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Industry news: July 2009

Large falls reported in oil and gas exploration

Oil rig, BGS©NERC

In a new report published this month by the UK oil and gas industry representative body, Oil and Gas UK, it was revealed that year–on–year exploration for petrochemicals on the UK continental shelf (UKCS) has fallen by 57 per cent and new production has fallen by seven per cent. Oil and Gas UK are concerned that a combination of high costs, low prices and the current poor economic conditions are threatening UK exploration which could potentially be detrimental to indigenous energy production and security of supply. It is estimated that up to 25 billion barrels of oil equivalent remain in reservoirs on the UK continental shelf which currently meets approximately two thirds of UK energy demand. Oil and Gas UK’s chief executive, Malcolm Webb, commented "any fall in investment will stunt the growth of our supply chain which relies on UKCS business to provide the foundation for its export activity. The UK simply cannot afford to allow this to happen."

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The British Geological Survey releases opencast coal mining statistics for 2008

UK opencast coal extraction, BGS©NERC

The results of the Opencast Coal Survey for 2008 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 2008.The survey shows a continued trend of increased production in the UK from opencast coal with 8.9 million tonnes produced in 2007 and 9.4 million tones produced in 2008.The number of opencast sites also continues to rise with 10 new sites gaining planning permission during 2008, two sites being refused and five sites closing due to depleted reserves.

The information may be viewed at:

End in sight for Longstone Edge legal battle

Quarrying in the Peak District, BGS©NERC

The House of Lords has refused to hear an appeal from the owners of Backdale quarry against the Court of Appeal decision made earlier this year to uphold enforcement action on the quarry.The enforcement action was instigated by the Peak District National Park Authority which accuses the quarry of illegally removing limestone aggregate. Three Law Lords turned down the request from the landowner, Bleaklow Industries Ltd, stating "permission is refused because the petition does not raise an arguable point of law of general public importance which ought to be considered by the House at this time, bearing in mind that the cause has already been the subject of judicial decision and reviewed on appeal."

This could be the final stage in a long drawn out legal process regarding Backdale quarry. It follows a ruling in March 2009 when Court of Appeal Judges ruled that the High Court decision in favour of the quarry operators, MMC Midlands Ltd and landowner Bleaklow Industries Ltd, should be overturned and that the planning inspector's original ruling should be re–instated.This followed a ruling during 2008 by the High Court which had overturned a planning inspector's decision from a public inquiry in 2007, to uphold enforcement action on the quarry by the PDNP. Chair of the Peak District National Park Authority, Narendra Bajaria, said: "We very much welcome this decision – and we hope and expect it will speed progress toward a permanent resolution of the problems on Longstone Edge."

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New plant opens at Taff’s Well quarry

Constructing the new plant at Taff’s Well Quarry, BGS©NERC

A new processing plant and tunnel has been officially opened at the Cemex–owned Taff's Well quarry, near Cardiff.The new facilities represent an investment of over £14 million by Cemex, and allow material from the quarry to reach the main road network directly, removing traffic from minor roads around the site.The new processing plant also has environmental benefits as it replace the old plant which could be seen from Cardiff, six miles away.This investment prolongs the life of the quarry by up to 20 years. Taff's Well quarry produces over 1 million tonnes of both crushed rock aggregate and industrial carbonate per year.

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Job cuts planned for Hanson cement works

Cement works, BGS©NERC

A Hanson–owned cement plant in Padeswood, Flintshire, is planning to cut 93 jobs and rapidly decrease its production due a drop in demand. It is proposed that 56 jobs will be shed from the plant’s production facilities and a further 37 from its distribution operations.It is possible that staff could be relocated to plants in Lincolnshire or Lancashire. A spokesman for the plant commented saying "We have had to make cut backs. Essentially we're a demand–led business. Our proposals are regrettable but vital to ensure we remain competitive in very difficult market conditions."

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Energy efficiency goals reached by cement and lime industries

The UK lime and cement industries have met the climate change targets set in their Climate Change Agreements. Cement manufacturers have managed to exceed their targets on improving energy consumption, achieving a reduction of 33.7 per cent.The reductions have been made possible by installing new more efficient plant and by using fuels derived from waste.This means that the industries will retain the full rebate on the Climate Change Levy applied to fuels. Mineral Products Association Cement’s executive director, Dr Pal Chana, said "The UK industry is committed to tackling climate change through reducing emissions and providing energy-saving solutions through its products.This impressive performance was achieved despite the present state of the market, and our members remain committed to further improve performance, working towards the government’s target of an 80 per cent reduction by 2050".


High–grade gold identified in the Grampians

Gold mineralisation, BGS©NERC

The owner of the Cononish gold deposit, Australian-based Scotgold Resources Ltd, has announced the identification of further high–grade gold mineralisation in its licence area. The results come after a study looking at historical data from outcrops and boulder fields for Scotgold's Grampian gold project which surrounds the Cononish deposit. A total of 13 samples were found to have gold values greater then 100 grams per tonne of gold (the maximum value being 399 grams per tonne).The studies also found a strong correlation between gold mineralisation and regional structural features, similar to the style of mineralisation at the Cononish deposit which Scotgold hopes to bring into production next year. Scotgold has now commenced a field programme to identify further drilling targets across its existing licence areas which cover 2200 square kilometres across the Grampians.

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Government talks over the future of Anglesey Aluminium

Talks between the Government and Rio Tinto Alcan, the owners of Anglesey Aluminium, have yet to find a solution to stop the closure of the plant when its existing power contract runs out in September. Rio Tinto Alcan had previously this year announced the closure of the plant with potentially 500 job losses due to the closure of the Wylfa nuclear power plant which supplies the smelter with electricity. However options are now being looked into which could save the smelter. Rio Tinto Alcan is considering a Government offer to buy the plant for £50 million after originally rejecting it early in July. A possible Biomass power station is also being considered as an alternative source of energy. According to Welsh Secretary, Peter Hain, there are still "significant issues" to overcome if the plant is to remain operational.


World mineral statistics archive published on–line

World mineral statistics publications, BGS©NERC

The British Geological Survey has one of the largest databases in the world on the worldwide production and trade of over 70 minerals and has compiled production and trade statistics on a wide range of mineral commodities since 1913. From 1992 the information was captured digitally and is contained in a database; however, the older data has historically been available only on paper. As part of an ongoing process to make this archive of important data more accessible to a wider audience, the BGS has scanned and converted to ‘e-books’ a selection of publications from the World Mineral Statistics series, the earliest being from 1927.

These publications are now available to be freely viewed at