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Industry news: February 2008

2007 a positive year for aggregate sales

Aggregate screening, BGS&copyNERC

Figures from the Quarry Products Association (QPA) market survey show an increase in sales volumes of aggregate materials for the last quarter of 2007, compared to the same period of 2006. Crushed rock sales rose by three per cent, sand and gravel by two per cent, asphalt by three per cent and ready mixed concrete by two per cent.

Sales volumes were also positive for the whole of 2007 with the large number of fill contracts giving rise to a five percent increase of crushed rock sales and a one per cent increase of sand and gravel sales. Ready mix concrete sales rose by two per cent as a result of growth in the construction sector. The results were not so positive for asphalt sales which remained flat over 2007 (dropping in the first half of the year but rising in the second). The demand for asphalt was the lowest for almost 20 years, a spokesman for the QPA cited the reason for this as "long term lack of investment in national and local roads". QPA Director, Simon Van der Byl, commented on the results saying "a predicted slow down in construction growth in 2008 will constrain markets this year in spite of the positive trend of infrastructure work and progress on the Olympics".

Source: [no longer available]

Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund to focus on carbon reduction

A consultation paper released by DEFRA has identified the reduction of carbon emissions from quarrying operations as a future priority to be addressed by the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund (ALSF). The paper states that an estimated 800 000 tonnes of carbon emissions is caused by aggregates operations (excluding delivery transport); this is more than 0.5% of the UK's total emissions.

Up to £2 million a year has been pledged to the Carbon Trust to indicate what carbon reductions could be achieved in the quarrying industry. Aggregates Levy money will also go towards providing baseline information on the quarrying sector's emissions and to help companies in the aggregates industry and the aggregates supply chain to reduce their emissions. A spokesman from the Quarry Products Association has welcomed the move saying "reference to carbon reduction within the allocations indicates a willingness from government to listen to industry and engage with us on the key issues for the sector."

Sources: [no longer available] and [no longer available]

BHP Billiton announce offer for takeover of Rio Tinto

BHP Billiton announced their much anticipated formal offer for Anglo–Australian mining company Rio Tinto at the beginning of February. BHP Billiton increased their original offer to 3.4 BHP Billiton shares for every Rio Tinto share, an increase of 13 per cent from the three–for–one offer announced last year. The bid is worth around £75 billion and has the potential to be the second biggest takeover in corporate history. BHP Billiton claim the takeover would unlock value for the shareholders by optimising production, development of new projects and streamlining management.

The board of Rio Tinto was quick to reject the offer saying that it "significantly undervalues Rio Tinto" and that it is not in the best interest of its shareholders. Rio Tinto's rejection was not the only problem facing the BHP Billiton bid; the Chinese company Chinalco, along with US company Alco, has recently jointly bought a nine per cent stake in Rio Tinto. A spokesman from Alco stated that this purchase, worth £7.1 billion, was not an attempt at a takeover. Chinalco and Alco will almost certainly block a BHP Billiton takeover due to worries over the combined BHP Billiton – Rio Tinto control of the iron–ore market and global metal prices. BHP Billiton chief executive, Marius Kloppers, said the bid was BHP Billiton's first and only offer but refused to say whether the offer would be increased in the future.

Sources: [no longer available], [no longer available] and

Proposal for Anglesey tidal power farm

A major tidal power farm could be constructed off the coast of Anglesey according to plans announced by the companies Npower Renewables and Marine Current Turbines (MCT). Power would be generated by seven wave turbines each capable of generation 1.5 megawatts, sited two miles of the coast in 25 m of water. If planning permission is granted Npower and MCT would start construction in 2011 or 2012.

The project, located near the major port of Holyhead, has been welcomed by environmental campaigner Friends of the Earth Cymru. A full assessment of the tidal resources in the area is currently being carried out with a planning application to be submitted in mid 2009.


Tidal power for the Pentland Firth

A new tidal energy facility is to be built in the Pentland Firth, between Caithness and Orkney. The Dutch Firm, Torncado, has recently completed a pre–feasibility study on the project and has confirmed that it plans to build a tidal energy plant. The Pentland Firth has great potential for tidal energy generation; a spokesman for Highlands and Islands Enterprise said "the tidal stream is certainly the best in the UK and possible the world". Tocardo say they hope to use skilled workers available following decommissioning of the Dounreay site.


Man dies in quarry accident

A 28 year old man has been killed in an industrial accident at Whatley quarry, Somerset. The man, Neal Webber, died as he was cleaning the inside of a ready mix concrete bin at the quarry's pre–mix concrete plant when the bin filled with limestone dust and asphyxiated him. The alarm was raised by a colleague who had also been working in the bin but managed to escape unharmed. The pre–mix plant will stay closed until health and safety inspectors finish carrying out their investigations.


Approval for Scotland 's third–largest wind farm

Wind turbine, BGS&copyNERC

The Scottish Government has granted permission for Scotland's third–largest wind farm to be constructed at Griffin in Perthshire. The project had previously been rejected by Perth and Kinross County Council but the Scottish Government overruled their decision. The wind farm will be capable of providing energy for 114 000 homes but is strongly opposed by local residents. Scotland energy minister, Jim Mather, said "this will make a significant contribution to the Scottish Government's renewable energy target."


Public inquiry into Welsh quarry

Disused limestone quarry, BGS&copyNERC

A public inquiry has begun regarding the reopening of an old quarry. The inquiry is as a result of the owners of Bryngwyn quarry at Gwernymynydd, DP Williams, objecting to a prohibition order from Flintshire Council declaring the quarry dormant. The quarry ceased operations in the 1970s but still has valid planning permission from 1947. Flintshire County Council has served a total of 17 prohibition orders on the quarry to ensure the site stays closed, arguing that there has not been genuine intent to work the site since it was purchased in 1994. The inquiry will decide whether the Welsh Assembly Government confirms the prohibition notice. Local council leaders say the quarry has been dormant for nearly 40 years and the land has regenerated into an area rich in wildlife.


Investment in Port Talbot steel works

Strip steel production, BGS&copyNERC

Corus Strip Products UK, part of the major steel producing Corus Group, has announced a £60 million investment into energy management technology at the Port Talbot steelworks. The investment will focus on reducing the carbon dioxide emissions at the site through the reuse of gas generated in steel manufacture. The gas will be used to generate heat and power for the plant, which already generates half of its own energy. Similar technology already exists at Corus's steel plant at Scunthorpe. This is the largest investment to date in the Port Talbot plant by Corus's new owner Tata Steel and has been heralded by plant owners as "a significant part in creating a sustainable steel industry in Wales".

/corus_strip_products_uk/news/2008_60million_investment_Port_Talbot [no longer available]