1.1 Background

The issues covered in this handbook have a number of things in common. Of all the topics covered in the leading practice handbook series, this group of issues is arguably the one that generates more complaints and more opposition from the local community than any others. The complaints are

often immediate and are usually directed to the mine or, in many cases, to the regulator. Residents living near a mine site will not hesitate to phone the local environment protection authority or mines inspector to demand action.

Their concern might be dust from a haul road, truck reversing alarms or a suspicious dust cloud. Blasting generates a high proportion of complaints in all of the three areas covered by this handbook. These complaints are not restricted to open-cut mines, as inefficient blasting practices in deep underground mines also give rise to community concerns, particularly when firings take place at night.

A recent newspaper article highlighted the issue of noise and its impacts, both real and perceived, on the local community (Safe 2009). The article detailed the formation of an anti-noise lobby group, Noise Watch Australia. One featured case involved a retiree who moved to a heavily timbered block some distance from a capital city. A sawmill increased its production to 24 hours per day, seven days per week. In his words, ‘the noise drove us darn crazy’; consequently, he sold up.

Another complainant stated ‘the growth of noise in communities across Australia is still not recognised for what it is—another form of pollution that’s having serious health impacts on many people’. The World Health Organization was quoted

in the article as saying that up to 3 per cent of heart disease deaths, or more than 200,000 globally, are due to long-time exposure to chronic traffic noise.

But are noise levels increasing? The Environment Protection Authority Victoria indicates that noise across Melbourne has not increased since the 1970s, yet community complaints have risen considerably (EPA 2007). In the United Kingdom, noise complaints are five times higher than they were 20 years ago.

Assuming that noise has not increased at a commensurate level it is clear that people are becoming less tolerant of noise than they once were.

The issue of dust emanating from a mine site has been the focus of intense media scrutiny in Western Australia recently. The issue surrounds the export of lead concentrate from Magellan Metals’ Wiluna mine from the ports of Esperance and Fremantle. The extent of community dissatisfaction can be seen from newspaper headlines in November 2008: ‘Unions promise to

fight Barnett over lead shipments’, ‘Port’s mayor vows to fight risky lead exports’ and ‘Lead leaches hope of Esperance future’ (Clarke 2008).

These issues are important in all sectors of our industry—coal and metalliferous mining, and quarrying. Indeed, in November 2007 the front cover of Quarry magazine, the official journal of the Institute of Quarrying Australia, headlined ‘Ensuring your neighbours don’t eat dust’.

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