When the Port Kembla Copper stack is felled tomorrow, the curtain will come down on a popular, instantly recognisable landmark, leaving a gaping hole in the Illawarra skyline.
As final preparations get under way to demolish the 198-metre concrete stack, opinion is divided over the loss of the 49-year-old structure.
Port Kembla Copper general manager Ian Wilson said the silent majority of local residents were backing the stack’s removal.
‘‘They’re tired of waiting for Port Kembla to move on,’’ he said. ‘‘We’re ready to give them that change.’’
Mr Wilson said as long as the stack stands unmaintained it ‘‘sterilised’’ the 21hectare site it stood on and prevented any redevelopment or rebirth of economic activity and job creation.
The Stack 360 group had wanted to retain the 14,000-tonne stack and turn it into a tourist attraction but failed to get funding or planning consent.
The Port Kembla Concerned Residents Group, including Olive Rodwell and Julie Renshaw, opposed the stack’s demolition, concerned it could not be done safely without exposing residents to the risk of lung diseases caused by asbestos and mullite.
Mr Wilson dismissed these concerns, saying the stack’s demolition would come after four years of meticulous assessment, planning and collaboration.
‘‘The regulatory agencies are satisfied that demolition of the stack does not pose risk of harm to health, the environment or property.’’
Mr Wilson said PKC went through an exhaustive process for approval to remove the aluminium asbestos gaskets – the gaskets and all traces of asbestos were removed in a safe and approved manner.
The EPA found no signs of asbestos. A limited amount of mullite was found in bricks in the central chimney but it did not pose a risk of harm.
The stack is expected to separate into three pieces as it falls, with the noise of the explosives ‘‘similar to a thunderclap’’ and the fallen material ‘‘a distant rumble’’. Water cannons will spray the area to minimise dust.
Residents in the exclusion zone have been invited to a reception centre for the three-hour demolition period from 8am. Roads and shops in the zone will be closed.
Information: 1800688587 or www.stackinfo.com.au