the mine would only enter the Connor land if the natural depression was filled, the drainage channel on the mine side of Donovan Rd was filled or the road was overtopped," Ms Stilgoe said.

"In my view, it would be an extreme weather event that would create those conditions."

The ESA, available online, shows exploration of the site indicated 900,000 tonnes of soft limestone, and 400,000 of agricultural grade limestone.

RRC also objected to the proposed grant of the lease, assuming Metroof would use Donovan and Rosewood roads to haul its material to market.

Council's concerns included the roads being lower order rural roads, pavement design not for continuous heavy vehicle loads, several vertical crests with substandard sight distance, narrow road which doesn't allow two vehicles to pass safely, vegetation obstructing sight and some floodways only being single lane with poor approach sight distance.

Ms Stilgoe noted she attended the site on December 10 for inspection. She said council's road concerns were justified.

"En route to the site inspection, I observed that the road is narrow, poorly formed in parts, and has numerous blind corners and crests," she said.

She said council was now satisfied there was legislation in place that requires a consultation and compensation agreement if the volume of traffic reaches a "notifiable road use" (10,000 ton per annum on a local government road) to address concerns.

"To ensure public safety into the future, Metroof must engage a suitable engineering consultant and liaise with council," Ms Stilgoe said.

"I am satisfied that, if this action is taken, the right and interest of the public will be protected."

The matter has been referred to the Natural Resources, Mines and Energy minister with the recommendation to grant the lease.