First section of Heerlen silica sand quarry transferred to Dutch nature conservation organization
ON 20 July 2021, Sibelco in the Netherlands transferred the first 51ha out of a total of 118ha of land at Heerlen Quarry to Natuurmonumenten, a Dutch nature conservation organization.
Sibelco ceased extracting silica sand from this area on 1 January 2019 but are still operating the rest of the quarry, where permits run until 2032.
Natuurmonumenten wants to connect several nature reserves in the Netherlands and Germany to create ‘Heidenatuurpark’, a sustainable, cross-border nature reserve, focused on biodiversity and recreation.
The transfer of land at Heerlen Quarry is an important building block in this project as it will enlarge and strengthen the existing ‘Brunssummerheide’ reserve.
Since the end of the sand extraction, badgers and beavers have started to build their setts and lodges within the quarry, and it is also a habitat for sand lizards and a family of foxes.
The quarry will be open to visitors as part of the ‘Rondje Groeves’ project, which offers bike and walking tours in nature reserves, including former Sibelco sand quarries.
These projects follow the IBA (Internationale Bau Ausstellung) approach, a way of working that was developed in Germany more than 100 years ago, to give a powerful financial, social and economic boost to society using the landscape.
Safety is key for Sibelco, so the open area will be fenced off from the working parts of the quarry to ensure the safety of visitors and a safe working environment for employees.
As the company will continue to operate the remaining parts of the quarry until 2032, a lot of work will be done over the next few years to not only continue the sand extraction, but also to realize the agreed rehabilitation targets for those lands that will be added to the Heidenatuurpark reserve after 2032.
Danny Jans, Sibelco’s vice-president of operations for Western Europe, said: ‘Sustainability is a fundamental part of Sibelco’s vision for the future. We have a wonderful opportunity to contribute to the rehabilitation of this unique piece of land, and to preserve and develop the biodiversity of the site for future generations.’