The use of stone in Maltese construction has been a prevalent constant throughout the years and this is evident by the amount of quarries present on the islands. Quarries are regulated by subsidary legislation 549.50; Waste Management (Management of Waste from Extractive Industries and Backfilling) Regulations. The Environment and Resources Authority plays an important role in enforcing these regulations, conducting regular routine inspections and complaint investigation around such quarries in both Malta and Gozo.
Quarries can be divided into two categories based on their resources (i.e softstone & hardstone). The method of extraction used is highly depdent on the type of resource present, with hardstone quarries generally making use of hydraulic machinery and blasting; while softstone quarry resource is generally easier to extract and in most cases use simpler methods. The main operations carried out in quarries include (but are not limited to) extraction, backfilling and material recycling. There are also additional ancillary activities which are sometimes located in such quarries, such as batching and tarmac plants.
The Environmental Permit issued by the Authority obliges operators to abide by a set of conditions designed to limit the impact on the surrounding environment as much as possible.
The inspections conducted within facilities are primarily either planned routine inspections or related to a complaint received by the Authority.
Routine inspections take place throughout the year with the number of inspections per facility being based on risk; taking into account the operations of the facility, the scale of said operations and the past compliance levels of the facility in question.
When conducting a routine inspection, the officers together with the operator or TCP (Technically Competent Person), go through all the processes of the facility from beginning to end in order to observe whether the conditions stipulated in the Environmental Permit or IPPC are being adhered to throughout. In addition, the inspection serves as a means to confirm whether any pending prior issues have been addressed and if so, proof of such is collected. The inspection is then followed by a detailed inspection report which lists any issues that were noted, as well as actions to be undertaken by the operator. Deadlines for the completion of these actions are also imposed in the report and a follow ups are conducted to ensure that any potential issues were rectified.
When complaints are received by the Authority, officers commence investigations in order to verify the claims made by the complainant. If any illegalities, including operations without a permit required by law or in the form of breaches of permit are noted, the Authority may then choose to take further enforcement action accordingly. There are a range of actions which ERA may take. These include but are not limited to administrative fines, Out of Court Settlements, Stop Orders or Stop and Compliance order with associated daily fines based on S.L.549.72 – Daily Penalty Regulations, or by taking court actions. These enforcement actions may also be applied in cases when issues persist following routine inspections, depending on the case at hand.