THOUGH many have objected to the proposal of building a gated and guarded project on a hill overlooking the Golden Plus quarry in Ampang, the possibility of the plans becoming a reality still looms in the horizon.
According to Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) public relations officer Norhayati Ahmad, the project developer is appealing to the Selangor government on the matter.
“We received the proposal for planning approval last year but did not give the green light due to several reasons, including the lack of support from the Department of Environment (DOE),” she said.
Objections for the project came from the neighbouring residents as well as the quarry owned by Cemex Malaysia.
Norhayati said according to their guidelines, the developer had to prepare a 500m buffer zone between the quarry and the houses.
“There isn’t much space for the buffer zone let alone a housing area,” she added.
Cemex Malaysia environment, health and safety (EHS) and land management director Mohamad Salleh Soehod said they had given MPAJ 12 reasons why the plan should not go on.
“Based on the project’s proposed site which is on a higher level than the quarry, the visual impact will be bad as the quarry will be in full view and problems like flyrock could become a serious issue,” he said.
Salleh said quarry operations began in 1972 and it was only 20 years later when the first residential area nearby was built.
“The latest residential area is the low-cost flats which is built on land taken back by the state government from us a few years ago,” he said.
Over the years, the quarry has implemented various improvements to minimise problems after the residential areas were built.
Flyrock is one of the problems. Residents from nearby Mutiara Condominium in Bukit Indah said the rocks flew as far as 3km in an incident that happened 12 years ago.
Salleh said since the incident, the quarry hired several drilling and blasting consultants to conduct the operations.
“Equipment and methods were also changed including using large drills and only drilling less than half the usual depth to minimise deflections,” he said.
They also used laser profiling, not common for quarries, to determine deflections during the drilling process.
Salleh said by using the “single hole delay” blasting method and a hydraulic pump noise and vibrations from the blasts were reduced.
“Records of each blast are kept to monitor the vibration and sound levels in the residential areas,” Salleh said, adding that they video-recorded all the blasts,” he said.
He added that the Minerals and Geoscience Department Malaysia (JMG) would conduct spot checks and bring their own equipment during the blasting.
“The readings for vibration and sound are always low and within the acceptable parameters,” Salleh said.
“The JMG guidelines state that blasting can only be done on Tuesday and Thursday from noon until 4pm. We only carry out blastings from 1pm to 2pm when most people were out,” he added.
Salleh said dust was the biggest problem at the rock-crushing plants and not the blast sites where it settled quickly.
“All quarries in Selangor have to put covers over the rock-crushing ramps and plants as this is where the most dust is generated,” Salleh said.
He added that the quarry’s dust control system included reqular water spraying on the quarry’s internal roads, washing each lorry’s tyres and making sure its load is fully covered before the vehicle leaves the compound.
“We also use drilling machines with dust collectors, something also not done by most quarries as it is expensive,” Salleh said.
He also said they took the visual impact issue seriously.
“There is no way to see the exposed rock faces from the road or the surrounding residential areas. We also built a barrier between the low-cost flats and the quarry to overcome this problem,” he added.
Taman Bukit Ampang and Taman Kesuma Residents Association chairman Zakaria Yacob said in late 2008, an unpleasant smell that was suspected to originate from the asphalt plant in the quarry lingered in the neighbourhood.
“At one time, the smell was so bad that we could not open our surau windows for prayers. When we complained to the quarry company, we were told something was wrong with the plant’s chimneys thus the smell,” Zakaria said.
The two housing areas are located about 500m from the quarry.
He said since last November, they had been waiting for the state DOE report on the quarry and its effects on the surrounding areas.
“In a meeting with them and MPAJ, we were told the report would be ready in a week. Until now, we are told that the report is still in the draft stages,” Zakaria said, adding that the problem has been less noticeable since they complained.
Salleh said the DOE director had conducted a surprise visit last year to check on the residents’ complaints of odour.
“On our side, we have conducted tests via two separate consultants. The DOE was unhappy with the first test thus we had to do the second. The result for both showed insignificant readings,” Salleh said, adding that they also did tests in the residential area.
He added that the smell did not come from the asphalt plant based on the test results.
Desa Lembah Permai Flats Residents Association chairman Zaiton Abdul Rahim said cracks had started to appear at the flats since a year ago.
“Last year, a resident complained about a crack where rainwater would seep through and wet the mattress,” Zaiton said.
He said now the cracks could be found all over the walls, floor and ceiling.
“It is the safety aspect that worries us the most,” Zaiton said.
She added that flats residents, who were former squatters of the area, had complained that the doors and windows would rattle during the blasting.
There are 1,320 units and 100 shoplots in the flats which is located next to the quarry.
Mutiara Condominium Corporation Association (PPMC) committee member Yussuff Abdullah said the flyrock incident 12 years ago resulted in a more open quarry-residents relationship.
Since the incident, he said the quarry company held meetings with the residents and allowed site visits.
“Many of our problems were addressed and we believe the vibrations and dust were kept to a minimum,” he said.
Yussoff said he sympathised with the quarry as it was there before the condominium and its surrounding residential areas were built.
Salleh said the quarry issued a monthly report on its blastings including the results of the tests conducted to the DOE, the police and MPAJ.
“It is no top secret and anyone who wants to see it may do so,” he added.
He said they had a public complaint hotline and an email displayed at the quarry’s entrance to facilitate a more efficient means of communication between them and the public.