Growing discontent over clay quarry

Area of concern: Clay mining operations at the Bayport quarry, Pottery Rd, Somerville, have residents up in arms. Picture: Yanni

Area of concern: Clay mining operations at the Bayport quarry, Pottery Rd, Somerville, have residents up in arms. Picture: Yanni

A “GROWING sense of outrage” is being felt by residents opposed to escalating clay mining operations at the Bayport Industries quarry, Somerville.

Tyabb Ratepayers’ Group members last week met Mornington Peninsula Shire managers overseeing economic development, planning, and compliance to discuss their concerns over works in Pottery Rd.

They will meet with the Department of Economic Development, shire officers and local MPs later this month. Bayport has signalled its intention to attend, although this could not be confirmed as when contacted by The News the company offered a firm: “No comment.”

Residents are angry that clay mining on 60 acres in the middle of a low-density residential area is allowed.

“How can this have been permitted without any consultation with the community?” spokesperson Alan Robinson asked. “And, more importantly, in the interests of the environment, residential amenity and community health and safety, what can be done about it?”

The group acknowledges that the mining operator has a permit to mine clay issued to the original owners by the Shire of Hastings in 1964, and reconfirmed in 2008 through non-conforming use rights.

But the residents say public notification of the mining approvals has “flown under the radar”.

Mr Robinson said residents over the past 20-30 years were aware of a fenced-off area at the end of Pottery Rd, but were assured by council that the once-small pottery, then inactive, and had no plans to re-start.

“Even if council was wrong at that time, and the pottery was being operated from time to time, it must have been at such a low level as to be almost unnoticeable,” he said.

Mr Robinson said the original permit was for a much smaller block than the 60 acres now being mined.

“While nobody is saying that Bayport, the mining operator, doesn’t have a right to do what they are doing, the increased intensity of the renewed operation and its effect on the amenity and safety of the community is of great concern to a growing number of people,” he said.

The group is seeking copies of the work plan for the site and other documents relating to its operation from Bayport and the Department of Environment, Jobs, Transport and Resources.

“However, Bayport has indicated they are not willing to supply this information as ‘the documents you seek contain both confidential and private information to our employees and company IP [intellectual property]’,” Mr Robinson says he was told.

“So, the community will need to request this information under FOI, which could take some time and, in the meantime, it does not have a clear idea of how the mine will actually operate.”

Residents have had a taste of this previously, with an increase in activities last October resulting in a large number of trucks, loaded with clay, travelling down Pottery, Jones and Bungower roads.

“Every day, I get letters from concerned residents asking either to join the residents’ group or just expressing their outrage and dismay at the impact of this operation on their lifestyles, and safety,” Mr Robinson said.

One resident wrote: ‘We have been here 29 years and are dismayed at what is happening to our quiet little area. We cannot believe that council has allowed the mining to take place without any notification to surrounding residents.

“We were overseas last year and returned to find the land of the pottery works had been levelled, and we were horrified. The noise from the machinery and the dust nearly drove us insane.

“The point is that, when the original permit was issued in 1964, the population of Somerville was around 700 people. It was an entirely rural landscape,” Mr Robinson said.

“Move forward 44 years to 2008 and the population and environs had already increased to more than 11,000, and continues to grow exponentially. Community health and safety is now a real concern.

“This is now a low-density residential area, and the impact of the mine will be felt not just by those who live on adjoining properties, but by all who live on the mine’s transport routes, or use surrounding streets to access schools, work, and the township.

“And, as there is no end point to the permit, the clay mine can run for the life of the resource which could be 100 years.”

First published in the Western Port News – 16 March 2016


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