Galong Limestone Mining
Mr STEVE WHAN: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Mineral Resources. What is the latest information on limestone mining in Galong?
Mr KERRY HICKEY: As members will be aware, New South Wales has abundant deposits of limestone. Our largest limestone deposits supply processing plants within economical haulage areas of Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong. The limestone sector continues to provide tremendous economic benefits to the regional areas. Production figures in 2002-03 were 4.5 million tonnes, valued at about $32.3 million. Limestone is used in the manufacturing of cement, iron and steel, treating water, dusting coal, chemical production, and agriculture. Some limestone is used as coarse aggregate, usually where suitable materials are not available. Approximately 50 per cent of the State's limestone production is used in the manufacture of cement.
Boral Limited owns Australia's largest limestone quarry, in the Southern Highlands, and reserves are estimated to be between 200 million and 300 million tonnes of high-grade limestone. In May 2003 Boral Limited acquired the Galong limestone mine, which is south-east of Harden in the Lachlan electorate. The Galong deposit was first mined in the 1920s and again during the 1960s. Since 1994 Galong has been mined through a private mining agreement. In 2001 the Government granted a limestone mining lease for the Galong operation, which extended the mineable area of land from 16 hectares to 160 hectares. Resources of 20 million tonnes of limestone have been defined within the proposed limit of mining.
It is my pleasure to inform the House that Boral Limited is expending $32 million to upgrade and expand the Galong operation, including the construction of a quicklime kiln on site. Construction work for the mine expansion and the kiln began in February this year and is expected to take about six months. According to the company, the kiln technology used at Galong is the lowest-cost production method available and is well-proven in many locations around the world. The new kiln will provide high-quality quicklime to meet growing demand for limestone products. Cement production is expected to remain strong in the coming year. Even though housing activity is expected to soften, non-residential construction and infrastructure sectors are likely to strengthen.
The Galong mine is currently the largest supplier of agricultural lime in the region, providing approximately 25 per cent of the State's requirements. Growth in the agricultural lime market is expected to continue as it is used for remediating soil acidity, a major problem threatening the productivity and sustainability of agriculture in many parts of New South Wales. The steel sector of Port Kembla is another key customer for the Galong operation, and production is supported by upgraded long-term contracts. During this time 70 people will be employed to work on the construction phase of the project. That is 70 people spending 70 pay packets in Harden's shops—a big boost to the local economy.
Currently only 13 people are employed at the mine, which produces 140,000 tonnes of limestone every year. When the construction work is finished in about July this year Galong will employ 19 people full-time, and production will increase to 300,000 tonnes per annum. With an expected production life of 40 years, the upgraded and expanded Galong mine will help to sustain the Lachlan region and our limestone industry for many years to come. The Government welcomes this investment. It is yet another example of the private sector's confidence in our minerals industry.