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Updates to Geotechnical Risk Guidelines

Updated: Aug 31, 2022

By Stephanie Mathews

L- R: Stephanie Mathews - Senior Environmental Consultant, James Rowe - Director, Jessica Cooney - Technical Assistant - Environment

Groundwork Plus recently attended Victoria's Construction Material Processors Association's (CMPA) Geotechnical Risk Workshop. The workshop covered an update to the CMPA guideline 'Working Safely with Geotechnical Risk in Quarries'.


The day began with a tour of a basalt quarry owned and operated by Matthews Quarry in the Gippsland region. Rehabilitation, resource identification, and geography featured heavily during the tour and were supported by geological knowledge from Basil Natoli (BCA Consulting), a local consultant to the area.

The workshop allowed regulators and industry peers to voice their opinions on the regulation and importance of working safely with geotechnical risk, with presentations from Wally Morrison (Work Safe Victoria), Karen Sonnekus (Earth Resources Regulation (ERR)), David McKelvie (Safe Mix), Sanjive Narendrathan and Nirav Patel (GHD) detailing common geotechnical risks. The risks identified were generally consistent across quarry sites and included site safety for operational requirements for haul roads, slopes, and working faces. The workshop also highlighted common terms of failure.


Ideas for identification and improvement of the geotechnical risk aspects of a site before submission of a work plan or work plan variation were discussed at length by ERR and colleagues. ERR is currently in Stage 2 of its Better Approvals for Regulators (BAR) project, aiming to reduce approval times, improve industry interactions with ERR and maintain or improve management of risks (including geotechnical risk) under the current regulatory framework. The program has had formal input from over 18 industry consultations and used 133 work plans to provide data for analysis. Numerous guidelines have been produced to aid the industry in preparing Work Plans and Work Plan Variations ( https://earthresources.vic.gov.au/legislation-and-regulations/guidelines-and-codes-of-practice).

ERR has implemented a collaborative approach to discuss potential geotechnical risks to provide a smoother approval process and reduce the back and forth for improvements to a work plan. With specific attention given to geotechnical risk associated with terminal and rehabilitated slope design for a site before submission of a work plan or work plan variation.

Although this is a well-conceived idea acknowledged by attendees, it is clear that the current shortage of skilled professionals will impact the ability of ERR to commit to their proposed improvement, with only one Geotechnical Specialist in the Technical Team. ERR have produced a guideline for Geotechnical engagement sessions- information for proponents- available here on their website- https://earthresources.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/word_doc/0004/872077/Guidelines-Geotechnical-engagement-sessions-for-extractive-industry-proponents.docx.


In addition to improved content regarding geotechnical risk in a work plan or work plan variation, a ground control management plan (GCMP) was discussed as an on-site live management document to ensure geotechnical risk is managed and improvements are made during the life cycle of a quarry.

Sanjive Narendrathan, Technical Director - Mining Geotechnical Engineer (GHD) and Nirav Patel, Senior Geotechnical Engineer (GHD), provided an insight into the update of the CMPA's Guideline "Working Safely with Geotechnical Risk in Quarries" which aims to support CMPA members in meeting the requirements of the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. Conveying the importance and benefit of implementing risk management plans, particularly a GCMP for a site, and the importance of the GCMP being a live document. A GCMP provides a mechanism by which a feedback loop is created between the operating performance of a quarry site and the slope design process, requiring ongoing assessment and updated risk. However, the GCMP is not a legislated requirement for a site. It is highly recommended to engage the services of a trained geotechnical specialist before engagement of ERR and preparation of a work plan or work plan variation for a site.


The workshop was well attended by industry and representatives from the Regulatory authorities. The commitment by the Regulatory authorities to improve the approval process and provide collaborative pathways with the industry is to be commended. When the quarrying industry is experiencing unprecedented growth to support the construction industry, it was encouraging to see that change is happening and the industry's voice is heard.

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