Friday, 28 June 2013

The other side of the coin

"The mineral products industry key facts at a glance" is the MPA's take on why minerals are important to us. It shows some key industry trends too - decline of primary aggregates, rise of secondary and recycled, etc. The MPA says:
The mineral products sector is a key enabling sector of the UK economy which has a broad impact on overall economic activity. As the largest element of the construction supply chain, a supplier of key materials to many other industries, and the largest material flow in the UK economy, a healthy indigenous mineral products industry is essential for the UK.
No-one would dispute any of that. We all accept that minerals are important. According to the MPA, the mineral industry produces 250Mt pa, has an annual turnover of £9bn and employs 70,000 people. We should also all accept, however, that not every site is suitable for mineral extraction, despite what might lie under the ground. With communities, wildlife habitats, businesses, infrastructure and so on already in place, the industry cannot just expect to bulldozer in wherever it chooses.

Whilst we're looking at the other side of the coin, and although there are some communities who are hit by a series of proposals for ex-quarry sites, some old quarries obviously do get restored - eventually. At Meeth, near Hatherleigh, an old china clay quarry, that began its life at the end of World War II, has now opened as a nature reserve. And at Blackhill - quarried since before the 1930s - restoration by Aggregate Industries is now being recognised:
AI is trialling a number of methods to improve drainage at the site and adopt the best restoration options for habitat creation and management, including the use of conservation grazing in the form of several friendly Dartmoor and Exmoor ponies!
Credit where credit is due; some of the Blackhill staff certainly seem to take restoration seriously. Of course, with SPA/SAC/SSSI designations and orders served in 1999 that quarrying would have to cease, a bagging plant - or any industrial proposal - was going to be out of the question. Restoration would have also been a precondition to quarrying, agreed with landowners Clinton Devon Estates.

AI is obviously keen to stress its interest in nature. It has been working with The Wildlife Trusts since 2006, as one of the charity's three national partners. The Wildlife Trusts - the same one that paid Imerys (English China Clays as was) £600k for Meeth Quarry - even have a web page devoted to AI's accomplishments and its "commitment to enhancing biodiversity". For local people that might seem an odd alliance - a nature-loving charity and a heavy building materials business - but charities must raise funds from whoever they can, and, of course, the alliance doesn't harm AI's image either.

But there may be another reason for that web page, and anybody looking to The Wildlife Trusts, or Devon Wildlife Trust, to lend support to a quarry campaign might be disappointed. That's because The Wildlife Trusts' Vice President since 2011 has been AI's very own Chairman, Bill Bolsover.