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Back to Business at Cwm Nant Lleici Quarry

Hygrove Aggregates’ Cwm Nant Lleici Quarry
Hygrove Aggregates’ Cwm Nant Lleici Quarry

First published in the April 2024 issue of Quarry Management as Back to Business

Hygrove Aggregates’ acquisition of Cwm Nant Lleici Quarry in South Wales last summer has not only reestablished their presence in the region, through a business with long-term high PSV mineral reserves, but also given the company an opportunity to build stronger community relations. QM recently paid a visit to the quarry to meet the new management team and find out how it is developing long-standing relationships with the wider community through mutual collaboration and understanding

There is no denying it. A quarry is not everyone’s favourite neighbour and to this day quarry sites and mines remain some of the most disliked forms of development in the UK. NIMBYism – the ‘Not In My Backyard’ ethos of communities protesting against new developments in their surroundings areas – is commonplace across many parts of the country. 

And among the biggest challenges facing the aggregates sector is changing the public’s perception of quarries and educating local communities about what really goes on at a quarry site, especially efforts to protect the environment, create wildlife-rich landscapes, and embrace cleaner and greener production.


On any mineral extraction site, a good relationship between the operator and its surrounding community is imperative. Quarries have become an integral part of the local communities in which they operate, and residents and the wider public need to be made fully aware of how construction materials suppliers are making things better for the people living around the site, while mitigating any potential impacts.

In recent years, a number of quarry operators have enjoyed success – alongside key industry bodies (MPA, BAA etc.) – in engaging with local communities and launching initiatives to educate the public about how important the mineral products sector is, the positive impact that a quarry can have on its surrounding area, and the need to tackle the wider issues of climate change and biodiversity loss. 

Taking this strategic and proactive approach to community engagement, transparency, respectfulness, and inclusivity are Hygrove Aggregates, who, last summer, announced that they had completed the acquisition of Cwm Nant Lleici Quarry in Pontardawe, near Swansea, from blue-chip organization Aggregate Industries.  

Originally consented in 1983 as a relatively small-scale operation for the extraction of building materials and dressed stone – extraction has focused on the production of aggregates, mainly for road surfacing and high-specification use, since the mid-1990s. 

Today, Cwm Nant Lleici has some of the highest-quality mineral reserves in the UK and the site is thought to be one of four quarries in the country that can supply aggregate with a high polished stone value (PSV) of 68 or more. That said, this is not the first time the Swansea-based business has entered the premium aggregates market. 

L-R: Ben Francis, director of Hygrove Group; Allister Williams, quarry manager at Cwm Nant Lleici; and Dale Owen, weighbridge manager
L-R: Ben Francis, director of Hygrove Group; Allister Williams, quarry manager at Cwm Nant Lleici; and Dale Owen, weighbridge manager

Hygrove Aggregates, part of the Hygrove Group, were previous owners and operators of Cwm Nant Lleici until 1995 when they sold the high-PSV quarry to another building materials supplier that later became part of Aggregate Industries. As part of the purchase deal at the time, a buy-back option was agreed upon between the two parties and Hygrove decided to activate the buy-back clause (after a period of 25 years) to reacquire Cwm Nant Lleici Quarry from Aggregate Industries in 2023.  

‘We were absolutely delighted to be able to buy back Cwm Nant Lleici from Aggregate Industries, whom we have a great working relationship with. The quarry has a long history of success and great future potential,’ said Ben Francis, director of Hygrove Group. 

‘Securing a supply of high-PSV materials will, ultimately, enable us to grow successfully as a business and extend our reach into key new markets such as aggregates and ready-mixed, as well as strengthening our existing housebuilding and property development operations. This is a significant investment for the business going forward, creating a raft of new opportunities for us to capitalize on in the months and years ahead.’

Echoing Mr Francis’ sentiments, Allister Williams, quarry manager at Cwm Nant Lleici, commented: ‘This is an important strategic investment for the long-term future of the company. The quarry boasts high-PSV reserves of around 6.5 million tonnes, and we are continually investing in new plant and equipment, infrastructure, and the local area by enhancing biodiversity in and around Cwm Nant Lleici, which will benefit the local community for years to come.

‘These are exciting times for the business and Ben [Francis]; I and the rest of the team are relishing the opportunities that lie ahead. We believe Cwm Nant Lleici will prove a valuable resource for the local housebuilding and construction industries throughout the wider South Wales region and beyond, building our reputation as a leading SME supplier of high-quality PSV aggregates in the UK.’ 

Hygrove’s restoration and biodiversity work are important aspects of their long-term sustainability strategy
Hygrove’s restoration and biodiversity work are important aspects of their long-term sustainability strategy

Customer focus

Like all directors, Mr Francis has big plans for Hygrove Aggregates and has every reason to be optimistic about the future. The company, for example, has secured planning consent to work further reserves at Cwm Nant Lleici Quarry until 2040, which will increase the company’s footprint and capabilities in the fast-growing South Wales construction materials market. 

‘Cwm Nant Lleici has always been, and continues to be, of strategic importance as a source of high-quality minerals for infrastructure and construction projects in the region,’ emphasized Mr Francis. 

‘The extension to the existing planning consent is, of course, fantastic news for Hygrove, following our acquisition of the quarry. It is important we position the business venture for long-term success in what is already a highly competitive industry, and I am grateful that we now have the opportunity to become an even stronger competitor in the high-specification aggregates market.’

Mr Francis is also delighted with the core management team in place at Hygrove Aggregates, which includes Rebecca Sleap, principal planning and ecological officer; Dale Owen, weighbridge manager; Rabindra Rai, head of transportation; and Allister Williams, Cwm Nant Lleici quarry manager. 

Before making their decision to reacquire Cwm Nant Lleci Quarry, Hygrove had carefully analysed the heavy-side building materials marketplace and in doing so deliberately focused on understanding and responding to the current trends affecting higher-PSV aggregate supply and demand. 

‘Cwm Nant Lleci has some of the highest-quality PSV aggregate reserves in the UK and will support the large volume of road construction and highways maintenance contracts being carried out for National Highways and highway authorities,’ said Mr Francis. ‘However, the majority of high-PSV quarries are owned by national aggregate-producing companies that tend to focus on internal supply.

‘Fundamentally, this opens up new market opportunities for us in the heavy construction materials sector, as we can supply high-specification aggregates to smaller businesses and contractors who do not have access to this vital resource. Such high-PSV aggregates are of vital importance in underpinning both national and local policies on road safety and skid resistance. 

‘Aggregates with a PSV of 68 or more offer higher skid resistance and low wear properties for the production of high-performance, low-noise asphalts which are now the staple road surfacing materials for National Highways and local councils up and down the country.’ 

Another significant step forward for Hygrove is becoming a more client-centric business – one that not only cares about satisfying the ongoing demands of its customers, but also meeting/exceeding their needs and building trust. 

While Hygrove’s investment in Cwm Nant Lleci has opened up new business opportunities and revenue streams, Mr Williams believes there is a need for the company to operate in an innovative manner and further improve the business’s customer service experience if it wants to stand out from other heavy-side materials suppliers.  

‘The acquisition of Cwm Nant Lleci is not only evidence of our long-term confidence in the recovery of the UK economy and the construction sector, but also of our belief that there is an opportunity in the marketplace to redefine services provided by businesses in this segment,’ he said. 

‘Focusing on our customer service, streamlining efficiencies, and making it as easy as possible for our customers to work with us are key to driving forward best practice and future growth of the company. As well as supplying high-specification aggregates, we are also very keen on establishing close working relationships with our customers and seeing things from their perspective.’

Indeed, in line with Hygrove’s strategic business plan, Mr Francis and Mr Williams – supported by a strong and experienced management team – hope to implement a different approach to customer service in the aggregates market, bringing in new ideas, innovative products and services, and better ways to meet the needs of the construction industry.

One of the independent aggregate supplier’s immediate goals is to provide a secure and reliable supply of high-quality, high-specification aggregates all year round for the growing construction market in South Wales, the surrounding regions, and the building, repair, and maintenance of new and existing highways across the UK. 

Hygrove currently produce up to 6,000 tonnes of high-PSV materials per month for road construction and maintenance projects, as well as for their own housebuilding division. Typical specifications include: 6mm, 10mm and 14mm aggregate; 20mm for pre-coated chippings; and crushed rock fines. 

‘As a new player in the market, we understand the importance of providing customers with a source of premium-quality aggregates and delivering a consistent high-quality service to them,’ remarked Mr Francis. 

‘One of my key business objectives as director is to establish a strong, loyal customer base across the UK territory. From an operational point of view, we are taking things one step at a time at Cwm Nant Lleci. In Allister [Williams] and Dale [Owen], their combined skills, know-how and 50-plus years’ experience working in the quarrying sector will be invaluable to a small but growing company like ours.’ 

With the new venture, the business needed a reliable and efficient front-line material processing train, as the plant used by Aggregate Industries was not included in the acquisition deal.

‘When Hygrove reacquired the quarry last year,’ recalled Mr Williams, ‘we wanted to be self-sufficient in the production and supply of high-specification aggregate, so it was essential that we invested accordingly and have the right mobile processing and earthmoving fleet in place that delivers maximum productivity, reliability, and uptime, whilst catering for the needs of our customers.’

As part of their long-term strategy to stay competitive, meet customer objectives and deliver lowest-cost-per-tonne productivity, Mr Francis said it was important for Hygrove to focus on sustainability, embrace new technologies, and be well equipped if it is to establish itself as a leading independent supplier of premium-quality aggregates in the heavy construction materials market.  

‘We are immensely proud of the aggregates business we’ve built in such a short space of time,’ he commented. ‘From the outset, our priorities have been about growth, innovation, and building long-term customer relationships. Importantly, the modern fleet of crushers, screeners, and earthmoving machinery used at the quarry from renowned and trustworthy brands such as Powerscreen, Develon [formerly Doosan] and Bell Equipment has ensured our high-value products are processed with maximum value and output.’

Inspiring the next-generation – Mr Francis educating local schoolchildren about the mineral products sector
Inspiring the next-generation – Mr Francis educating local schoolchildren about the mineral products sector

Care for the community

Looking ahead, Mr Francis is clearly excited by the future growth potential for Hygrove and the golden opportunities in the heavy building materials market. However, beyond the company’s commercial growth, Hygrove have also reached deeper into their neighbouring communities. 

‘Like any good neighbour, we want to contribute positively to our surrounding communities,’ enthused Mr Francis. ‘Environmental safeguards are something that Hygrove treats very seriously, and we take care to work with regulatory and local authorities to ensure – wherever possible – that we support sustainable and responsible development.

‘It’s about making things better for the people living around our operational sites and actively contributing to the social and economic well-being of neighbouring communities by creating employment opportunities and investing in community-focused initiatives. We take a great deal of pride in supporting the localities in which we work. We already do this in many cases and proactively engage with our local communities through liaison meetings, open days, school visits, community events, charitable donations, and sponsorship of local sports clubs. 

‘To ensure we make a net positive contribution, we strongly focus on three broad areas – building stronger community relations, supporting education and development of young people, and improving the local environment.’

Mr Williams added: ‘I think there is a lot of misunderstanding concerning the public’s perception of mineral extraction sites. Therefore, it is important for operators to educate communities about what really goes on at a quarry and break down negative preconceptions that what we do is not about environmental degradation but embedding biodiversity, protecting wildlife and habitats, and helping to deliver a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable future.’

With Hygrove committed to environmental sustainability and ensuring they play an active role in meeting the UK’s biodiversity objectives, the Group has appointed local ecologists to design a number of ecological enhancement schemes for land owned by the business in the vicinity of the quarry and elsewhere. 

The company is conscious of the potential ecological damage a quarry can cause and will use the surrounding land (over 150 acres) at Cwm Nant Lleci to make an environmental difference by planting farming crops, including protecting landscapes and biodiversity with sapling tree plantations, raising livestock, conducting wildlife conservation, and sowing seed mixtures to create farmland bird and butterfly food sources. 

Mr Francis commented: ‘Our plans to fully restore the landscape will strongly focus on creating habitats to benefit the local wildlife. A good section of the land will be dedicated and landscaped to diverse woodland and grasslands. We have already started re-establishing and enhancing specialized, dedicated habitats for invertebrates, small mammals, and birdlife. 

Looking to the future, Hygrove are currently looking into generating their own energy with solar panel technology and wind power sources. One of the company’s key priorities is that sustainable practices are embedded at the heart of the business, and taking this approach will stand customers, local communities, and the construction value chain in good stead when it comes to net zero. 

Mitigating climate change and focusing on decarbonization demonstrates a clear commitment from Hygrove to achieve long-term sustainability of the business. Delivering sustainable performance across the Group is a top priority for Mr Francis and the reacquisition of Cwm Nant Lleici Quarry will undoubtedly accelerate the business’s sustainability priorities and ambitions.

He concluded: ‘We are committed to taking bold and urgent action, together with our community-wide initiatives, to significantly reduce our emissions, protect and enhance our biodiversity, and work in a more circular and regenerative way.

‘We are very proud of our many achievements to date, but there is a clear and collective understanding here at Hygrove that we have a major responsibility to the long-term environmental, social, and economic sustainability of the region in which we live and work. 

‘As a community-centric company, it’s very clear that people really matter to us, and our business ethos is all about inclusion, transparency, and making a positive difference. Gaining the trust and support of the surrounding area is critical because by sharing our experiences, and making what we do open and accessible, we are trusted and earn our licence to operate within the community.’


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