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Industry news: June 2008

Government's new wind farm plans

Wind turbine, BGS©NERC

The Government has announced plans to potentially treble the amount of electricity generated from wind turbines in the UK by 2020.This will be achieved by building up to 7 000 turbines in offshore locations.The Crown estate, which manages offshore actives on behalf of the Crown, has agreed to aid the process by providing up to 50 per cent of the cost of obtaining planning permission.The potential new wind farms are to be located in 11 zones around the British coastline which have been chosen considering wind levels, water depths, economic viability and environmental and shipping concerns. A spokesman for the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) commented "if the government's target of 33 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity was met in the next 12 years, this would cater for all UK households' electricity requirements."


Open cast coal site reveals archaeological remains

UK open cast coal extraction, BGS©NERC

An archaeological dig at the Delhi open cast coal site in Northumberland has uncovered around 50 Iron–Age roundhouses.The site, which is owned by Banks Mining, was studied by archaeologists for five months and displayed a good example of a relatively undisturbed Iron–Age settlement, Nick Best, a Northumberland County Council archaeologist, said "this has enabled us to gather a great deal of useful information on how people lived around 2 500 years ago." The dig is now finished and the land will be passed back to Banks Mining for open cast coal extraction.


No changes to managed aggregate supply system

UK sand and gravel extraction, BGS©NERC

It has been announced by the Head of Planning, Resources and Environmental Policy Division at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), Stephanie Hurst, that "there are no current plans for significant changes to the minerals planning system". The statement came at the Quarry Product Association's (QPA) annual minerals planning conference in Wolverhampton which focused on the future of the Managed Aggregate Supply System (MASS).The results of several government commissioned studies looking into the future of the MASS were reported and experts concluded that there was little indication of any major problems with the system. Industry experts gave strong support to the current system and the QPA commented "the system costs very little to run and incorporates many features which other European nations are still striving to achieve."

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New marine dredging operation gets go ahead

The Marine and Fisheries Agency has given permission for a consortium of companies to dredge at a site in the centre of the Bristol Channel between Minehead and Barry Island.There are currently dredging operations on the Welsh side of the Bristol Channel, near Porthcawl, but, due to depleting reserves and the expiry of the current license in 2010, a new site was sought. The three companies that hold the licenses are Hanson Aggregates Marine, CEMEX UK Marine and United Marine Dredging.The permission allows one million tonnes of sand to be dredged per year and is valid for the next 15 years. The permission comes after an eight–year long process with extensive consultations and reviews by the Government and the Welsh Assembly. It includes a programme of regular monitoring to ensure there is no environmental impact on the coast. Industry has welcomed the decision: a spokesman for Hanson Aggregates Marine said "We cannot stress enough how important this decision is to the economies of South Wales and the South West."

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Proposed extension at Bardon Hill

Bardon Hill quarry, BGS©NERC

Bardon Aggregates, the operators of Bardon Hill quarry, has announced plans for a quarry extension, to prolong the life of the operation, and has begun consultations with local residents, councillors and MPs.The site, which processes hard rock aggregate and is rail linked, will run out of reserves from the current permitted area in ten years' time at the current rates of extraction. The proposed extension will consist of a separate pit linked to the existing processing facilities by a conveyer system.The old quarry would then be part backfilled with the overburden from the new site. If the extension gets the go-ahead it will mean the site could remain operational for another 40-50 years and secure the employment of the 500 staff who work at the site.

Local residents and campaigners have voiced their concerns over the plans, saying the new operations will ruin the quality of their lives and devalue their homes. Simon Taylor, regional director of Bardon Aggregates, said "The site, which is now a nationally important, rail-linked source of construction aggregates must be extended in order to secure the jobs of the 500 people employed at the quarry and offices".

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Start of clean–up for Derbyshire streams

A clean–up operation has begun on streams running through the Derbyshire villages of Calver and Stony Middleton to clear potentially harmful sediments. The pollution occurred after a lagoon at Glebe Mines, an operating fluorspar quarry, bursts its banks in January 2007 and slurry from tailings ponds was washed into local watercourses.The clean-up, which has started in Stoke Brook uses an excavator specifically designed to minimise environmental impact to remove the foreign sediment.The operations began as local anglers voiced concerns that the lagoon burst could cause high levels of lead to enter the food chain.The Anglers' Conservation Association (ACA) has released results of tests on insects from the affected areas and found high levels of lead. It is worried this could travel up the food chain into fish although the Environment Agency has said their own tests shows no evidence of toxic effects from the sediment on the river life.

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Dust leak in Somerset quarry

UK cement production, BGS©NERC

A mechanical fault at a Somerset limestone quarry has led to the emission of a plume of dust which affected a nearby village. Residents of Cheddar complained about a thin layer of gritty, white dust flakes covering cars and gardens. A spokesman for Batts Combe quarry, which is a major producer for the South West of industrial limestone and cement, said the increased dust levels were due to a blockage in the lime kiln. The plant was shutdown for 12 to 14 hours.The Environment Agency was informed and is now carrying out investigations. There is no evidence that limestone dust has any adverse health affects.


Controversy over mining company's investment

A UK–based international mining company, Anglo American, has come under heavy criticism after announcing plans to invest in Zimbabwe, where the regime has been recently condemned for suppression of its political opponents. Anglo American plans to invest £200 million into a new platinum mine and infrastructure in the Unki area of Zimbabwe. Anglo American has defended its investment pointing out the project has been in development since 2003, before the current political crisis started, and the investment is important for the stability of the country securing jobs and improving infrastructure. Zimbabwe is the fourth largest producer of platinum in the world.

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Resource announcements for Irish gold deposits

Galantas Gold operation, BGS©NERC

Both Galantas Gold Corporation and Conroy Diamonds and Gold Plc have made announcements on the quantities of gold contained within of their deposits. Conroy Diamonds and Gold Plc who are exploring over the Clontibret target area, located on the border of Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland near Monahan, announced a substantial upgrade, to over one million ounces of gold.The JORC-compliant gold resource now has 11 million tonnes grading 1.24 grams per tonne for 440 000 ounces gold contained using a cut of 0.75 grams per tonne.

Galantas Gold Corporation has outlined the results of a review on the Omagh Gold Mine, located in Northern Ireland. The study reported that the Kearney vein contains 16 000 ounces of gold at a grade of 6.35 grams per tonne. A total of 298 500 ounces of gold are inferred for the deposit.

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