Welcome to the BBRC website
Old quarry

Mining and Quarrying


Minerals such as limestone, sandstone, gneisses, quartzites and granite are found in areas which are not only of geological significance, but are important for economic, social and ecological reasons too. Across the UK 1,300 quarries produce nearly 250 million tonnes of aggregates, about 90% of which is destined for the construction industry. With an annual turnover of £3 billion the sector employs around 20,000 people directly and is responsible for a further 20,000 jobs indirectly. For more information click here.

While the sector accounts for under 1% of the land area in England and Wales, extraction companies can potentially make a significant contribution to the conservation of biodiversity. Quarrying companies manage a substantive proportion of land with nationally important habitats and species. Over 700 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are in existing or disused quarries. Many species of birds, invertebrate and plants occur in these areas.

Uses of and Impacts on Biodiversity

The quarrying sector’s primary impact on biodiversity is through the removal of surface features during the extraction of minerals. Through this process, habitats can be altered or destroyed. Secondary effects of the quarrying process, such as noise, dust, pollution and waste removal can also impinge on plants and animals. Usually these effects include a combination of changing land forms and disturbance, for instance through sedimentation which may arise through excavation and disturbance to land or water through the activities themselves.

Indirect impacts on biodiversity can be two-fold. The conversion process of the raw materials requires energy, is potentially polluting and can generate waste – all activities which in themselves have impacts on biodiversity.

While the process of quarrying is associated mainly with negative impacts, a growing number of companies are now ameliorating negative effects and reinstating or establishing new sites of value for biodiversity.

Integrating Biodiversity Into the Mining Life Cycle

Incorporating Biodiversity into phases of the mining life cycle is an important step companies can take towards assessing and measuring the impacts of their operations on biodiversity.

The illustrated flowchart incorporates existing processes, flows and management objectives with additional enrichments to the mining cycle process. This serves to improve biodiversity checks in the mining life cycle and add value to the project as a whole by means of biodiversity risk reduction and/or mitigation.

Click Here to view or Download the flowchart.

The integration of biodiversity management in the first phase of the mining cycle (as shown in the flowchart) is through the initiation of feasibility studies and environmental and social impact assessments. A preliminary baseline examination encompassing the physical, biological and socioeconomic environment in the form of an Initial Environment Examination (IEE) is proposed as a means of starting the scoping and preparation phase. The Purpose of an IEE at this stage of mining life cycle process would be to:

  • Establishing the need for further surveys and environmental assessments
  • Establish relations with Governments/Environmental Authorities and Regulators (EPAs) for a continual dialogue and feedback process on the legal requirements and applicable guidelines for site development and environmental assessment protocols and procedures
  • Compile a biodiversity action plan to monitor key biodiversity indicators and highlight any mitigation measures, offsets in a biodiversity management matrix
  • Start stakeholder consultation so that stakeholder concerns are incorporated in the preliminary stages and “double-backing” is reduced significantly and resources can be allocated effectively
  • Using the IEE report as a “table of contents” for all other studies and activities to follow

The advantage of adding the IEE report before commencing any other studies is twofold: it establishes a gradual dialogue with EPAs, regulators and other stakeholders and creates breathing space where legal requirements and country guidelines can be understood and discussed between parties; it also gives operating companies a view on the types of assessments required by law and allows them to efficiently utilize resources without having to re-allocate or usurp resources from later stages of the process.

Upon the successful completion and approval of the IEE report a detailed scoping process for strategic environmental assessment can begin. This process includes allocating resources for critical studies such as site feasibility studies, environmental baseline survey, environmental and social impact assessment and mine closure rehabilitation strategy plan. Since stakeholder consultation and the biodiversity management matrix have already been compiled in the IEE report, the impetus is to further “enrich” the above mentioned studies through the development of detailed impact assessments, identification of alternative technologies and mitigation measures to lessen impacts and where necessary offsite mitigation plans (offsets).

The inclusion of a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) component at this stage of the mining life cycle as part of the environmental management system is a useful resource mapping tool that would work in tandem with the environment management plan (EMP). Some of the advantages of incorporating GIS before the submission of SEA studies and the EMP include:

  • Creating thematic resource layer mapping of water resources, ecology, biodiversity indicators, vegetation cover, community settlements, and roads for immediate query and display
  • To analyze all surveys and studies conducted, identify impacts and alternative technologies and address mitigation measures to lessen impacts as part of a decision support system for project managers and executives that would complement the finalized SEA reports
  • For project managers and decision makers biodiversity indicator mapping is useful because it can complement other resource layers to answer important queries and concerns such as:
      • Regulation of water abstraction in areas of high concentration of naturally occurring species
      • Minimize ecological disturbance (minimal vehicular activity, camp sites) in species rich areas
      • Air emission and noise monitoring and impact on local wildlife
  • For monitoring and reporting purposes a GIS framework can be used to reflect the amount of change (deviation) in a particular resource from the environmental management plan. Since a GIS uses a database to store records it is also a valuable tool for monitoring and reporting site activity till site closure

For phase two (operations) and phase three (rehabilitation and closure) the inclusion of a GIS to the existing monitoring, reporting and rehabilitation processes is further emphasized. This would be useful once operations have ceased and where pre-project and post project biodiversity can be measured, i.e.

Is the sustainable native ecosystem equivalent in biodiversity levels to the pre-existing ecosystem?

Such a query would draw from most of the conducted studies and would provide decision makers with tangible and quantifiable results that can be used for future decisions.


One of the leading reasons for quarrying companies to manage biodiversity impacts is legislative compliance. The Environmental Protection Act (1990), Environment Act (1995) (Review of Old Mineral Permissions) and numerous different wildlife and countryside legislation apply to the Quarrying sector (see UK Legislation). Legislation is enforced through the planning development process as well as statutory regulatory bodies such as the Environment Agency or the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA).

Risk management is another compelling reason for companies to better manage biodiversity, especially with the EU Directive on Environmental Liability placing a greater burden of responsibility for environmental damage on companies; it is in the interest of business to start acting now in order to reduce potentially costly amelioration measures at a later date.

Another of the reasons for greater involvement in conservation work both on and off quarrying sites is the improved image awarded to a company which is seen to be carrying out positive measures for the countryside and the community. For many businesses engaging with biodiversity issues, the process has actually been one of mutual benefit to both the beneficiaries, such as local communities or NGOs and the companies. Improved relationships with local stakeholders, including planners, has helped develop mutual trust and secure licenses to operate existing or proposed quarries.

Finally, the quarrying sector can reap financial benefits from innovative approaches to supplying aggregates and other products to its markets. Already the Aggregates Levy, has imposed additional costs on some quarried products. Compliance with legislation reduces the risk of costly fines. Working with stakeholders can reduce lengthy and costly planning applications. Better relations with communities help to avoid costly poor publicity and subsequent compensation or amelioration expenditures. With rising demands for sustainable construction, there is also real potential growth for responsible suppliers to the construction sector.

What You Can Do

As land managers, quarrying companies have a significant control over biodiversity and the sector is already taking numerous steps to reduce negative impacts and increase positive impacts on biodiversity. In the UK, the Quarry Products Association has compiled information about good practice on biodiversity conservation, and the Minerals and Nature Conservation Forum (MNCF) works on developing projects to benefit conservation.

Planning and Permit Application
The best time to plan for biodiversity is during the initial project evaluation stage when an application for a permit is being considered. At this stage companies can review potential impacts and suggest locations and extraction processes which will minimise negative impacts on biodiversity as well as proposing restorative measures.

In the UK Mineral Planning Authority (MPA) are responsible for planning development relating to mining and quarrying. In Wales and Scotland responsibility for mineral planning resides with unitary authorities, which deal with all planning issues within their areas. In Northern Ireland the Planning Service of the Department of the Environment is responsible for planning. MPAs in England include unitary authorities in major towns and County Councils and National Park authorities in areas where there is a two-tiered system of government. EC Directive (97/11/EC) requires all quarries greater than 25 hectares to carry out environmental assessments which include outlines of main alternatives to development.

In England mineral planning guidance is provided through Planning Policy Guidance Notes (PPGs), Regional Planning Guidance notes (RPGs) and Mineral Planning Guidance notes (MPGs). The MPGs lay out the framework for environmental protection, National Parks, Areas of Outstanding National Beauty, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and areas designated under the European Habitats and Birds directive.

For many companies, expert advice can help to enhance the quality of data collected, analysis of ecological data and development of a plan. In many instances, the preliminary evaluation and proposal phase can be the beginning of constructive dialogue or partnership between a company and conservation or community groups.

Once permission for quarrying has been granted, a Company Biodiversity Action Plan (CBAP) is a useful instrument for guiding operations so that impacts on biodiversity are minimised. Through a CBAP a company can plan for biodiversity alongside other activities, updating existing management systems along side a company’s usual review procedures. It is also important to take the unexpected into account, such as coming across an unexpected species. One of the ways of doing this is through delivering training and guidance to employees about how they should behave in unforeseen circumstances, such as if they find new wildlife on site. Ensuring that information is shared across the company and with local records centres and the LBAP also helps to quickly identify priority species as well as actions for properly dealing with them.

Quarries have tremendous scope for making positive contributions to biodiversity through rehabilitation or restoration work and many areas of high biodiversity value, such as wetlands, are on former quarry sites. Detailed restoration plans are usually compiled once a permit has been granted for a quarry. These details, often based on initial ecological surveys, need to be worked out with local groups and communities to determine the best way in which to meet overall objectives of all stakeholders involved. A Site BAP is the usual format in which to capture a site’s restoration and management plan and will cover habitat management issues, resource requirement, educational activities and long term arrangements for maintaining a site once responsibility for it leaves the company.

Restoration work sometimes begins while a site is still operational, and sometimes follows extraction. It is likely that in either case a considerable amount of time may have passed since original plans were laid. Continuous dialogue with stakeholders will ensure that expectations are still understood and can be met. Any agreed changes should be incorporated into a Site BAP or management plan through a review process.

Working with Stakeholders
Engaging with stakeholders is common practice among many companies seeking help in gathering data, soliciting opinions, planning activities, implementing plans and reviewing progress. For many quarrying companies, the first contact with local groups will be through the process of planning for activities on a company’s site. Working together with these groups can help ensure that necessary resources are available to carry out work and that activities are sustainable in the long run.

Site specific initiatives normally need to be considered within the wider context of the surrounding environment. Through supporting local conservation initiatives, such as developing and maintaining wildlife corridors, the value of site based biodiversity work can be greatly enhanced.

The Wider Picture
To meet the demand of over 200 million tonnes of aggregates for use by the construction sector, the quarrying sector can contribute to the increase in the use of recycled materials. Currently around 50 million tonnes of recycled materials are used annually in England and it has been suggested that this could be increased by a further 20 million tonnes. In Scotland, it is estimated that potentially 25% of aggregates used in construction in Scotland could come from recycled materials. For more information click here.


For quarrying businesses, biodiversity work means good business practice. It helps to secure licences to operate from official authorities as well as the local communities in which quarries are located. There are potential cost savings to be gained by thinking ahead and planning for biodiversity. Biodiversity is also a useful means of engaging these communities in the industry and helping to strike a balance between social, economic and environmental needs of sustainable development.

Case Studies

Click here to view case studies from the extraction sector.


British Aggregates Association is a representative of independent UK quarry operators.

British Cement Association (BCA) the trade and research organisation that represents the interests of the UK's cement industry.

WRAP Aggregates Programme provides information about sustainable aggregates.

British Geological Survey advances geoscientific knowledge of the UK landmass and its continental shelf, and disseminates information.

The Quarry Products Association (QPA) has been promoting biodiversity conservation in the quarrying sector in the UK and Scotland through a variety of initiatives including publishing guidance for managing quarries for biodiversity.

IUCN Mining and Biodiversity Programme is working with the mining industry in relation to biodiversity conservation and protected areas.

International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) members offer strategic industry leadership towards achieving continuous improvements in sustainable development performance in the mining, minerals and metals industry.

The Minerals and Nature Conservation Forum formed in 1998 to instigate and develop projects benefiting conservation objectives of the UK minerals industry.

Cement Sustainability Initiative A World Business Council for Sustainable Development Programme supported by leading cement companies which aims to meet the sustainability challenge of the industry.

Biodiversity and Opencast Mining Good Practice Guide

Insight Investment - Protecting shareholder and natural value: a report of the results of benchmarking extractive and utility companies on their management of biodiversity

Photo Credit: Peter Wakely/ English Nature

All the latest BBRC news
Please contact us for further details
Detailed search of the BBRC site