Wednesday, 18 September 2019

LafargeHolcim ‘has eliminated 30% of headquarters staff & legions of consultants’

Aggregate Industries – the UK subsidiary of LafargeHolcim – has seen a number of changes to its workforce over the last couple of years, some even affecting the Straitgate project. We’ve previously posted that over that period AI has reduced its workforce by 7%, that AI loses another CEO and that there's yet another change at the top of AI’s aggregates division.

What's behind these changes? Is it the economy or pressures from its parent company?

One thing that is clear is that parent LafargeHolcim has been in a race to cut costs and slash debt. Jan Jenisch joined as CEO on 1 September 2017. This Bloomberg article tells more:

By his own reckoning, LafargeHolcim was "in a very tight race" to avoid a damaging credit rating downgrade, and is still suffering from a lack of shareholder confidence.
Is Jan Jenisch about to release investment into the UK? With Brexit and UK construction markets in the doldrums, it’s unlikely. In any case, he has other targets in mind:
German chemical maker BASF SE has put its construction chemicals business on the block and Bloomberg News reported LafargeHolcim is bidding for the division, which could fetch more than 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion).
Jenisch declined to comment on the sale process, but left no doubt the asset would be a good fit for LafargeHolcim’s solutions and products unit, his top choice for expansion. 
"We’re going to be part of developing the next building materials," he said. "Construction chemicals can be part of that or we can partner with someone. There are many options to go that route." A new generation of products could help combat carbon emissions, for which the cement industry is increasingly under fire.

Aggregate Industries’ greenwash – using visions of the Far East

Only last month, we posted that Charcon – part of Aggregate Industries – has visions of Thailand. We pointed to a company that produces concrete products for the UK "hard landscaping" market using a photo of Thailand to greenwash its claim that "we'll continue our mission to cut our net CO2 emissions of all products":

It subsequently transpired that Aggregate Industries had not continued its mission to cut CO2. In actual fact, the company's emissions (kgCO2e/tonne) had increased in 2018. We posted Climate emergency? Not at Aggregate Industries. CO2 emissions increase again.

However, it's not only Charcon that's attracted to views of the Far East to greenwash its operations. Aggregate Industries UK – a company, the clue being in the name, that operates in the UK – is also tweeting stock photos from the Far East, hoping no-one recognises Singapore's most iconic hotel:

How solar panels and views of Singapore relate to the #CircularEconomy – from the perspective of a UK aggregates business – is anybody's guess.

The link leads to AI's latest sustainability report and Page 8 does indeed talk about the circular economy and the "increased tonnages of inert waste being used as Recycled Concrete Aggregates (RCA)... reducing our reliance on quarried aggregates":
Previously some of our sites have stockpiled inert production waste (concrete and asphalt) to avoid downcycling it or even worse going to landfill, while they waited for the opportunity to reuse the materials. This now means we are reaping the benefits of these stock piles that we are recycling back into our products, reducing our reliance on quarried aggregates.
We also used nearly 800,000 tonnes of recycled asphalt pavement (RAP) this is a perfect example of the circular economy in action, old road surfaces are removed, reprocessed to a suitable size and then added in to the new asphalt mix that can then be used as replacement road surface. Reducing the reliance on imported bitumen and quarried aggregates.
Bravo for that. But before we get carried away, it's worth pointing out – in this perfect example – that 800,000 tonnes represents less than 3% of AI's annual output of aggregates, last reported as 29.60 million tonnes in 2017.

Both AI’s recent planning applications for Devon have run into problems with the EA

Aggregate Industries has launched two planning applications for Devon in recent weeks. We have posted about them here and here. DCC/4132/2019 seeks to import some 200,000 tonnes of subsoils and clays as part of a revised restoration scheme at Marshbroadmoor at Rockbeare in East Devon. DCC/4146/2019 seeks to continue to work secondary aggregates at Lee Moor, near Shaugh Prior on the outskirts of Plymouth, until 2050.

This week, the Environment Agency also raised concerns – about both applications.

On the revised restoration proposal at Marshbroadmoor, with regard to "obtaining an appropriate environmental permit", the EA says:
The applicant should however be aware that part of the site is currently being restored via an existing CL:AIRE declaration while the remaining part has already been restored in line with a recently surrendered environmental permit. The existence of the current CL:AIRE and the Environment Agency’s view that part of the site has already been restored could impact on our ability to agree to any new environmental permit on the area covered by this planning application. The applicant is therefore urged to seek appropriate professional advice prior to progressing their plans for this site.
Contaminated Land: Applications in Real Environments (CL:AIRE) is a respected independent not-for-profit organisation established in 1999 to stimulate the regeneration of contaminated land in the UK by raising awareness of, and confidence in, practical and sustainable remediation technologies.
On the proposal to continue to work secondary aggregates at Lee Moor, the EA has objected:
The previous use of the development site presents a high risk of contamination that could be mobilised during operational phases and pollute controlled waters. As the planning application is not supported by an appropriate risk assessment, it does not meet the requirements set out in paragraphs 170 and 178 of the National Planning Policy Framework.

Can we expect a run on gravel??

Government advice Get ready for Brexit is strangely silent on the matter, but could there be better news for Aggregate Industries on the horizon?

Oh, boy. When it rains in Ottery… it really rains

More flooding last week in Ottery St Mary.

Something to bear in mind, with Aggregate Industries' plans for a quarry on top of the hill above this town.

The dire warning comes as the Exeter-based national weather forecaster unveils a new tool for predicting extreme weather - and it was published in a new report titled 'UK Climate Projections: Headline Findings', released this month by the Met Office, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affiairs (DEFRA), the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Environment Agency.
It says summers are getting hotter - with "increases in the intensity of heavy summer rainfall events."
"Winters in the UK, for the most recent decade (2009-2018), have been on average 5% wetter than 1981-2010 and 12% wetter than 1961-1990. Summers in the UK have also been wetter, by 11% and 13% respectively."

New portal tracks UK hydrological situation as it happens

has launched a new web portal that allows users to assess information about the latest hydrological situation and drought conditions across the country in near-real-time.

It’s really not going well for UK mining projects

There have been two large mining projects in the UK in recent years – both have run into trouble.

Yesterday, there was further bad news for Sirius. It has failed to secure the £400m needed for the next phase of development, after the government refused to provide support. Sirius has only enough cash to last six months. Its shares fell by almost 60%. In an effort to save the mine, the company will wind down construction work and as it seeks to find a partner or alternative financing.

Chris Fraser, Managing Director and CEO of Sirius, blamed "poor market conditions" and Brexit:
Nearly every meeting we had in July and August, every single investor asked about Brexit.

Monday, 9 September 2019

LafargeHolcim uses Solidia ‘CO2-sucking cement’ to greenwash spiralling emissions

You would hope – for a company that pumped out 121,000,000 tonnes of CO2 into our atmosphere in 2018, 3,000,000 tonnes more than the year before, 11,000,000 tonnes more than the entire Czech Republic, itself Europe’s 5th biggest CO2 polluter – that cement producer LafargeHolcim, parent company of Aggregate Industries, was working towards solutions with a lower carbon footprint. LafargeHolcim says it is:

To clarify – when LafargeHolcim talks about "our @SolidiaCO2 #concrete" – in reality the company is just one of a number of investors that have been backing Solidia Technologies, a startup company using materials technology born out of Rutgers University:
Solidia’s patented processes start with an energy-saving sustainable cement and cure concrete with CO2 instead of water. Combined, they reduce the carbon footprint of cement and concrete up to 70%.
Based in Piscataway, N.J. (USA), Solidia’s investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Bright Capital, BASF, BP, LafargeHolcim, Total Energy Ventures, Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) Climate Investments, Air Liquide, Bill Joy and other private investors.

Last month, 11 years after Solidia's foundation, LafargeHolcim and Solidia announced they would supply a US plant making paving slabs.

Anything – however small – that reduces the CO2 emissions from cement and concrete is a step in the right direction, isn't it? Of course. Unless it allows the cement majors to hide behind a barrage of greenwash – giving the impression of action, rather than making serious cuts to emissions.

LafargeHolcim has been making the most of its investment in Solidia, publicity-wise: pushing out press releases, basking in the green glow of articles like LafargeHolcim is selling CO2-sucking cement for precast, reduces emissions by 70 percent.

Other investors – also in an effort to greenwash their activities – have publicised their involvement too:

But let’s not get too excited. So far, uptake of Solidia's cement has been slow. Earlier this year, it was claimed that "the carbon impact of Solidia Technologies cement and concrete has surpassed four million kilograms."

It's a significant amount. But given how much LafargeHolcim – the world's largest cement company – publicises its involvement with Solidia, let's put that number into context: 4 million kilograms – or 4000 tonnes – amounts to less than the CO2 emissions that would result from Aggregate Industries' 2.5 million mile haulage plan for Straitgate Farm; 4000 tonnes amounts to less than 700 tonnes for each of the six years that LafargeHolcim has been part of the project, which is just 0.0006% of the company's emissions in 2018.

It's impressive just how much greenwash LafargeHolcim can create from 0.0006%.

Unfortunately for humanity, emissions at LafargeHolcim – like those at its UK subsidiary Aggregate Industries – are going up, not down. As the Treehugger article says:
Now if only there was a big honking carbon tax that would light a fire under the industry to actually change; otherwise the transition will take forever.

Drakelands’ new owner ‘looking to restore the site, not mine tin & tungsten’

The Plymouth Herald reports that "Plymouth's closed-down Drakelands mine has a new owner":
A newly set-up firm is associated with the company that lost £8m when the mine went belly up is now restoring the site.

We have previously posted about the tin and tungsten mine at Hemerdon near Plymouth. Drakelands opened to great fanfare in 2015, but warning bells were already ringing in 2016, and the mine ceased operating last year when Wolf Minerals appointed administrators having lost £100 million. It was the first new metal mine in Great Britain for 45 years. In 2015, Devon County Council Leader Cllr John Hart had said:
There is a long heritage of mining and quarrying in this part of the county and to mine one of the world's largest tungsten deposits will have a positive impact on the local and regional economy, which is good for jobs and the prosperity of Devon… the County Council has worked closely with Wolf Minerals to ensure the infrastructure and modern environmental controls required for the project are in place.
And indeed, DCC did work closely with Wolf Minerals, approving planning applications despite the "horrendous invasive unacceptable" impact that blasting and low frequency noise was having on the lives of local residents.

After Wolf Minerals went to the wall, we asked Who would take on Drakelands? It was an important question, given that the restoration of a huge scar on the Devon landscape hung in the balance.

DCC had stated in 2016 that funds were available for restoration:
There is already in existence a restoration bond with Wolf Minerals which was required as a part of the original legal agreement associated with the 1986 planning permission…. The value of the bond was calculated by the Mineral Valuer in 2014 to be in the region of £15 million… the operator has already posted the full amount into an Escrow Account to ensure that the finance remains available for this purpose. 6.135
One company hit by Drakelands’ fallout was Hargreaves Services, who lost £8m relating to Wolf’s failure. In July this year, Hargreaves reported:
As previously announced, in October 2018, one of the Group's customers, Wolf Minerals Limited, announced that it had ceased trading and subsequently it went into liquidation. As a result, the Group incurred an exceptional charge of GBP8.1m. The Group continues to have a small presence at the Hemerdon mine site where it is carrying out minor maintenance and asset safeguarding activities. The future of the site remains unclear, but Hargreaves is well positioned to secure any restoration or other work which may arise in due course. Hargreaves is not considering operating the mine.
Given the "cost of reopening the mine being put at about £40million" it’s not clear who would. Liquidators of Wolf Minerals have also been busy:

The Plymouth Herald reports that Hargreaves has now bought the mine, with a view to winning restoration work, not mining tin and tungsten.
A Department for the Environment spokesman said: “Some assets, including the mine, was bought from Wolf Minerals by Drakelands Restoration Ltd earlier this year. I believe the firm is coordinating the restoration of the area.”
Drakelands Restoration is one of a number of Hargreaves group companies listed under Hargreaves Corporate Director Ltd at Companies House.
Will that be the last of mineral working in the area? Don’t hold your breath. In August, planning application DCC/4149/2019 appeared for land south west of Drakelands Mine, Sparkwell, for "exploratory trenching for mineral exploration."

EDIT 11.09.19: Heavy earth-moving equipment arrives on site:

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Climate emergency? Not at Aggregate Industries. CO2 emissions increase again

As we posted yesterday, Aggregate Industries has just released its 2018 sustainability report. AI says:
2018 has been challenging, both politically and economically, and the drought across the UK brought home our fragility in the face of our changing climate.
So how did the company react?

Given the drought, what dramatic cuts did it make to its water use?
Our mains water use has increased to 14 litres/tonne of production, an increase of 1 litre/tonne compared to 2017.
AI reminds us that:
In early 2019 Sir James Bevan, the Head of the Environment Agency said that within 25 years England will not have enough water to meet demand.
Meanwhile, the MPA – the trade body for the UK's aggregates, cement and concrete industries – helpfully reminds us that the climate emergency is climbing the global agenda:

Allegedly, AI is determined to reduce its #emissions per tonne:

So, given "our fragility in the face of our changing climate", what dramatic cuts did AI make to its CO2 emissions in 2018?
Our emissions intensity (kgCO2e/tonne) showed a modest increase due to issues hampering our attempts to use more biomass and sustainable, waste-derived fuels within our cement operations.
Aggregate Industries is the company that has been promising action on emissions for YEARS. In 2006, it said "climate change... it’s happening and we have to take action now". In 2012, it said "By 2016 we will reduce process carbon emissions by 20%". And yet this is the company’s record:

Back in 2007, the company said:
In our first report in 2000, our reported emissions for 1999 were 228,267 tonnes of CO2.
The company now emits more than 5x that amount – nearly 1.3 million tonnes of CO2 each year.

LafargeHolcim’s net CO2 emissions increased in 2018 to 121,000,000 tonnes, up from 118,000,000 tonnes in 2017, up from 115,000,000 tonnes in 2016
Inhabitants across the world are feeling the full force of our climate emergency at this very moment. Aggregate Industries and parent LafargeHolcim clearly couldn't care.
... companies like @LafargeHolcim for example bring us straight into a 6 degree world. 

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Aggregate Industries is feeling the pain

Aggregate Industries has reduced its workforce by 7% over the last two years, from 4,143 full time equivalent employees in 2016 to 3845 in 2018, its latest sustainability report shows.

Not only that. The company has gone from recruiting an average of 40 apprentices in each of the previous three years, to recruiting just 4 in 2018. It has gone from having 43% of the workforce in the over 50s age bracket in 2017, to just 21% in 2018. The company has even lost its Head of Sustainability, by the look of things.

Parent company, LafargeHolcim, is no doubt driving for a higher return from its UK outpost. However, the UK is obviously not a favourable place to invest in at the moment – whilst there are numerous growth opportunities for cement conglomerates elsewhere in the world.

In a sure sign that things aren't pretty in the UK, AI has given up reporting production figures in its sustainability report. The company had previously disclosed such figures, at least as far back as 2000.

The company has also been renting off excess regional office space at Croft Quarry, near Hinckley, to raise £50k pa.
Tim Claxton, Regional Estates Manager at Aggregate Industries, said: "Our office complex provides several advantages: substantial office space spread across several former agricultural buildings, in a pleasant village location with good parking provision."
Croft Quarry is not closing down. Far from it. As the Leicester Mercury reports:
The firm is seeking to extend the quarry – a huge hole in the ground covering 81 acres - to release 6.3 million more tonnes of aggregate in a process that could take up to 20 years.
In plans expected to be completed by 2052, it also wants to fill the huge hole with 22 million tonnes of waste – including from HS2. AI plans to dump:
London’s waste over the next ten years, waste generated from HS2 and then expand into other major infrastructure projects across the UK utilising rail as a principle form of transport.
Environmental campaigners have raised concerns about polluting groundwater. AI says:
We take our environmental responsibilities incredibly seriously, and, as such, are audited by the relevant local authorities several times each year, and the planning application for this project will be supported by a full environmental impact assessment which will disclose any and all impacts on the local environment including ecology and local water sources.
From the goings-on at Straitgate, we know all about how seriously AI take local water sources.

We have digressed. AI is no doubt feeling the pain. Yesterday it was reported that the construction downturn is intensifying:
Construction new orders saw their biggest drop for 10 years last month, while the lack of business optimism has not been so bleak since December 2008
Uncertainty surrounds future big infrastructure projects. The latest news on HS2 – Britain’s biggest construction project – will not have helped: the review, the delays, the ballooning budget, the cover up. Many commentators see the outlook for HS2 as bleak. AI's cheerleader, the MPA, says the HS2 uncertainty "beggars belief":
Our members have invested in detailed planning and improved capacity to supply the tens of millions of tonnes of materials required for this major public infrastructure project. We are most concerned to see yet more delay and uncertainty over HS2. The Government should decide promptly, commit firmly and deliver the project on time.
This being the largest deforestation programme since World War 1, where ancient woodlands are replaced with saplings – large proportions of which have died.

We have digressed again.

Disaster near LafargeHolcim quarry

Trust us. We know what we’re doing. Say the aggregate giants.

A blast at a Lafarge quarry in Zimbabwe has killed one person and injured another, says Global Cement:
Agence Ecofin has reported that two women were at home on Pangoula Farm, Harare, when debris from the quarry entered through the roof, striking 36-year-old Shupikai Chatsina, who lost her life instantly, on the head. She leaves behind a husband and five children. The second woman, Ms Chatsina’s aunt, is recovering in hospital.

The Great British Hedgerow Survey

Aggregate Industries' plans to quarry Straitgate Farm would see extensive distances of ancient hedgerows up to 4m wide grubbed up. Little compensation has been put in place to offer alternative habitat for bats and dormice.

An extensive amount of important hedgerow will be destroyed. This is completely irreversible. The hedgerows are present on maps dating from the turn of the 20th century (Appendix 1) and are likely to have existed for centuries before this. Compensation planting (for that is what replanting is – not mitigation as suggested) for losses of irreplaceable habitat should be at a ratio in the region of 30 – 1. Proposed replanting and that already done falls far short of this.
The PTES has recently been tweeting on the importance of hedgerows, and has started the Great British Hedgerow Survey:

Friday, 30 August 2019

AI submits another planning application to work aggregates in Devon

Aggregate Industries has a number of operations digging up Devon’s mineral resources. This table is from Devon County Council’s most recent Local Aggregate Assessment, for the period 2008-2017:

Although AI has since moved from Blackhill, the company is currently working 4 millions tonnes of sand and gravel at Hillhead – the location to which it would transport any winnings from Straitgate for processing. When that runs out, there’s another 8 million tonnes next to Hillhead that’s been allocated in the Devon Minerals Plan.

Twelve million tonnes goes some way, when AI’s requirement for sand and gravel is in the region of 300,000 tonnes per annum. It’s enough to last it to 2050 and beyond, in fact, enough to last significantly longer if we continue to reduce our dependence on virgin, irreplaceable, unsustainable materials, and use recycled and secondary aggregates instead.

With 30 years' supply next to its newly-reconstructed processing plant, why is AI bothered with Straitgate – a sand and gravel resource with somewhere less than a million tonnes, sitting 23 miles away? It’s a good question, with no rational answer. Apart from 1967, AI first submitted its application for Straitgate back in 2015, and much of the supporting documentation is now older than that. The company still has significant hurdles to surmount and it’s now over two years since any supplementary information was submitted for comment.

Unlike its troubles with Straitgate Farm, AI doesn’t appear to have had any problems securing permissions elsewhere for mineral extraction serving the county in the recent past.

Last year, despite numerous concerns from local residents, particularly about dust, AI won permission for another 600k tonnes at Westleigh, a quarry that produces around 850k tonnes per annum with permission to run to 2046.

The year before that, despite numerous concerns about an AONB and closing a public highway, AI won permission from Cornwall Council for a 10 million tonne quarry extension to 2066 at Greystone, a quarry within the Tamar Valley AONB on the Devon border that produces 300k tonnes per annum.

Whilst AI considers what to do about Straitgate – and given those 30 years of supply elsewhere there’s plainly no need – the company has submitted another planning application in Devon to extract aggregates, 4 million tonnes of secondary aggregates near Plymouth.

In comparison with wrecking an East Devon farm, this application is to work waste material from china clay tips. We have posted about this waste material before, how hundreds of millions of tonnes scar the Devon and Cornwall landscape, how one operator assured us that with so much of this material there was 'no need for any more new quarries'.

This photo, showing the production of secondary aggregates from china clay waste at Lee Moor, is taken from the Devon Minerals Plan.

In recent years, whilst sales of sand and gravel have flatlined, sales of secondary aggregates have increased – as this chart from DCC's LAA shows:

Planning application DCC/4146/2019 seeks to continue to work secondary aggregates at Lee Moor, near Shaugh Prior on the outskirts of Plymouth. The site is not far from Drakelands – the tin and tungsten mine at Hemerdon that also sits as an unrestored scar on the Devon landscape after the operator went into administration last year.

AI wants to deepen the extraction area of Tip T1 from 256m AOD to 228m AOD, to realise 4 million tonnes and "secure the future of the site until 2049/50":
Current sales average 220,000 tonnes a year (130,000 extracted from T1 and 90,000 imported from elsewhere on the Lee Moor complex) and this will continue. 3.6
Based on the current sales the site has an average of 40 to 45 HGVs a day 3.12
Dartmoor National Park is some 600m to the east of the site. The village of Wotter is some 340m to the west. AI claims:
The site has operated in this manner since permission was granted in 2009 with no unacceptable impacts on the environment or local communities and it is proposed that the future operations will continue in the same manner. 1.3
Locals would beg to differ, as AI’s very own document makes clear:
A short presentation was given to Shaugh Prior Parish Council on the 3rd July 2019 where the main concerns raised were recent dust impacts on Wotter and HGV traffic. 1.11
In respect of the recent dust issues at Wotter this was due to some recent very strong east winds and the companies operating on the Lee Moor site had responded by providing additional water bowsers. AIUK are also in the process of installing a new dust suppression system on their haul road. Comments on traffic related to speed of vehicles and the use of the Cadover Bridge Road to Yelverton. All HGV drivers using the application site receive an induction on the approved routes for HGVs, of which this is one, and drivers have been reminded to drive with care and attention to other road users. 1.14
South Hams District Council would beg to differ too. Its Environmental Health Response objects "on the grounds of inadequate information and potential unacceptable impacts on neighbouring amenity", after:
complaints that have occurred over the years regarding dust in the vicinity of the site
AI’s working of secondary aggregates is certainly a more sustainable source of minerals, but clearly the company is up to its old tricks again, trying to discount the impacts on local people.

Tarmac's new surface at Silverstone “close to perfect”

Since we posted AI’s “racing circuit experts” relegated to 20 tonnes of track repairs at Goodwood, the MotoGP has taken place at Silverstone.

As readers will know – and all the fun and games can be relived here for any who don't – Silverstone had to be resurfaced this year, following the mayhem and misery that ensued last year when the track was resurfaced by Aggregate Industries.

Riders were complimentary about Tarmac's new surface:

The aggregates press has already been making hay – Bayston Hill takes the chequered flag and MotoGP riders praise Silverstone track surface:
Silverstone's new surface staged yet another weekend of high-octane action with the 2019 GoPro British Grand Prix MotoGP event witnessing incredible racing, huge crowds and lap records smashed in every class.
It was immediately clear riders were happy with the bespoke track surface laid by new contractors Tarmac, and lap times were fast from the first free-practice session on Friday morning.
Reigning MotoGP champion Marc Marquez said: ‘As soon as I went out, I felt like it was another track. I enjoyed riding it a lot more and, I think, so did everyone else. Last year we complained, but this year we have to say congratulations to the circuit because they did a great job.’
Silverstone’s managing director, Stuart Pringle, was quoted as saying:
The success of this weekend’s MotoGP racing, the incredible lap times, the atmosphere, and the great racing are testament to the incredible hard work by the Silverstone team.
The work we have done on the new track surface has allowed us to rebuild trust with the fans. We know they endured the most miserable of days last year, but we have demonstrated today, Silverstone is back to being a world-class track.
This sudden interest in motor sport by the aggregates press is in stark contrast to last year, when the same writers remained completely silent in the face of the chaos and disaster that followed Aggregate Industries' new asphalt.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

British ambassador glad-handing with international cement moguls

glad-handing [noun, informal] being very friendly to people you have not met before, as a way of trying to get an advantage
Boris Johnson’s government will have issued a variety of edicts calling on officials to bang the drum for Britain as we stare into the Brexit abyss. Britain’s ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein looks to have answered the call and has been pressing the flesh with European cement moguls:

Of course, LafargeHolcim has not been "active in the UK since 1858."

Holcim was only founded in 1912. Lafarge, founded in 1833, actually worked for the other side during WWII and "built the Atlantic wall under Petain and Hitler". The article Trump border wall shines spotlight on French-Swiss cement maker's murky past quotes Jérôme Prieur, the author of "The Atlantic Wall – A Monument to Collaboration":
Two of its factories produced cement for the Nazis: one in occupied territory, near Angoulême [in the west of France]. The other was in unoccupied territory, near Ardèche [a region in the southwest]. Paradoxically, it was the factory in the free zone [before it was invaded by Nazi forces in November 1942] that showed the most zeal for the German war effort.
The war wasn’t a down period for the company. Lafarge, which was already a major cement producer, maintained its status thanks to its economic collaboration with the Germans.
Anyway, "forgive and forget", as Basil Fawlty once famously said.

Aggregate Industries – which may indeed be able to trace its routes in the UK back to 1858 – became part of Holcim in 2005 and LafargeHolcim in 2015.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Flooding and landslides in Kerala

Quarrying changes landscapes – sometimes with devastating consequences.

Last year, we posted about how 'Uncontrolled sand mining led to Kerala floods' which claimed hundreds of lives.

Exactly 12 months after Kerala witnessed its worst flood in a century in August 2018, where 433 people were killed, the state has been hit by another natural calamity that has claimed more than a hundred lives so far.
This time, most of the destruction was due to landslides – and quarrying in the region "played a major role". One environmentalist said:
The government did not learn a lesson from last year’s flood. Now, the once-in-a-century phenomenon happened twice within a span of a year. The government should stop the mining mafia from exploiting the environmentally sensitive areas
The finger is being pointed to the dilution of environmental regulations; "25 out of the 31 locations which experienced landslides came under the Ecologically Sensitive Zones".
...since the Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government came to power in Kerala in 2016, it has severely diluted environmental regulations for mining and quarrying... It further reduced the minimum permissible distance limit from 100 metres to 50 metres from residential buildings...

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

AI’s “racing circuit experts” relegated to 20 tonnes of track repairs at Goodwood

This coming weekend, Silverstone hosts the MotoGP. Since last year’s debacle – when Aggregate Industries resurfaced the track in a multi-million pound deal, when it subsequently suffered a PR nightmare after riders aquaplaned off its new asphalt at 150mph and sustained serious injuries, when races had to be cancelled, when the company attempted to gag a motorsport journalist – the track has been resurfaced, this time by Tarmac. We've already posted far too many times about this subject.

Plainly, the Silverstone job proved too much for Aggregate Industries' "racing circuit experts". Since then, they have been relegated to laying 20 tonnes of asphalt for track repairs at Goodwood – as this recent bit of back-slapping PR tells:

The expert teams worked around the clock to supply and lay 20 tonnes of the 10mm asphalt, which was used to resurface a patch on the track ready for the event.
Aggregate Industries obviously has some catching up to do in the motorsport department, and will no doubt cling to anything to claw its way back. With regard to those 20 tonnes (one truck-load or two?), someone at Goodwood said:
We will definitely bear Supreme in mind when resurfacing is required in future.
Which was charitable, although is bearing in mind a bit like don’t call us, we’ll call you?

Viridor – fires, secondary aggregates, and 160,000 road miles cut pa

Viridor, part of Pennon Group the owner of South West Water, has been in the news recently. Viridor burns our rubbish. And not only that.

Viridor lists ten of these "Energy Recovery Facilities" on its website – including Exeter. According to Inside Croydon there have been 14 fires at Viridor plants since 2015, five in 2019 alone:
This outbreak of dangerous and costly fires – especially costly for Viridor’s insurers – has seen the company become increasingly dependent on a "fourth emergency service", their PR consultants, who are regularly being called out to act as their reputational firefighters.
The independent councillor of the ward where one of these fires took place told Inside Croydon:
In my view, Viridor are a menace to local communities and the environment.
Viridor are becoming a major burden on the nation’s fire brigades. They need reporting to the Health and Safety Executive.

Whatever the merits, or not, of energy-from-waste – "critics argue that incinerators destroy valuable resources and they may reduce incentives for recycling" – the waste material from such incinerators – incinerator bottom ash, IBA – can be used to produce secondary aggregates, an alternative to quarried material. Residues from the flue stacks can also be used in the production of aggregates.

After its various fires, two last month, Viridor’s PR machine was obviously keen to point to some better news, and this month turned its attention to the South West – where the company has set out plans to cut annual road miles by more than 160,000, by moving IBA by rail from Cardiff to Avonmouth, where it will be turned into secondary aggregates. According to Viridor:
It is part of Viridor’s commitment to seeing waste as a resource and not rubbish, identifying a purpose for all materials.
Aggregate Industries also has eyes on a resource – a primary, virgin, unsustainable, irreplaceable sand and gravel resource at Straitgate Farm. Unlike Viridor, however, it plans to add 100,000s of road miles each year – some 2.4 million in total. Climate emergency? Not at Aggregate Industries.

Aggregate Industries wants to quarry this resource "at a rate between 120,000 tonnes and 180,000 tonnes per annum" – destroying an East Devon farm in its wake; risking groundwater supplies to 100 people, farms, listed buildings and ancient woodland; ripping out ancient hedgerows, habitat for dormice and bats. Each 29 tonne as-dug load of sand and gravel would necessitate HGVs making a round trip of some 46 miles, for processing at a site that has 4 million tonnes of permitted sand and gravel reserves already being worked. Madness indeed.

Assuming 150,000 tonnes pa, Aggregate Industries would put an additional 240,000 HGV miles on the South West’s roads each year; this, of course, being the company which claims "#sustainability is at the heart of everything we do 🙌".