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Industry news: March 2008

Government calls for nuclear expansion

Dounreay nuclear power station, BGS©NERC

In a recent speech to industry the Business Secretary, John Hutton, has announced he wants a "significant expansion" in Britain's nuclear power industry. Mr Hutton said he would like to see the current 20 per cent of power from nuclear sources significantly increased. This would help the UK meet its climate change targets and cut carbon emissions, as well as decrease its reliance on foreign oil and gas imports. No exact figure was put on the amount of power the Government would like to see from nuclear sources, but Mr Hutton called for the creation of a £20 billion industry and for the UK to become a leader in European nuclear technology.

Opponents of the plans have voiced concern that nuclear power is not the answer to climate change and that the money should be invested into renewable sources instead. Many politicians and environmental campaigners are concerned that the UK still has no long–term nuclear waste storage sites.


Sale of North Sea oil fields

UK oil rig, BGS©NERC

Shell and Esso have announced they have begun negotiations with TAQA, the national energy company of Abu Dhabi, for the sale of several of their North Sea oil fields. The fields Tern, Eider, Cormorant North and South Cormorant were put up for sale in June 2007 with TAQA being the first potential buyer. Shell has said these assets represent two per cent of its European production.


Increases to Aggregates Levy

Aggregates, BGS©NERC

New increases were announced to the Aggregates Levy by Chancellor Alistair Darling in the 2008 budget.The tax will be index–linked from 2009 leading to a 5p increase, bringing it to £2 per tonne as from April 2009. At that date the levy will have risen by 25% in two years.

Both the Quarry Products Association (QPA) and the British Aggregates Association (BAA) have condemned the increase. QPA Director General Simon van der Byl said "The government claims that the Aggregates Levy is being increased ‘to maintain its environmental impact’, but as it has yet to produce any evidence of the green benefits of the tax, there is no justification for the increases."

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Longstone Edge quarrying ban overturned

Derbyshire Quarry, BGS©NERC

A High Court judge has ruled in favour of Backdale quarry owners, Bleaklow Industries and MMC Mineral Processing, in their appeal to overturn a decision last year by a planning inspector to stop operations at Blackdale 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 National Park Authority state that the permission is outdated and being taken advantage of to remove excess amounts of limestone. This decision is a blow to the National Park Authority and overturns their enforcement action against the quarry to stop the alleged excessive limestone removal, which they won after a public enquiry, in April 2007.The National Park Authority is awaiting for the official written ruling to be published, due at the end of March, before they decide on further action.

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New quarry for Northamptonshire

Sand and gravel quarry, BGS©NERC

New planning permission has been granted for a sand and gravel quarry between Earls Barton and Cogenhoe, Northamptonshire. Northamptonshire County Council development control committee unanimously backed the development which will be run by quarrying firm Ennstone Johnstone. A planned 1.1 million tonnes will be removed from the site over a six–year period and workings will then be restored to agricultural land as well as wetlands and reed beds.

Their were few local objections from local parish councillors despite an estimate of up to 194 lorries visiting the site a day. RSPB representatives said the quarrying could lead to improvements for wildlife in the area and, after restoration, the landscape will be "more attractive and interesting to walk through in the end compared with intensive farmland".


Changes to Surrey's mineral plan

UK silica sand production, BGS©NERC

The Government has asked Surrey mineral planners to expand their minerals local plan to take account of more possible sites for silica sand extraction.The County Council has voice frustration over the changes as it will delay the original plan, which concentrated on sand and gravel resources. New consultations regarding the potential sites will have to be undertaken. Additional of silica sand extraction could come from three areas, two extensions to existing sites and a new operation. The extensions would be to Tapwood quarry, Buckland, and North Park Farm quarry, Blenchingly. The new quarry would be at Chilmead Farm in Nutfield Marsh. The Government has also asked for plans to identify locations for possible natural gas storage in underground reservoirs.

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Re-opening of Northern Irish quarry

UK hardrock quarrying, BGS©NERC

Cam quarry near Coleraine, Northern Ireland, has been re–opened after a £3 million redevelopment project. The quarry, owned by Whitemountain Quarries Ltd, works basalt for roadstone and concrete.The re–opening will secure 80 jobs in the local area as well as support downstream industries. Mayor of Coleraine, John Bradley, praised the development saying "The investment of Whitemountain Quarries Ltd in their Cam quarry is a huge boost for the Coleraine area, buttressing the region's economic prosperity in terms of employment opportunities created and materials being sought from local companies."


New archaeological finds thanks to quarry

Pottery, axe heads and bones from around 4000BC have been found at an archaeology dig near Thornborough Henges, North Yorkshire, a quarry, operated by Tarmac, controversial for its proximity to archaeological remains. The excavation of the sites received large amounts of funding from Tarmac. Harvey Blog from the local Bedale Museum says "the find is far beyond the scope of previous studies thanks to Tarmac".The largest discovery was an Iron Age burial pit containing the remains of four horses. A lake now covers the location of the dig as the quarry has been restored into a nature reserve.


Resource upgrade for Hemerdon deposit

Hemerdon pit, Photo Copyright: BGS©NERC

The new owner of the Hemerdon tungsten–tin deposit in Devon, Wolf Minerals, has announced a new resource estimate of an inferred 82 million tonnes at 0.22% tungsten trioxide and 0.022% tin.This estimate updates the previous one completed in 1981 of 73 million tonnes of 0.143% tungsten trioxide and 0.026% tin.This is part of an ongoing operation to develop the site by Wolf Minerals.The next stage is a small drilling programme and metallurgical work to produce a new feasibility study.The further drilling is aimed at boosting reserve estimates. The announcement gave Wolf Minerals' share price an increase of 13 per cent.


Corus wins new steel contract

Strip steel production, © Getty Images

The company, Corus Construction and Industrial, has won a contract to supply steel for the construction of two new Royal Navy aircraft carriers.This deal is a big boost to the UK steel industry and 90 per cent of the 80 000 tonnes of structural steel will be manufactured at Corus' operations in Scunthorpe, Dalzell near Motherwell and Skinningrove in Teesside.The steel will start to be produced later this year with the construction of the two carriers due to be completed in 2014 and 2016. A spokesman from Corus said "This success confirms our ability to produce world–class steel and is a welcome boost to Corus' three UK sites involved in the manufacturing programme."

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