Tuesday, 26 February 2019

UK experiences hottest winter day ever

Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, warns:


Choosing to transport 14 million tonnes each year by rail or ship in an effort to tackle climate change would of course be something to applaud, until you realise that 10 million of those tonnes are produced at the Glensanda super quarry – and can ONLY be removed by ship, because there is no land access.

Greystone inquiry

We’ve posted about Aggregate Industries’ Greystone Quarry near Launceston in Cornwall before.

In the company’s planning application for Straitgate Farm, AI claimed that supplying high PSV material from Straitgate would involve less transportation than its alternative high PSV source at Greystone. The claim was wrong, and we showed that each load of high PSV material from Straitgate would entail 417 miles of transportation for production alone – before any onward delivery – leading to overall haulage distances over three times the return-trip distance of material from Greystone.

At the end of 2016, AI lodged an application to extend Greystone. As we posted in December 2017 – and despite objections, including from DCC:
Aggregate Industries couldn’t believe its luck, no doubt, when its planning application for a 10 million tonne quarry extension within the Tamar Valley AONB was approved by Cornwall Council in September. The application PA16/10746 had been validated the previous November. The approval extends the life of Greystone Quarry near Launceston to 2066 and requires the stopping up of a public highway.
In relation to that stopping up of a public highway, BBC Devon & Cornwall reminds us that the public inquiry starts today:

Monday, 25 February 2019

DCC declares ‘climate emergency’ but rejects 2030 target

Time is running out to control greenhouse gas emissions and halt runaway climate change:
The world’s leading climate scientists have warned there is only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.
The authors of the landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)... say urgent and unprecedented changes are needed to reach the target, which they say is affordable and feasible although it lies at the most ambitious end of the Paris agreement pledge to keep temperatures between 1.5C and 2C.
The IPCC's Dr Debra Roberts warned:
It’s a line in the sand and what it says to our species is that this is the moment and we must act now. This is the largest clarion bell from the science community and I hope it mobilises people and dents the mood of complacency.
However, not everyone appreciates the urgency of our existential crisis. Last week, Devon County Council’s Full Council agreed to declare a "climate emergency" and to become carbon neutral by 2050 – but despite pleas from campaigners, Conservative councillors refused to back an amendment bringing this target forward to 2030, a target adopted by a number of other councils including Cornwall, where:
... a cross-party amendment was accepted which went even further than the original motion.
If we are to avoid the worst-case scenarios, then the social change required will be deep. Radical social change is uncomfortable and difficult – but I believe that as local representatives of our communities we have a responsibility to take leadership. Cornwall Council has shown that leadership today.
In Devon, it was a different story. Whilst various councillors spoke in favour of the 2030 amendment:
We need to recognise the issues with climate change and that we are heading towards extinction, and this is a call to action on the scale of a declaration of war. After 2030 it may be too late.
We have to act now as there is no Planet B. We have already caused irrecoverable climate change and we have to declare a climate emergency.
The crisis of climate change is the greatest threat facing mankind today, and we should have climate change impacts at the bottom of every report that comes before us.
This is an issue where there are really strict deadlines. Without the deadline, the cabinet motion simply isn’t that meaningful.
Cllr John Hart, Leader of the Council, on the other hand argued:
We are doing a lot on climate change and we are doing the right things, but we are being told that by 2030 we cannot make zero carbon. We have put together a recommendation that says what we can do and I can work with that.
I cannot work with an arbitrary figure that may or may not be possible and everyone professionally tells me that it cannot be done and we cannot be carbon neutral by 2030.





When it comes to minerals – and on that subject of "We are doing a lot on climate change" – DCC’s Minerals Plan does indeed recognise that:
One of the biggest challenges facing Devon’s communities and environment, together with the wider world, is climate change driven by global warming. 3.4.1
and is indeed proud to proclaim:
Mitigation of and adaptation to climate change is a key consideration and statutory duty for the Devon Minerals Plan, and will be a cross-cutting theme for the Strategy. 2.2.4
How might that be achieved? "Objective 1: Spatial Strategy" is clear:
Within geological constraints, secure a spatial pattern of mineral development that delivers the essential resources to markets within and outside Devon while minimising transportation by road and generation of greenhouse gases... 3.2
How might that relate to Straitgate Farm, a Preferred Area for sand and gravel extraction?
Maintaining the production of sand and gravel from the southern and northern parts of the Pebble Beds is also important in minimising transportation distances to the main markets in Devon and adjoining areas in accordance with Objective 1 and Policy M1. 5.4.8
Which is where everything becomes unstuck. Because by DCC continuing to entertain AI’s planning application for Straitgate – to dig up material from the southern part of the Pebble Beds only to be processed in the northern part of the Pebble Beds necessitating a 2.5 million mile haulage plan – it undoes any illusion of acting on climate change. The Minerals Plan was adopted in 2017. Straitgate will be the first application for a new greenfield quarry site in Devon to be determined against that Plan.

HGVs on rural roads

HGVs have been in the news recently for all sorts of reasons.

Locally, on the road outside Straitgate Farm, we’ve had this:


Meanwhile, in the House of Commons, the Transport Minister was asked about what steps are being taken to reduce HGV traffic on rural roads:
Transport Minister Jesse Norman says this is a "very important issue" and has "all kinds of negative effects". He says that "local authorities are best placed" to try and prohibit the use of HGVs on rural roads.
But it's not just local authorities. Recently the Secretary of State for Communities refused Cuadrilla’s fracking application at Roseacre Wood in Lancashire, due to the road safety issues posed by HGVs using narrow country lanes used by cyclists, walkers and horse riders:
The proposed development would have a serious and very significant adverse impact on the safety of people using the public highway.
Aggregate Industries' planning application for Straitgate Farm would of course put many more HGVs – up to 200 a day – on a narrow country lane used by cyclists, walkers and horse riders. AI’s application fails to address these concerns, despite this recent press release from the company which points to the dangers posed by the rapidly increasing number of HGVs on our roads:
This has brought fresh safety concerns, as more vehicles on the roads and more traffic means increased risk – with dangerous lorry driving often at the heart of the highly-publicised road safety issue. Reports estimate that almost a quarter of injuries caused by crashes with HGVs are fatal or serious, compared to a one in eight (13%) car crash average, and that one in three (34%) drivers have had a crash or near miss with a lorry.
What’s AI doing about this – apart from its plans for up to 200 HGVs a day on a rural lane in Devon?
At Aggregate Industries, for example, we operate an incredibly robust approach to the enrolment of our 1,000-plus franchisee drivers, coupled with a holistic maintenance programme.
Sounds good. But it doesn't stop there:
We also use a state-of-the-art telematics system to monitor the driving behaviour and styles of our franchisee hauliers on a daily basis – picking up everything from mileage, speed and fuel consumption.
Brilliant. Does it work? Not according to this:


Other companies are taking a different tack. CEMEX for example, is not only putting its faith in signage of the bright yellow variety – see below – but is also employing more widescreen Econic trucks with improved visibility of vulnerable road users. Others are also making this move – investing in trucks "less likely to mow down cyclists".

... if you Google "econic truck" AND "aggregate industries" you’ll be disappointed. AI use contract hauliers. It’s unclear what new measures, if any, are being stipulated by Aggregate Industries to make their contractors' HGVs safer for vulnerable road users.

Monday, 18 February 2019

Who’d have thought it? Decision on Straitgate application delayed again


It will hardly come as a surprise to regular readers to learn that Aggregate Industries has failed to meet the extended determination date agreed by the company with DCC last year.

More than seven years have now passed since AI’s consultants first started crawling all over Straitgate Farm in preparation for plans to quarry the site.

Almost four years have passed since AI’s initial planning application.

The determination date for the resubmitted application has been extended six times.

And yet, AI is plainly still having difficulty putting together the documentation requested by DCC some 18 months ago – in answer to a number of fundamental questions.

In November, it was agreed by DCC and AI to extend the determination date to 31 March 2019. This date – like many before – has now been missed, given that the submission of any further information would require 30 days of public consultation before the next DMC meeting of 20 March.

What are we to make of AI’s lack of enthusiasm to submit more information? What on earth can be causing the company so many problems?

Is it the cattle crossing issues – first raised almost 2 years ago?

Is it the rich assortment of hydrogeological issues – including the failure of AI’s groundwater model?

Devon County Council have written to Aggregate Industries requesting them to submit revised plans showing the extent of the working area, taking into account the elevated groundwater levels recorded in March and April 2018, prior to determining the planning application.
Is it the road junction issues – and damage to third party property?

Is it the involvement of an increasing numbers of lawyers – this being just the latest – raising substantive issues against AI’s plans?

Or is it the dawning realisation that Straitgate Farm – with its ever-decreasing level of sand and gravel resource – sits an uneconomic, unsustainable, climate-damaging 23 miles away from AI’s newly-erected processing plant in Mid Devon – where the company already has enough of the same material to last it to 2050 and beyond?

Clearly, there are problems. Otherwise AI would be looking to tear up the ancient hedgerows and farmland by now – not seeking a 7th extension to the determination date.

Locals have now been blighted by the threat of this development for more than seven years – remember the hundreds of people who piled into West Hill Village Hall in 2012 to bend the ear of DCC’s Minerals Officer? Some people have been blighted by the threat of a quarry at Straitgate for longer than that.

AI’s application has now been lifeless for 18 months. It’s about time AI put up or shut up.

Another lorry in the ditch outside Straitgate

Yet more evidence today – if any more were needed after the accidents here, here, here and here  that this dangerous stretch of the B3174 Exeter Road is not suitable for Aggregate Industries' plans for up to 200 HGV movements a day.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Schoolchildren across the world call for climate action

Today, thousands of schoolchildren across the UK – including from Devon – are due to strike, in a call for action on climate change. It follows similar protests across the World. More than 200 academics back the UK schools' climate change strikes; the National Association of Head Teachers says the action "needs to be applauded."
The number of those taking part in Friday’s strike is growing rapidly, amid mounting evidence of the scale and impact of the climate emergency. There are more than 50 confirmed events from Fort William to Hastings, with more added each day.
The UK day of action is part of a movement that started in August when Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old schoolgirl, held a solo protest outside Sweden’s parliament. Globally, up to 70,000 schoolchildren each week are taking part in 270 towns and cities.
Individual demonstrations have already been held in the UK, but Friday’s coordinated day of action is expected to see the biggest protests by students and young people in the UK since the student strikes of 2010 over tuition fees.




There is growing alarm across the world over climate change:


It’s not hard to see why – with headlines such as "A third of Himalayan ice cap doomed":
At least a third of the huge ice fields in Asia’s towering mountain chain are doomed to melt due to climate change, according to a landmark report, with serious consequences for almost 2 billion people.
Even if carbon emissions are dramatically and rapidly cut and succeed in limiting global warming to 1.5C, 36% of the glaciers along in the Hindu Kush and Himalaya range will have gone by 2100. If emissions are not cut, the loss soars to two-thirds, the report found.
The glaciers are a critical water store for the 250 million people who live in the Hindu Kush-Himalaya (HKH) region, and 1.65 billion people rely on the great rivers that flow from the peaks into India, Pakistan, China and other nations.
"This is the climate crisis you haven’t heard of," said Philippus Wester of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (Icimod), who led the report. "In the best of possible worlds, if we get really ambitious [in tackling climate change], even then we will lose one-third of the glaciers and be in trouble. That for us was the shocking finding."
On 21 February, there will be another demonstration outside DCC’s County Hall in Exeter when a Climate Emergency motion – previously posted about here – is debated by the Full Council. DCC’s Cabinet recommended that Devon should become carbon neutral by 2050; a similar motion in Cornwall was recently passed with 2030 as the target. The IPCC warns we have just 12 years left to take action.

Companies leading on climate change ‘also outperform on stock market’

The World’s 'top green businesses' have been revealed – in the CDP A List:
CDP names over 150 corporates recognised as pioneers for action on climate change, water and deforestation.
According to this article:
The best performing companies based on a range of climate change measures are also outperforming the stock market, according to research by CDP, formerly known as Carbon Disclosure Project.
CDP ranked more than 6,800 companies, grading them from A to D-, with just 2 per cent making the A list. The data was released to coincide with the World Economic Forum summit, which is taking place in Davos, Switzerland this week.
Organisations were judged on the actions they have taken across three categories: climate change, water security and forests.
HeidelbergCement has been awarded ‘A-‘ in the climate change category of CDP’s Climate A List. It also received the same score in the water security category. The result marked it as the highest-scoring cement company on the list beating other major international producers such as LafargeHolcim, Cemex and CRH. Notably, these other cement companies each received ‘F’ for water security due to a lack of sufficient information available.
LafargeHolcim is the parent company of Aggregate Industries. Perhaps confirming CDP's findings:
the company is the least profitable among rivals in the aggregates market.

Construction, demolition & excavation waste – largest waste stream in UK economy

The Mineral Products Association is the trade association representing Aggregate Industries et al. A recent press release from the MPA tells us that "The need for resources and waste materials to be used more efficiently and effectively has never been so strong."

It also tells us that 120 million tonnes of construction, demolition and excavation waste is created each year – which represents the largest waste stream in the UK economy. The MPA has provided an infographic – shown below – of where it thinks all that waste is going.

The MPA talks about an "industry success story"; that 51 million tonnes is being recycled as aggregate each year, so that "30% of all aggregate demand [is] now supplied from non-primary sources". As an example, only last month Scott Bros. invested £1m in an 'Urban Quarry' wash plant in Teeside:
The Teesside company’s state-of-the-art wash plant takes waste material and converts it into high quality sand and aggregate for use in the building and construction industry.
It is capable of processing between 50 and 70 tonnes of waste per hour to produce both coarse and fine sand, together with three grades of aggregate.
The recycled products are not only cost-effective for customers but reduce the amount of environmental damage involved in the quarrying and production of primary materials.
Currently some 20 percent of the wash plant’s output – a clay-based substance produced during the filtration process – cannot be recycled.
However, Scott Bros. is working in conjunction with academics at Teesside University’s School of Science, Engineering and Design, to find a practical use for the residue.
One possible use being explored is that the material could be incorporated into the brick manufacturing process.
The MPA also claims:
The restoration and recycling of land, by utilising suitable materials such as Excavation Waste (EW) post-extraction, is another activity contributing to the circularity and sustainability of the construction industry and supply chain.
and that:
The assumption that vast quantities of waste are not used beneficially is misleading, and underestimates the high degree of resource recovery taking place in the UK.
However, and somewhat less of a success story, the MPA also calculates that 26 million tonnes of construction waste continues to be dumped in landfills each year.

Aggregate producers persuade HM Treasury to review Aggregates Levy


The British Aggregates Association has been involved in a long-running dispute with the UK government over the Aggregates Levy. This litigation has now been dropped after the government promised a review. Treasury minister Robert Jenrick said:
Longstanding litigation on the aggregates levy has now been concluded, with the litigation against the government and the European Commission...
The aggregates levy has been largely unchanged since its introduction in 2002. The government will now conduct a comprehensive review of the levy over the next year, working closely with the Scottish government, and consulting the Welsh government and Northern Ireland executive throughout. The review will be comprehensive, looking at the latest evidence about the objectives of the levy, its effectiveness in meeting those objectives, and the design of the levy, including the impact of devolution.

LAAs

In line with NPPF requirements, DCC is tasked with producing annual Local Aggregate Assessmentswhich include information on sand and gravel production and reserve levels.

Whilst the Devon Minerals Plan was being prepared and examined, the LAA was regularly produced – even multiple versions in some years.

For anyone wondering, the last time the council reported on the local mineral scene was "for the period to 31 December 2016." The Minerals Plan was adopted in February 2017.

At the end of 2017, Devon's sand and gravel reserves stood at 6.23 million tonnes.

Mining operator ‘knew collapsed dam was at risk’

We recently posted about Another mining disaster, how a mining tailings dam collapsed at Brumadinho in Brazil. This video of the terrible disaster has now been released:



The owner of a mining dam that collapsed in Brazil last month, killing 165, knew it was at a heightened risk of failure, Reuters claims in a report.
According to an internal report seen by the news agency, Vale was aware the Minas Gerais dam breached internal safety guidelines in October.
Vale, the world's top iron ore miner, said the report was misleading as there was no evidence of imminent risk.
Executives and employees from Vale, and German consulting group Tüv Süd who inspected the dam last year, have now been arrested.





Construction output shows biggest drop since 2012

It's hardly surprising – with the current self-inflicted Brexit chaos – that the Office for National Statistics recently reported that:
Construction output in Great Britain decreased by 2.8% compared to November, making it the largest month-on-month fall in output since June 2012’s 4.3% fall.

Monday, 4 February 2019

AI’s legal assurances for alternative water supplies “unfit for purpose”

It’s not just Theresa May hunting for illusory "alternative arrangements":


Aggregate Industries has also been asked about alternative arrangements: alternative arrangements for peoples’ drinking water supplies in the event of a failure caused by any quarrying at Straitgate Farm.

A letter has been sent to DCC by solicitors acting on behalf of Cadhay – a Grade I Tudor manor house reliant on the groundwater from Straitgate for its drinking water supplies and listed mediaeval fishponds.


In 2017, we posted So what happens if people lose their water supplies? DCC had asked AI:
The planning policy section of the application includes the text from the Devon Minerals plan, ‘any proposal should include provision for alternative supply in the event of derogation of private water supplies resulting from mineral development’. However, there is no detail on this in the body of the report. Full detail should be provided including proposals for either a bond or legal agreement dealing with this matter.
We pointed to AI’s Reg22 response dealing with the matter:
In the event that there shall be interference with any of the private water supplies (as indicated on plan to be agreed with Devon County Council, in consultation with the Environment Agency) or an inability to draw a satisfactory water supply in respect of any of the private water supplies and such interference or inability to draw a satisfactory water supply is in the opinion of the County Council, in consultation with the Environment Agency, on the balance of probability, attributable partly or wholly as a result of the winning and working of minerals at Straitgate Farm then AIUK shall forthwith at its own expense take such action or make temporary or permanent arrangements for the provision of any alternative or additional water supply to the users of the private water supplies as shall be necessary or appropriate in the opinion of the County Council, in consultation with the Environment Agency, to replace or compensate for the interference or inability to draw a satisfactory supply to the extent that the same is attributable to such activities associated with the winning and working of minerals at Straitgate Farm, such provision to be kept in place until a satisfactory water supply is reinstated. 2.8.1
AI’s assurances hardly provide much comfort. As we said at the time:
Locals will no doubt wonder about the interpretation of "any alternative". Would it be bottled water, emergency tanker supplies, or what? Some properties are miles from a mains supply, but if mains were to be installed, there's nothing in AI's legal blurb to say who would pay the water bill for ever more; a water bill that for farms or Cadhay could be enormous.
And what hope is there for people who lose those supplies, if there's such disregard for timeliness and urgency? How long would it take – "in the opinion of the County Council, in consultation with the Environment Agency, on the balance of probability..." – for DCC to swing into action? How long would it take – "in the opinion of the County Council, in consultation with the Environment Agency..." – for AI to restore alternative supplies, temporary or permanent? How long would people be without water? Days? Weeks? Months? If AI were to be found guilty – "on the balance of probability" – the company promises action "forthwith". But does that mean 2 weeks, 2 months or, as above, 2 years? Does than mean before or after the consultants and lawyers have had their say? What's that promise worth without a number? What's that promise worth with such failings and lack of urgency elsewhere in the county?
But it’s not just us who have raised concerns. In December, a letter was sent to DCC by solicitors acting on behalf of Cadhay. This letter has now apparently been forwarded to AI. With regard to AI’s paragraph 2.8.1 above, with our emphasis:
At paragraph 2.8.1(i), draft wording has been proposed setting out the circumstances under which the applicant would be required to provide alternative water supplies and/or compensate for the disruption. With respect to the lawyer who (presumably) drafted this provision, it is so full of caveats, provisos, legal tests, consultation requirements and optionality as to be unfit for purpose.
The main issue, which the draft provision fails to recognise, is that any interruption to the supplies will have an immediate effect on Cadhay, as those supplies are needed for the hospitality and wedding businesses operating at the property. In contrast to this immediate need for water, the applicant has proposed a tortuous legal mechanism for establishing causation, liability and remedy, none of which will actually deal with the immediacy of the problem. In short, whilst the parties to the s106 agreement [an agreement to which Cadhay would not be a party] argue about the operation of this provision, Cadhay’s business could fail.
This concern is further reinforced by the fact that the mediaeval fishponds, which are listed in their own right and strategic to the setting of Cadhay, rely on water from Straitgate. If the ponds were reduced to a muddy mess due to the development impacting the supplies, the ponds would cease to be the selling point that they currently enjoy (due to their photogenic qualities) and instead become an eyesore, turning away both customers and open day visitors. Taken together, the impact on my client’s business would be significant, leading not only to a serious risk to his business but also a genuine risk that the upkeep of the outstanding Grade I listed building would be compromised.
Perhaps most importantly, the proposals at 2.8.1 do not give details on any of the following fundamental points:
* where are the alternative water supplies;
* how reliable are those supplies;
* what is the quality of the water from those supplies;
* how quickly can sufficient supplies be made available; and
* what rights does the applicant have to secure those supplies?
As above, the applicant is underplaying the significant damage that would be caused by any interruption to Cadhay’s water supplies, and the consequential need to have robust and detailed arrangements in place to ensure that supplies are maintained at all times. The applicant’s proposed planning obligations fail at every level in relation to matters of detail, and Cadhay cannot accept such a situation.
As the Council will be aware, as a matter of law the ES is required to properly set out the mitigation measures proposed to address any significant adverse impacts likely to be caused by the development, following which the local planning authority can then assess those mitigation measures. In other words, if there’s a problem which might be caused by the development, the LPA must know how that problem will be mitigated, and then assess such mitigation.
In relation to the security of water supplies, the applicant has not provided any details of the proposed mitigation measures in the event that the supplies are disrupted: the proposed planning obligations are bereft of any such details. Without having details of the proposed mitigation, the Council cannot properly assess the environmental impact of the scheme.
Of course, this doesn't only affect Cadhay; there are other people miles away from an alternative mains supply. AI needs to come clean on exactly how it would replace water supplies in the event of a failure.

"We are being bullied and ignored by a big PLC business that controls one of our basic rights – to have fresh water. Without water, normal life quickly grinds to a halt."
Wouldn’t a Section 106 planning agreement sort things out? Well, even if appropriate assurances could be drafted, it’s not even clear who would be covered – Cadhay, supposedly protected by the EA’s SPZ, certainly wasn’t covered in AI’s original application; AI has so far refrained from identifying specific properties, saying only "private water supplies (as indicated on plan to be agreed with Devon County Council, in consultation with the Environment Agency)".


So, if there are recent examples locally where AI has had problems adhering to a Section 106, should we instead draw comfort from assurances the company has made in its Environmental Statement? As referred to by Cadhay’s lawyers, and as we have previously posted:
Again, as Cadhay’s lawyers point out, AI has not provided any details of proposed mitigation measures. Despite AI's consultants unsurprisingly claiming "there is not expected to be any direct impact on any groundwater dependent features" 6.2.1, we have already posted about Environmental Impact Assessments: Are they worth the paper they’re written on? how:
In practice, the [Environmental Statement] is often a sales document for the applicant and there have been increasing calls for an independent commission of EIAs to take them out of the hands of those with a vested interest in seeing schemes approved.
The quality of ES can be surprisingly poor, with developers often keen to do the least possible to get the application through, so it is vital local people go on asking critical questions of the applicant and local authority planners.
EIAs are now often contracted to the lowest bidder, with a focus often more on achieving mandated deadlines, rather than on product quality. In some cases, more expertise and resources may be put into winning a contract than completing it, with the important scientific work being done cheaply by newly graduated bachelor’s degree holders or inexperienced interns.
In that same post, we pointed out that AI’s EIA has been riddled with fiction; that consultants Amec Foster Wheeler (now Wood) have produced an assortment of hydrological predictions which have already failed – again and again and again; that Amec refused to provide information on tolerances; that some of Amec’s reports had even been whitewashed.

Why are local people so concerned? Well, in the Devon Minerals Plan DCC put a line through the 1m to protect drinking water supplies, and AI plans to dig all the way down to the water table - without leaving the typical 1m unquarried safeguard, whilst other quarries – here and here for example – are approved with a 2m safeguard above maximum groundwater levels.

So, once AI submits its next batch of documents to DCC in answer to questions – and who knows when that will be (an inexplicable 18 months has passed since those seemingly difficult questions were raised) – local people should respond to DCC's planners and ask them to detail exactly how AI would provide alternative drinking water supplies in the event of supplies becoming lost or polluted – particularly to those who are miles away from any mains supply.

According to the people in Northumbria, laying three miles of pipework costs some £500,000.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Drakelands’ fallout

In October of last year, Wolf Minerals – an Australian mining outfit and owner of the Drakelands tungsten and tin mine in Hemerdon near Plymouth – ceased trading and appointed administrators, after losing £100 million over the last three years.

Questions still hang over the future of the mine and the restoration of the scarred landscape. There were rumours of a rescue last year, but talks "hit a snag over the cost of restoring the land after its working life has finished." If there are plans for a rescue, there are currently no signs – as machinery continues to be taken off-site; see below.

But it’s not just the shareholders of Wolf Minerals that have lost millions. This week, UK mining operator Hargreaves Services took an £8.1m hit relating to Wolf’s failure:
A total of £5.1m of trade debt and work in process balances were written off, while the remaining £3m was made up of redundancy and other costs.
Commenting on the decision to work with Wolf, Hargreaves CEO Gordon Banham said:
They got a lot of funding. I think the team were quite right to take on a contract with a well funded business but unfortunately they couldn’t get the mining right.