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.
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
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.
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
- 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
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
- 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
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
Click here to view
case studies from the extraction sector.
Aggregates Association is a representative of independent UK
Association (BCA) the trade and research organisation that represents
the interests of the UK's cement industry.
Programme provides information about sustainable aggregates.
Survey advances geoscientific knowledge of the UK landmass and
its continental shelf, and disseminates information.
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
Mining and Biodiversity Programme is working with the mining
industry in relation to biodiversity conservation and protected
Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) members offer strategic
industry leadership towards achieving continuous improvements in
sustainable development performance in the mining, minerals and
Minerals and Nature Conservation Forum formed in 1998 to instigate
and develop projects benefiting conservation objectives of the UK
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.
and Opencast Mining Good Practice Guide
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