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Industry news: July 2008

Landmark coal deal in Scotland

UK open cast coal extraction, BGS&copyNERC

Scottish Power has announced that it has secured, with Scottish Coal, the largest ever coal supply contract in Scotland.The deal is worth up to £700 million and will create over 100 new jobs in the Scottish coal industry. Current plans are to extract the coal from new sites, as well as the existing nine Scottish Coal sites in Fife, the Lothians, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire.The coal will go to fuel power stations at Longannet in Fife and Cockenzie in East Lothian which each consume between four and six million tonnes of coal a year. Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, has praised the deal saying "this is a declaration of faith in coal as one of Scotland's key indigenous fuels and shows that coal is a fuel of the future and not the past."


Coal bed methane for Welsh coalfields

Centrica Plc, the parent company of British Gas, has announced that it has secured interests in three exploration licences to drill for gas in the coal–bearing strata of South Wales.The company will hold a 100% interest in two licences, with a shared interest in a third.The licence areas are located near Rhondda, Caerphilly and Pontypridd. Exploration drilling for gas is scheduled to start by 2010 and Centrica say they could be developing the site by 2014. A spokesman for Centrica has said this is a move to secure long–term gas resources for British Gas.

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The British Geological Survey releases opencast coal mining statisticsfor 2007

UK open cast coal extraction, BGS&copyNERC

The results of the Opencast Coal Survey for 2007 are now available. This annual survey is carried out by the BGS in collaboration with the Coal Authority and planning authorities in England, Scotland and Wales. It includes data on opencast coal production, permitted reserves, planning permissions and sites that ceased operations during 2007.The information may be viewed at:

Approval for Europe's largest onshore wind farm

UK wind farm, BGS&copyNERC

The Scottish Government has given approval for a 152–turbine wind farm to be located near Abington, South Lanarkshire, which on completion will be Europe's largest onshore wind farm.The scheme will be run by Scottish and Southern Energy and is expected to cost £600 million. It will create 200 jobs during construction and 30 permanent jobs.The wind farm will have a total capacity to generate 548 megawatts, enough to power 320 000 homes. Construction will begin in 2009 and the wind farm is planned to become operational in 2011.The project is welcomed by environment group WWF Scotland, with director Richard Dixon commenting "The Clyde wind farm is a good proposal because it is close to major centres of population, who will use the power it generates, and away from Scotland's most valuable landscapes".


Progress for Aggregates Levy legality challenge

The British Aggregates Association's (BAA) challenge on the legality of the Aggregates Levy has been supported by the European Court of justice. Advocate General Mengozzi has recommended that the previous decision by the Court of First Instance supporting the Levy should be quashed.The BAA which views the Levy as illegal state aid under EU law as it distorts competition, has been undertaking a legal campaign against it for the last six years. The Advocate General criticised several aspects of the previous Court of First Instance's ruling, stating the Aggregates Levy's environmental justification should not exempt it from EU subsidy rules and the meaning of secondary aggregate was unclear.The European Court of Justice now has to make a ruling on what action to take regarding the previous court rulings.


New marine aggregate licences

Following last month's granting of permissions to Hanson Marine Plc and Cemex Ltd for marine aggregate extraction in the Bristol Channel a further two permissions have been granted in July. Hanson Marine has secured a new licence to work a 9.8 km2 area of seabed south-east of the Humber Estuary for up to 500 000 tonnes of sand and gravel for 15 years. Also Westminster Gravels Ltd has been given permission to extract 1.2 million tonnes of coarse sand from an area located off the north coast of Wales. This decision comes 10 years after the original application was submitted in 1998 and, like the others, it runs for 15 years. Regular five– and ten–yearly reviews of the affected areas are planned to monitor environmental impact of the operations. A statement from Government read "the Secretary of State has concluded that there is a need for the dredged material and that the proposed extraction… will not affect the coastline and will not significantly affect the marine environment".

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The British Geological Survey releases the UK Minerals Yearbook 2007

The United Kingdom Minerals Yearbook 2007 is now available for free download from This annual publication by the British Geological Survey provides comprehensive statistical data on minerals production, consumption and trade to 2006, estimates of production for major mineral commodities in 2007 and a commentary on the UK's minerals industry during 2007. It is of value to all those interested in the many facets of Britain's minerals industry and its contribution to the national economy.


Job losses in building materials industry

Building materials, BGS&copyNERC

Three major suppliers of building materials,Tarmac Building Products Ltd, Hanson Plc and Cemex Ltd, announced job losses this month.Tarmac Building Products announced job cuts of around 310 employees, which they blame on the slump in the housing market leading to a 35% decrease in demand for their products. Jobs will be lost in Tarmac's regional sales departments, its mortar production plants, its Topfloor business and 180 jobs will be lost by the closure of the Kirby pre–cast site in Nottinghamshire.

Hanson has announced the closure of two brickworks in response to the house building slump.The plants at Measham and Stairfoot will close later this year with the loss of 126 jobs.

Cemex are to shed 28 jobs from its tile production operations. A company spokesman commented "It may take time for the housing market to recover, so after reviewing Cemex's operational requirements and manufacturing capacity key changes were proposed".

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South East England Regional Assembly seeks to reduce land won sand and gravel extraction

UK sand and gravel quarry, BGS&copyNERC

In the course of the current consultation stage of the Government's proposed sand and gravel allocations the South East England Regional Assembly (SEERA) has requested that the region's allocations for land–won sand and gravel extraction are reduced by up to a third. SEERA would instead like to see more extraction from marine sources and has commented that the Government's current allocation to the South East of 121 million tonnes of marine extraction is not enough.The Government has recently reduced the region's allocation of primary land won sand and gravel from 212 million tonnes to 195 million tonnes in line with decreasing demand but SEERA want to reduce this further, to 130 million tonnes.The quarrying industry has commented that the shift from land to marine might not be in the region's best interest. Not only is there limited capacity at existing wharves to handle the extra material, but there would also be a requirement to transport the marine–dredged sand and gravel longer distances.

Hampshire County Council has already announced its planned allocation for the county, which is much lower then the Government's allocation. Hampshire has agreed to work 1.82 million tonnes of sand and gravel per year whereas the Government's allocation is 2.63 million tonnes a year.The British Aggregates Association (BAA) has criticised this decision saying that business and local industry should be better considered in the plans.

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Approval for new quarry in Northamptonshire

UK sand and gravel quarry, BGS&copyNERC

A new quarry to be operated by Hanson Plc has been given permission to go ahead near Earls Barton by Northamptonshire County Council. Hanson has been granted permission to extract 2.6 billion tonnes of sand and gravel from a 274 acre site over a 15–year period.The quarry had been opposed by local residents and the Environment Agency, over flooding concerns, but the planning committee has now unanimously backed the scheme.

Cemex Ltd has also been granted permission for an extension to its sand and gravel quarry at Eversley, near Woking in Surrey.The permitted extension contains 630 000 tonnes of sand and gravel and will be transported via a conveyer belt to the existing processing facilities.The permission runs until the end of 2014.

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Peak District Authority wins right to appeal

Derbyshire quarry, BGS&copyNERC

In a new step in the legal battle over quarrying at Longstone Edge in Derbyshire, the Peak District National Park Authority (PDNP) has been granted permission to appeal against a High Court judgment to allow quarrying. Judges decided that the PDNP has a valid case for appeal and agreed that the case should be heard quickly, possibly before the end of the year. This appeal is regarding a High Court Judge's decision to overturn the verdict of a public enquiry, held in 2007, into action by the PDNP to stop operations at the quarry.

The quarry operators claim their original planning permission from 1952 gives them the right to extract limestone for aggregate use along with fluorspar, but the PDNP states that the permission is outdated and is being taken advantage of to remove excessive amounts of limestone and consequently harming the park.

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