Surface mining association Aspasa has called into question the need for borrow pits, which have long been used by contractors and especially road builders to obtain easily accessible and cheap aggregates near their construction sites.

Nico Pienaar Aspasa borrow pitsThe country still bears the scars of thousands of these excavations that disfigure our landscapes and degrades the land use for future generations. Yet, in most instances nearby formal quarries are able to fulfil the requirement of these projects from certified and licenced quarrying sites that comply with all legal, environmental and labour-related requirements.

For greedy contractors, however, the saving of a few Rand per ton warrants the opening of excavation either illegally, or through seemingly legal channels such as local Governments and municipalities, says Aspasa.  

“However, this is where most roadside operations make a big mistake as borrow pits nowadays have rather stringent legislative requirements and need a mining permit from the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), as well as water usage and other licences. Gone are the days of a letter-of-consent from the municipality or a landowner,” says Nico Pienaar, director of Aspasa.

“In these instances, all the relevant permissions need to be met and, in addition to these requirements, a thorough rehabilitation plan needs to be submitted and accepted by the Department of Environmental Affairs. All these can be onerous and take months to secure. This should make it a lot less attractive proposition than simply striking up a deal with a nearby Asapsa accredited quarry. 

Add to the difficulty of operating a borrow pit, the labour legislation, DMR and local community liaison requirements and a future borrow pit can become a nightmare in the making, he adds. “In this day and age however, the challenges more-often-than-not lead to powerful corporations or Government departments simply bulldozing applications or going ahead with illegal operations under the guise or protection of these same entities,” says Pienaar.

He argues that in most instances’ economies of scale balance the cost of aggregates obtained from an accredited quarry due to the larger size of the operation and dedicated equipment and staff. By using an accredited Aspasa supplier, the user also supports sustainability of employment within the region, as well as the environment.

Perhaps most importantly, sand and aggregates produced within Aspasa accredited facilities are required to meet high standards of quality and this requires either onsite laboratories or regular sampling and testing by outside authorities to ensure conformity. Members also have access to the latest practices, techniques and equipment through the combined strength of the association, which means that Aspasa members have access to the best technical skills, if required, to solve their customer’s construction challenges.

Furthermore, Aspasa is of the opinion that the natural environment should not be disturbed unless it is absolutely necessary and if viable alternatives to borrow pits do exist within a viable distance of construction projects, then the use of borrow pits should not be condoned. For this reason, Aspasa continues to engage with government at all levels, as well as the DMR to discourage borrow pits unless no other alternatives are available.

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