Monday, April 23, 2007

Mining work may start at Kekek Quarry in 3-6 months: Grace Fu

23 April 2007
Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE : Mining activity could start at the Kekek Granite Quarry in Pulau Ubin in three to six months.

This is according to Minister of State for National Development Grace Fu.

Re-opening the quarry is part of the government's plans to make up for the granite shortfall facing Singapore, after supply was disrupted last month.

Meanwhile, authorities are also working to reduce granite and concrete prices.

It is still quiet at the granite quarries on Pulau Ubin, and a lot of work needs to be done before granite blasting begins.

This includes draining the pond and making sure that the marine life and surrounding environment are protected.

The National Development Ministry said there were no plans to mine granite in any large extent.

But the re-opening of the Kekek Quarry was a way of building up mining expertise and meeting industry needs in the near term.

The government has already released granite from its stockpile since supply from Indonesia was disrupted.

With new shipment arriving from alternative sources, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) hopes to adjust granite prices from May onwards.

Ms Fu said, "The way that we look at stockpile price is really to look at what is the replacement price, and because we have awarded several contracts on procurement of sand and granite, we think that there is some room for granite prices to come down and that is what BCA will do.

"The whole intention is to make sure that the construction cost in terms of the use of granite and concrete will be as competitive as we can, despite the higher cost of transportation, that it will reflect the market price as closely as possible."

This will, in turn, lower the price of pre-mixed concrete used in construction.

It hit a high of S$200 per cubic metre after the supply disruption.

But the price has now dropped to between S$170 and S$180.

Observers expect the price to dip further but they added that the key was to look at non-concrete options.

Tai Lee Siang, President, Singapore Institute of Architects, said, "In a very highly-urbanised environment like Singapore where buildings have to maximise its potential which means that buildings have to actually go high or go big - in these kind of buildings, it's very hard to go for alternative materials...yet, however for low scale development, I think (we) could see a combination of concrete and timber perhaps, and maybe in the future, more interesting alternatives that research could go into. So in Singapore, in this way, we are still very much lagging behind in looking for alternative materials."

Looking ahead, authorities will conduct more R&D - drawing from the Ministry's S$15 million research fund.

Industry players said the sand ban and disruption to granite supply has served as a wake up call to the construction sector to consider alternative building methods and materials used.

However, it is also important that the public understands what sustainable construction means.

The BCA has put up a three-week exhibition and published a coffee table book to do just that. - CNA/ms

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