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.




Wednesday, 30 January 2019

DCC declares “climate emergency”

This month, both Cornwall County Council and Devon County Council's cabinet have declared a "climate emergency". Cornwall called on Westminster "to provide the powers and resources necessary to achieve the target for Cornwall to become carbon neutral by 2030"; Devon promised to forge "a county-wide partnership to ensure that Devon is carbon neutral by 2050". DCC's Cllr Roger Croad said:
There is a climate emergency and climate change will affect the environment, people, businesses and our prosperity.
That’s why we will be working with strategic partners to develop a plan to ensure that Devon is on the right trajectory to meet the IPCC’s carbon reduction recommendations.


All this comes as climate activism across the world appears to have moved up a gear: Children's climate rallies gain momentum in Europe; David Attenborough and Prince William take world leaders to task on environment, warning that humans have power to exterminate whole ecosystems ‘without even noticing’; Extinction Rebellion activists occupy Scottish parliament.

We are at a time in history where everyone with any insight of the climate crisis that threatens our civilisation – and the entire biosphere – must speak out in clear language, no matter how uncomfortable and unprofitable that may be.
We must change almost everything in our current societies. The bigger your carbon footprint, the bigger your moral duty. The bigger your platform, the bigger your responsibility.
Adults keep saying: "We owe it to the young people to give them hope." But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.
I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.


And indeed, our house is on fire. Our ecosystems are being destroyed. Look at the recent headlines:





Meanwhile, in the northern hemisphere, Greenland's ice is melting four times faster than in 2003:
Greenland’s enormous ice sheet is melting at such an accelerated rate that it may have reached a "tipping point," and could become a major factor in sea-level rise around the world within two decades, scientists said in a study
This comes at a time when the Met Office predicts a 'worrying' rise in global CO2 forecast for 2019:
"Looking at the monthly figures, it’s as if you can see the planet ‘breathing’ as the levels of CO2 fall and rise with the seasonal cycle of plant growth and decay in the northern hemisphere," said Prof Richard Betts, at the Met Office’s Hadley Centre. "The graph is a thing of beauty, but also a stark reminder of human impact on climate. Each year’s CO2 is higher than the last, and this will keep happening until humans stop adding CO2 to the atmosphere.
"This news is worrying and compelling," said Prof Nick Ostle, at Lancaster University. "It represents a call to innovate with rapid and radical responses to offset these growing emissions."


Do such warnings make any difference to the world's polluters? Barclays has been accused of being on the wrong side of history with climate policy. What side of history will Aggregate Industries be on?

LafargeHolcim – parent of Aggregate Industries – has been accused of being the second worst company for increasing CO2 emissions, despite greenwash like this:


Of course, the company that claims "reducing carbon emissions needs to be at the heart of everything we do", is the same company that continues to plot a 2.5 MILLION MILE climate-busting haulage scheme across Devon.

Natural England “at crisis point”

The agency tasked with protecting the English environment is struggling to protect important sites after suffering budget cuts:
The agency’s budget has been cut by more than half in the past decade, from £242m in 2009-10 to £100m for 2017-18. Staff numbers have been slashed from 2,500 to an estimated 1,500.
Natural England has wide-ranging responsibilities protecting and monitoring sensitive sites, including sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) and nature reserves, and advising on the environmental impact of new homes and other developments in the planning stages. Its work includes overseeing national parks, paying farmers to protect biodiversity, and areas of huge public concern such as air quality and marine plastic waste.
The Prospect union warns that Natural England is "at crisis point":
"Cuts have left Natural England at the point where its workers are saying they don’t have enough people or resources to do the things they need to do," said Garry Graham, the deputy general secretary of Prospect.
Caroline Lucas, the Green party MP who has asked a series of parliamentary questions on Natural England’s plight, said: "Behind the veil of Michael Gove’s fluffy rhetoric about caring for the environment, ministers have systematically gutted the agency that looks after irreplaceable habitats and beautiful landscapes. The result is plummeting morale as staff simply don’t have the resources to monitor thousands of protected sites across England, ultimately putting spaces for wildlife at risk of irreversible destruction."

Another mining disaster

The mining industry leaves a trail of destruction across the world.

Last Friday, a mining tailings dam collapsed in Brazil. Arrests have been made in what is likely to become the country's worst ever environmental catastrophe. At the time of writing, the death toll has hit 84 and hundreds remain missing.


The mine in Brumadinho is operated by Vale – the fourth largest mining company in the world.

As the BBC reports:
There have been a number of high-profile disasters involving tailings dams in recent years - and there have been calls, including from the UN, to institute better safety and building regulations around them.
Little more than three years ago, a tailings dam also owned by Vale, along with Anglo-Australian BHP Billiton, burst in Mariana killing 19 people in what was then considered Brazil's worst environmental disaster – 375 families lost their homes; more than two years later they had yet to be rehoused:
... federal prosecutors claim the company... failed to take actions that they say could have prevented the disaster. The prosecutors instead claim the company focused on cutting costs and increasing production.
... more than two years later, nobody has accepted responsibility.
There are more than 400 mining dams like the one that broke in Brumadinho in the state of Minas Gerais, the hub of Brazil’s mining industry.
Some of the dams have been deemed "unstable" but have continued operating for years, said Bruno Milanez, a professor of industrial engineering at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora. What is frightening, he said, is that the dams that broke — in Mariana and Brumadinho — were certified as "stable."
As mining production has increased across the world, so has the number of disasters. As The Brazilian Report tells us:



Greenpeace Brazil’s campaigns director, Nilo D’Avila, said in a statement:
Cases like these are not accidents but environmental crimes that should be investigated, punished and repaired.
But it's not just mining companies in Brazil. Yesterday, it was the turn of British mining firm Gemfields to be in the news, settling a human rights case:
A British mining firm, Gemfields, says it has agreed to pay $7.5m to people in Mozambique who went to court in London over alleged human rights abuses at a ruby mine.
Close to 300 people living near the Montepuez mine complained that private security guards as well as Mozambican security forces had shot, beaten, sexually abused and unlawfully detained them.
Gemfields denies any responsibility for abuses but admits instances of violence have occurred at the mine.

“Sand and the Sandbank: is sand extraction a sustainable business?”



Recent lurid headlines have suggested that across the planet we are running out of sand. This echoes similar contemporary concerns regarding the physical exhaustion of other natural resources which have in the past been assumed to be essentially infinite. Sand has been an essential raw material from the beginning of urbanisation – a mineral that has formed the foundations of civilisation through construction of our buildings and infrastructure.
Within the last decade or two, in some parts of the world supply of sand has become constrained. In a very few places, sand has arguably become a conflict mineral. As a result, some commentators now suggest we are threatened by the unmanaged and rapid depletion in global stocks of this essential mineral...
The presumption of sand supply continuity requires re-evaluation. With contributions from key experts, this meeting will consider sand as a commodity, assessing the benefits and disbenefits of its extraction and use against the backdrop of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Monday, 21 January 2019

So, Straitgate’s not ‘needed’ until 2021 – says AI – which proves it’s not needed at all

Aggregate Industries is no longer in any rush to quarry Straitgate Farm – judging by documents lodged last year in support of the company's ROMP application DCC/3655/2014 for Hillhead, an application submitted in 2014 but still not determined. AI’s document says:
Should Straitgate Farm obtain planning permission in 2018, extraction would likely commence in 2021. 2.13
That’s quite a change – a 5-year change in fact – from what AI originally intended, if we ignore the 1967 planning application.

AI’s recent application to quarry Straitgate Farm has been beset by delays. Straitgate was originally lined up as the replacement for Venn Ottery Quarry in 2016. As AI’s Request for Scoping Opinion in January 2015 made clear: 

It is... necessary to plan for additional reserves being available from mid-2016. The sand and gravel reserves at Straitgate Farm are considered to be a direct replacement for reserves at Venn Ottery. 3.1
Subject to planning consent, it is therefore proposed that mineral processing from Straitgate Farm would take place initially at Blackhill Quarry for a period of approximately 4-5 years until the end of 2021. 3.2
Nothing much had changed by the time AI made its planning application later in that year:
In 2016, when the proposed development is anticipated to commence, the estimated tonnage of extracted materials from the site will be 295,000 tonnes. By 2017, when the site is fully operational, the estimated extraction tonnage will be 410,000 tonnes per year. This will continue throughout the life of the site. 3.27
As longstanding readers will know, that application was pulled, only to be replaced by another in 2017. By that time the plan had changed, and AI proposed to haul each load of as-dug material 23 miles from Straitgate to Hillhead near Uffculme to be processed with mobile plant. Later, fixed plant from Blackhill was relocated to Hillhead, but even then AI expected that:
the plant will be installed and operational by mid-late 2018... when, subject to planning, mineral would begin to be imported from Straitgate Farm into Hillhead Quarry. 8.4
So, first 2016, then 2018, and now 2021. How on earth, you might wonder, can AI produce a full range of products in this region for so long – for 5 years – without having access to the "gravel-rich" deposits of Straitgate Farm?

On multiple occasions, AI has argued that the Straitgate reserves are crucial to its future operations in this region, that without Straitgate it wouldn’t be able to supply the area with its full range of products, including high polished stone value material for road surfacing:
The gravel content [at Straitgate] is important as it is capable of producing a 57 PSV aggregate suitable for road surfacing. 5.4.5
We were told that AI could not rely exclusively on its 4 million tonnes of sand and gravel at Houndaller – next door to the company’s newly-erected processing plant at Hillhead. We were told that AI was not ready to exploit the 8 million tonnes at Penslade – also next door to the company’s newly-erected processing plant at Hillhead. We were told in 2017:
The gravel rich Straitgate mineral would complement the material currently being extracted at Houndaller (Hillhead) Quarry since the Houndaller deposit is sand-rich (75% sand to 25% gravel) of which there is little or no crushable gravel to produce a 57 PSV aggregate. 3.9.2
Others were told word-for-word the same thing last year in AI's document to support its ROMP application for Hillhead – even by different consultants:
The gravel rich Straitgate Farm mineral would complement the material currently being extracted at Houndaller (Hillhead) Quarry since the Houndaller deposit is sand-rich (75% sand to 25% gravel) of which there is little or no crushable gravel to produce a 57 PSV aggregate. 2.14
Importantly, DCC relied on such information from AI to justify Straitgate’s inclusion in the Devon Minerals Plan, claiming that Devon couldn’t just rely on the 12 million tonnes with and without permission at the northern end of the Budleigh Salterton Pebble Beds, that the 1 million tonnes at Straitgate at the southern end was needed too:
Information provided by the operator since 2011 indicates that the proportion of crushable gravel… within the BSPB decreases from south to north. While the proportion of crushable gravel in the Ottery St Mary area is not significantly lower than at the existing Blackhill and Venn Ottery quarries, the resource around Uffculme is much less gravel-rich. This further supports the need to consider future sand and gravel supply from both the northern and southern options. 4.15
And indeed, in the Devon Minerals Plan you will even find DCC bizarrely claiming that this would in some way minimise transportation distances:
... resources within this southern area have a higher crushable gravel content than those further north, indicating the importance of securing supply from that southern area. 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
With AI’s newly erected processing plant at Hillhead, 23 miles away from Straitgate Farm, minimising transportation distances is of course the last thing that the working of Straitgate would do. Transporting all of Straitgate’s 'as-dug' material – including the 20% waste – to Hillhead for processing would entail an unsustainable 2.5 million HGV miles. As AI again outlined in the ROMP document for Hillhead, this would be over a number of years on a campaign basis...
… depending on availability of transport. 2.15
But, in actual fact, it now turns out that AI is able to function quite happily, thank-you-very-much – for 5 years, thank-you-very-much – without the "gravel-rich" material from Straitgate Farm.

What about the "57 PSV aggregate" for road surfacing?

Only comparatively small amounts of high PSV material are needed each year, and as we posted in AI’s resurrected plant at Hillhead has enough material nearby to take it beyond 2050:
If you believe AI – and why would you after such a catalogue of fiction – and if you ignore the ever-increasing stockpiles of unprocessed quartzite pebbles at Houndaller – the problem with the company's argument is that it ignores the effective mileage that would be embodied in each tonne of high PSV material from Straitgate. We have posted about this before, how each 28.5 tonne load of high PSV material from Straitgate would necessitate a staggeringly unsustainable 417 miles of transportation for production, BEFORE any onward delivery. In other words, high PSV material from Straitgate would have to travel over 3x the return-trip distance of material from Greystone, an AI quarry in Cornwall also with high PSV material.

Operations at Houndaller recommenced more two years ago. DCC’s most recent monitoring report reminds us that, as of this month, planning consent has expired:
Houndaller contains an estimated reserve of 4.2 million tonnes of sand and gravel and extraction resumed on this part of the site on 16 September 2016. It is noted the planning consent expires on 31 December 2018 for the Houndaller area of the site. 4.9
The periodic review application seeks, amongst other amendments, to extend the consent for extraction in Houndaller (Schedule B conditions) beyond 2018 to 2037.4.13
In the ROMP document for Hillhead, AI says:
As of July 2018, approximately 270,000 tonnes of material have been extracted since recommencement in January 2017. A reserve of approximately 4 million tonnes (saleable) remains in phases 5-8. 2.12
Since that time, there have of course been no howls of anguish from AI over shortages of "57 PSV aggregate". And if material from Straitgate Farm is now not 'needed' until 2021, if AI can do without Straitgate’s "gravel-rich" material for all that time, if AI is managing fine with the 4 million tonne sand and gravel deposit at Houndaller with processing plant newly erected next door, with another 8 million tonnes in reserves close by, then the relatively small amount of material from Straitgate – with its inherently high carbon footprint – is clearly not needed at all.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

LafargeHolcim named second worst company for increasing CO2 emissions

The parent company of Aggregate Industries has been named by Sasja Beslik, the head of sustainable finance at Nordea, as the second worst company for increasing CO2 emissions in the five years between 2011 and 2016.


It’s something to bear in mind when AI – a company that now emits some 1.3 million tonnes of CO2 each year, a fivefold increase in 20 years – tweets greenwash photos of wind farms in the setting sun:


Of course, it's not just pretty photos that AI uses to greenwash its activities. Take AI’s sustainability reports; take the one from 2016, where the company claims:
We are committed to tackling climate change.
At Aggregate Industries we’ll continue our mission to cut our net CO2 emissions of all products.
We reduce our impact on climate change through the development, manufacture or promotion of innovative and sustainable products and solutions.
Unfortunately, however, AI's record is not one of cutting net CO2 emissions, nor of a reducing impact on climate change.

The chart below – which from 2016 includes emissions from two cement operations – shows AI’s commitment to tackling climate change. As we posted in The CO2 emissions that AI ‘forgot’ in 2016:
AI has talked about reducing its CO2 emissions for more than 15 years, and has achieved exactly the reverse. It is plainly in denial: denial about having to do anything to change the way it operates, denial about having to do anything to reduce its contribution to an impending climate catastrophe.
But is anyone surprised? Profits will obviously speak louder to AI – and its LafargeHolcim bean counters – than our  "existential threat" to humanity.

German research organisation creates new process for recycling construction waste

Whilst there’s no shortage of sand and gravel in Devon and the UK, it’s not the same in other countries. We posted about the future for sand and gravel production last year:
If flatlining sales figures, planning difficulties and rising energy costs are anything to go by, the business outlook for UK sand and gravel production is not spectacular.
Elsewhere in the world there are other problems, with looming shortages of sand – Germany being the latest country to declare problems:
Germany desperately needs more sand for industry. But a lack of planning foresight, the politics around mining sites and the needs of coastal communities are making the search ever grittier.
We also wrote:
In recognition of these difficulties, and the need to move towards a circular economy, more and more construction waste is thankfully being recycled. Only last week, the UK's largest recycling plant for construction and demolition waste opened in West Lothian, which promises to turn 400,000 tonnes of construction, demolition and excavation waste per year into sand and gravel.
This week, in an effort to stop millions of tonnes of fine-grained building rubble ending up in landfills, results from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute – a novel approach to recycling construction waste – will be showcased at a Munich trade fair:
The construction industry is one of the most resource-intensive sectors of the German economy. The nation’s buildings constitute a vast store of raw materials, harbouring some 100 billion metric tons of materials that could be recovered and returned to the material cycle at the end of their service life. Four Fraunhofer Institutes have joined forces in the BauCycle project to kick-start recycling of sand and gravel fine particle fractions that cannot be reclaimed today for reuse in further construction projects. The research team will present the results of their work at the 2019 BAU trade fair in Munich from January 14 to 19.
“Building sand is not superabundant; in Europe, for example, sand is in short supply in Sweden and France. The conventional method of treating rubble is to crush it. Components of less than two millimetres are sieved out and end up in landfill. If this fine-grained building rubble – which consists mainly of sand-lime bricks, bricks, concrete and small amounts of gypsum – were to be recycled, this could redress the sand shortage over the long term,” says Fraunhofer IBP scientist Dr. Volker Thome, the project’s manager.
In the best-case scenario, four clean aggregates may be recycled and reused to produce aerated concrete, a light building material with good thermal insulation properties. It is suitable for building two-story houses and as indoor insulation. Tests have shown that aggregates of concrete and sand-lime bricks are also recyclable and can serve as a secondary raw material for making competitive grades of aerated concrete. The scientists achieved the best results with a mix of 80 percent sand-lime bricks and 20 percent reclaimed concrete. Another project finding was that a combination of bricks and recovered concrete can be used to make geopolymers, a cement-free building material that is strong and acid-resistant, much like concrete. Geopolymers have the added advantage of a very low carbon footprint.