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  Management errors caused accidents at quarries  
     
 

This letter was published on Monday, 22nd October 2001 in the Sun Newspaper

Management errors caused accidents at quarries

I refer to the report Checks at 60 quarries in The Sun on Sept 18. As the Director for Mines, Perak, from June 1992 until the dissolution of the Department of Mines, I am qualified to comment on the matters stated in the report.

I was entrusted by the State Government to administer The Perak Quarry Rules (1992) as gazetted, and was the Land Administrator for the purpose. The Department of Mines Perak exercised strict and diligent control over quarry operations in the state. Proper guidelines and technical standards were drawn up and enforced by the department.

To note one example, ground vibrations were not allowed to exceed 3.5mm per second in sensitive areas. This standard is stricter than in many developed countries.

Circulars and directives were issued to quarry operators, shotfirers and consultants on the technical and operational aspects of quarrying.

Operators never had a free hand. Blasting operations were monitored by the department's staff with sophisticated electronic equipment.

However, with regards to several incidents, I wish to point out the following:

  • In a dialogue between the Department of Minerals and Geoscience with quarry operators on May 18, operators were told to carry out "big" blasts. Soon after, the incident where a hill collapsed during blasting operations at Keramat Pulai occurred.

  • The Department of Mines has always strictly controlled when blasting should occur. No blasting is allowed on Fridays, and the third Saturdays of each month. And no blasting is allowed after 2pm.
    The recent incident at Kanthan where flying rocks hit some houses happened on a Saturday afternoon. This is because the Department of Minerals and Geoscience had allowed blasting on Fridays and Saturdays. I stress here that this incident would never have happened under the control of Department of Mines.

  • The Department of Minerals and Geoscience recently issued an instruction circular which among others, stated that warning signs must be used. However, this circular is a pale shadow of the instructions already issued by the Department of Mines which were precise and comprehensive.

Limestone hills where the majority of quarries operate in Perak are usually cracked and have cavities. Also, the geological planes and fault lines make blasting operations difficult. However, with proper guidance and control, there should be no difficulty with such blasting.

Take for instance the blasting of the limestone hill next to Taman Chandan Desa. The operation was supervised by the Department of Mines with very successful results.

All that I have stated above are facts. The Department of Minerals and Geoscience should look at what was previously done, rather that make statements without knowing the real facts.

The standard that operators supposedly cannot meet have not been made known to the industry. It is not surprising that the Department of Minerals and Geoscience has chosen not to disclose them.

It would be much better if those in charge of the blasting operations act in a more transparent manner. It would also be wise for them not to state something without first knowing the true facts involved.

Datuk Abdul Rahman Rafek
Ipoh.

 
     

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