The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (14:36): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Health and Wellbeing a question on the topic of residential health impacts regarding the proposed White Rock Quarry expansion.
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: In January this year, the South Australian government commenced a detailed assessment of the submission by Hanson Construction Materials Pty Ltd to expand White Rock Quarry in the Adelaide Hills. It is just 10 kilometres east of the Adelaide CBD. In response, local residents have formed a group called Residents Against White Rock Quarry. Their concerns include the environmental and health risks posed by the proposed expansion. One of the primary concerns of these residents is the respirable crystalline silica (RCS) dust which has the potential to blow over residents in local suburbs including Horsnell Gully, Magill, Skye and Norton Summit.
The Cancer Council has found that exposure to silica dust can lead to the development of lung cancer, silicosis—which is an irreversible scarring and stiffening of the lungs—kidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Adelaide suburban residents are now vulnerable to these health risks under our current laws, as private mines can mine right up to the boundaries of private homes.
We have workplace standards around this dangerous dust and I note that those workplace standards are some eight hours of exposure per day in measurement, and yet what we are talking about here is residential 24/7 exposure. My question to the minister is: what has the government done to measure the residential health risks posed to local and nearby residents of this expansion and what tools and guidelines for this work to be done are currently available to SA Health?
The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:38): I thank the honourable member for her question. White Rock Quarry was originally established in 1946. As the honourable member says, Hanson are proposing to extend the life of the quarry, which would result in a larger operational footprint that would move them closer to surrounding residences. To authorise the expansion, an updated mine operations plan must be approved by government. There has been stakeholder engagement in relation to the long-term quarry development plan, and there has been a strong reaction from the community.
The Department for Energy and Mining is coordinating the whole-of-government technical assessment that considers all potential environmental and health impacts. SA Health is working with the regulators, the Department for Energy and Mining and the Environment Protection Authority. SA Health is working with the regulators to ascertain in what way the White Rock Quarry project will impact on residents and how best to prevent and manage risks of dust and other air pollutants, including respirable silica. This includes working together in undertaking an exposure assessment. That exposure assessment will also include respirable silica exposure. The details of how this will be achieved are still in the planning stage.
I am advised that in terms of health it is well established that silicosis occurs in occupational settings when high levels of respirable silica occur, but our understanding of how a quarry may contribute to a community's exposure leading to adverse health outcomes is less well developed.