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Quarries uniquely placed to halt biodiversity decline

MPA awards event highlights industry’s restoration legacy and quarries’ potential to help halt biodiversity decline

THE mineral products industry is uniquely placed to help halt biodiversity decline. That was the message from the chief executive of Natural England and a host of other key stakeholders to members of the MPA at the Association’s awards event, ‘Building on our Legacy… Realising our Potential – Biodiversity and the Mineral Products Association’, which took place at the Royal Society, London, on 19 October.

The event, which attracted a wide range of NGO and environmental organizations, charted the way forward and shared best practice through the long-running MPA Restoration Awards and the inaugural Natural England Biodiversity Awards.  

UK biodiversity loss is a growing concern and the mineral products industry is uniquely placed with significant potential to contribute to achieving the Government’s biodiversity targets. MPA members already have a long legacy of high-quality restoration and biodiversity enhancement.

Around 90% of the entire mineral products industry is represented by MPA members, and the land they manage or control is equivalent to a small national park. This includes at least two national nature reserves, 22 local nature reserves, 15 field-study and education centres and 13 nature trails. The RSPB estimates that the industry could, on its own, deliver UK biodiversity targets for nine out of 11 priority habitats.

At the event, the results of new research were revealed:

  • With 1,300 active sites across the UK, 56,000ha of the minerals industry estate is potentially suitable for restoration to priority habitats as defined in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP).
  • The industry is leading the way in restoring the population of the previously declining bittern by ‘hosting’ 15% of the UK’s breeding pairs in reed beds created following quarrying.
  • 22 minerals sites have, to date, been certified by the externally assessed Wildlife Trusts Biodiversity Benchmark.
  • Operators are now routinely creating and committing to long-term management of threatened habitats, making a significant contribution to delivering national and local BAP targets.
  • MPA members have planted a million trees in the last five years as part of their planned operational and restoration activities. This is a significant achievement and mirrors the Government’s own aspirations for the next four to five years.
  • MPA members have planted 57km (36 miles) of hedgerows in the last five years.
  • MPA members have built 21km (13 miles) of dry stone walls in the last five years (2006–2010).

Dr Helen Phillips (pictured), chief executive of Natural England, a special guest at the event who presented the Natural England Biodiversity Awards, said: ‘There are probably few other industries where we see the same degree of inspiring commitment, coupled with that deep knowledge of what you’re doing and also that real enthusiasm for wildlife and for nature.  You take corporate social responsibility to new heights.’

The MPA already works closely with Natural England and the RSPB on an initiative called Nature After Minerals (NAM), which aims to identify and deliver biodiversity opportunities on former minerals sites. NAM has advised the industry on the restoration of over 2,000 hectares since 2006.

Dr Darren Moorcroft, head of conservation delivery at the RSPB, spoke on behalf of Nature After Minerals and said: ‘Nature is intrinsically valuable and studies demonstrate it is fundamentally important to our well-being and our economy. But we are losing it at an alarmingly rate. The mineral products industry is uniquely positioned to step up and help turn this around.’

Nigel Jackson, chief executive MPA, said: ‘MPA members’ quarries have long delivered biodiversity benefits and will be the wildlife havens of the future. I believe that the legacy we have built and the potential that we have to do more could make biodiversity a unique differentiator and defining characteristic for our sector – we are uniquely placed.’

He added: ‘I hope that we are finally seeing a shift in the perception of our industry from a threat to an opportunity, and from unwanted to essential and increasingly sustainable. The Government must realize, though, that for the industry to wholly contribute to the achievement of the UK BAP and realize its full potential, the excellent work of our members needs recognition and backing.

‘We also need a thriving private sector, without which government aims for the economy and the public sector simply cannot be met. Right now we need less regulation and lower taxation, and a planning system that is really fit for purpose.’


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