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Industry news: June 2009

New report outlines clean coal future

Carbon capture and storage model,BGS©NERC

A new report published this month outlines the benefits that clean coal technology could have for the UK economy.The report ‘Future Value of Coal Carbon Abatement Technologies to UK Industry’ was published by the independent consultants AEA Group alongside the Government’s consultation document ‘A framework for the development of clean coal’.The report estimates clean coal technology could bring between £2-4 billion a year into the UK economy by 2030 and support 30 000–60 000 skilled jobs.The new consultation document outlines new carbon capture and storage (CCS) guidelines for all new coal-fired power station developments and requires CCS facilities to be retrofitted to coal-fired power stations once the technology becomes viable.The Minister for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Milliband, said “The conditions we’re proposing for new coal are the most environmentally ambitious of any country in the world, requiring the demonstration of CCS on a substantial proportion of any new power station and the 100% retrofit of CCS when it’s proven. At the same time, by providing funding for demonstrations, we can maintain coal as part of our energy mix, supporting diversity and therefore security of supply.”

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Rejection for opencast site near Leeds

Opencast coal mine, BGS©NERC

A proposed opencast coal site near Fairburn Ings, Castleford has been rejected by Leeds city councillors. Banks Mining Ltd had proposed plans to extract 850 000 tonnes of coal and 20 000 tonnes of other minerals from the site over a five–year period creating 41 local jobs. However, local campaign groups feared that coal extraction would have a detrimental affect on the Fairburn Ings RSPB reserve and the local landscape. Mark Dowdall, Environment and Community Director at Banks Group, said "We are obviously extremely disappointed at the committee's decision, especially given the fact that the scheme was recommended for approval by the council's officers.


Mineral Products Association affiliates with concrete trade body

Construction aggregates, BGS©NERC

The Mineral Products Association (MPA) has signed an agreement with British Precast, the trade organisation representing the UK concrete products industry officially affiliating the two bodies.The agreement includes a range of planned collective activities aiming to cut costs and support industry activities. British Precast has 179 full, associate and affiliate members representing a turnover of over £2 billion, to add to the £5 billion turnover and 220 members of the MPA. It is hoped that the combination of the two bodies will produce a powerful lobbying force for the concrete and minerals industry. MPA Acting Chief Executive, Nigel Jackson, said “We are delighted to have British Precast and its members as affiliates of the MPA. We look forward to increasingly close collaboration with a view to moving to an integrated corporate structure over the next twelve months, as we seek to develop concrete’s market share and work to deliver maximum value for our collective membership. It is vital that the entire concrete industry speaks with one aligned voice to ensure that this essential range of products plays its natural role in the built environment.”


New brickworks begins production

UK brick production, BGS©NERC

Hanson UK Ltd has begun production at its new brick factory at Measham in Leicestershire.The new factory, which cost £50 million, is the largest ‘soft-mud’ brick plant in Europe. It contains several low energy features and uses locally sourced recycled raw materials with the aim of reducing CO2 emissions.The factory has the capacity to produce 30 000 bricks per hour and employs 28 staff. Hanson Building Products managing director, David Syzmanski, added: “In developing Measham, Hanson wanted to ensure that our approach to sustainability was reflected in the way we manufactured bricks. It’s very gratifying to see sustainable, aesthetically pleasing bricks that meet the demands of sustainable modern construction now coming off the production line and into our customers’ warehouses.” 

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Highways Agency announces new road maintenance contracts

The Highways Agency announced this month several new contracts for the maintenance of main roads in the East and the South East of England. Aggregate producers Hanson UK Ltd and Lafarge Aggregates Ltd have both been awarded contracts for the supply of materials.The Highways Agency plans to spend a maximum of £400 million over a two to four year period in the East and South East of England on maintenance and improvement works, including resurfacing roads and maintaining bridges.


Cemex fined over coal dust

Quarry dust suppression, BGS©NERC

Cemex UK Ltd has been fined after pleading guilty to breaking its operating permit after a significant amount of coal dust was blown from a Cemex–owned plant over the town of Rugby. Cemex has been ordered to pay £13 469 in costs and fined £20 000 because of the incident which happened on 10 March 2007. The accident occurred after a probe in a coal dust silo failed to go off resulting in the silo being overfilled, releasing between 1.6 and 3.1 tonnes of coal dust. The Environment Agency received about 100 complaints from local residents due to coal dust falling on cars and houses. A spokeswoman for Cemex said "We are extremely sorry for the inconvenience this caused to our neighbours. Cemex recognizes that the release was due to a faulty probe; a sophisticated piece of equipment designed to prevent the coal silo over-filling, and therefore accepts the fine imposed by the court."

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Former quarry to be transformed into harbour village

Lafarge Cement UK Ltd has announced plans to develop the now closed Maghermorne quarry and cement works, Northern Ireland, into an environmentally friendly harbour village. The development, which has been approved by Stormont Environment Minister Sammy Wilson, will cost around £100 million and comprises about 450 homes, shops, a community centre and other amenities. The site, located on the shores of Larne Lough, covers an area of 153 hectares and also hopes to host a major world-class cycling centre. It is hoped that the project will give a boost to the Northern Ireland tourist industry.

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Europe and USA challenge China over mineral export restrictions

Europe and the United States have announced they are to formally complain to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) after China has brought in new rules restricting the export of a wide selection of raw materials. China has restricted the export of many commodities including steel, silicon, coke, zinc and bauxite by imposing minimum export prices and export tariffs causing prices to rise and putting pressure on already struggling manufacturers outside China. Concerns have been raised that such a large dispute between some of the world’s largest trading powers could be very damaging to the world economy.

The next stage is a ‘dispute resolution consultation’ which might take up to 60 days. If there is no agreement then trade sanctions could be imposed against China. Baroness Ashton, Europe's trade commissioner, said “The Chinese restrictions on raw materials distort competition and increase global prices, making things even more difficult for our companies in this economic downturn. I hope that we can find an amicable solution to this issue through the consultation process.”


Further job cuts at Corus sites

Steel production, BGS©NERC

The steel producer Corus has announced a fresh wave of job cuts, stating that 1923 jobs are to be cut from its UK operations. These redundancies are on top of the 2500 job losses announced earlier this year. This brings the job cuts made by Corus, a subsidiary company of Indian-based Tata Steel, to over 5500 worldwide since the beginning of 2009. In total 11 sites will be affected: the largest job losses will be at Scunthorpe where 500 posts are to go, while Corus facilities at Stockbridge and Rotherham will also lose 379 and 377 jobs respectively. Corus has blamed the cuts on a further downturn in steel demand in the US and Europe. Corus chief executive, Kirby Adams, commented: “Any recovery in Europe appears to be some time off, so it is vital that we take this proportionate and responsible action now”.