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Industry news: March 2009

Nuclear plant repairs completed

UK nuclear power plant, BGS©NERC

British Energy, part of the EDF Energy Group, has announced completion of repairs to bring its nuclear power stations at Heysham and Hartlepool back to full capacity. Four reactors at the two plants were taken out of service in October 2007 after an inspection showed faults with reactor boiler closure units. The first three reactors are now operating at full load and the fourth reactor is being increased to full load in a planned power increase. Heysham and Hartlepool power stations provide four per cent of UK electricity, around 2350 MW.

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Merger creates new industry association

UK quarry,BGS©NERC

Minerals industry trade bodies, the Quarry Products Association (QPA), the British Cement Association (BCA) and the Concrete Centre, have merged to create a new representative body known as the Mineral Products Association (MPA).

The MPA will represent the asphalt, cement, concrete, lime, mortar and silica sand industries with the aim of enhancing the strong reputation established by its constituent parts for supporting their members to operate in a manner that is economically viable and socially and environmentally responsible. MPA chairman Lynda Chase–Gardener said "in these particularly difficult economic conditions, there is a real opportunity for the new organisation to add value to the work of its member companies and to provide a more effective voice for the industry." Members of the MPA supply around £5 billion worth of essential materials to the UK economy; this is by far the largest single supplier of materials to the construction sector.


National park wins quarry appeal

Quarrying in the Peak District National Park, BGS©NERC

The Peak District National Park (PDNP) has been successful in its appeal to uphold enforcement action to control limestone quarrying at Backdale quarry on Longstone Edge.This is the latest stage in a long drawn out legal process regarding Backdale quarry and follows a ruling last year 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.Three Court of Appeal Judges have now ruled that the High Court decision in favor 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.There is still potential for Bleaklow Industries to appeal the ruling. PDNP chair, Narendra Bajaria, said: "We very much welcome this decision – for three senior judges to uphold the Authority's enforcement action gives great support to our case. We are particularly pleased that this judgment is a result of a joint appeal with the Secretary of State."

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Increase in opposition to new quarry developments

A recent survey has shown that quarries are now the most opposed sector in the UK, even more so than new power station or casino developments.The survey, undertaken by The Saint Consulting Group, annually asks 1000 members of the public from across the UK their opinion on new developments by a wide range of industries and produces a NIMBY (not in my back yard) rating of support or opposition for developments. This year's survey has shown that the approval rating for the aggregates industry has dropped 19 per cent over the last year, from 61 per cent in 2008 to 80 per cent in 2009. Also the number of people actively protesting against new quarry developments has risen to 21 per cent.The survey found that the greatest opposition to quarries was in Eastern England and the South East with 91 and 90 per cent respectively; the survey also reported age was a major factor with opposition to quarry development increasing with age.

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Job losses for Northern Ireland brick industry

Bricks, BGS©NERC

Tyrone Brick Ltd, part of international building materials group CRH, is to shed 62 jobs, equating to 95 per cent of the production workforce, from its Coalisland brick–making facility, County Tyrone, according to trade union Unite.Tyrone Brick has been heavily affected by the downturn in the construction industry and currently has a surplus of 35 million bricks. A spokeswoman for company said "The ongoing slowdown in construction activity has resulted in a significant reduction in demand for product and has necessitated a review of operations across the business." A skeleton staff will be retained at the Coalisland works for specialist brick manufacture.

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Fluorspar miner is fined over floods

Quarrying for Fluorspar, BGS©NERC

Fluorspar extractor, Glebe Mines, has been fined £40 000 for the damage caused by the failure of one of the mine's tailings dams in January 2007 which resulted in flooding and waste discharge into surrounding areas and the nearby village of Stoney Middleton. Glebe Mines pleaded guilty to charges contrary to the Water Resources Act of 1991 and was ordered to pay £22 000 with £16 397 in costs to the Environment Agency.

Glebe Mines has now completed the clean up of the tailings dam failure, which has cost about £2 million. All the potentially hazardous material which was released into local watercourses has now been removed and transported back to the mine site.

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Tarmac to restructure

Tarmac Ltd has announced it is to reorganise its structure in response to the economic downturn. Tarmac will reorganise into two separate companies: Tarmac Quarry Materials (TQM), which will comprise Tarmac's existing quarry business, Tarmac National Contracting and Tarmac Buxton Lime and Cement; and Tarmac Building Products (TBP). As part of the reorganisation Tarmac also plans to install a £200 million second kiln at its Buxton Lime and Cement Plant at Tunstead in Derbyshire, by 2014. A spokesman for Tarmac said "the new structure, which we aim to have in place by early May 2009, will allow the company to operate in a more responsive way and deliver greater customer focus." It is unknown if the reorganisation will result in any job losses.

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Ennstone goes into administration

Financially troubled British quarry operator, Ennstone Plc, has announced it has gone into administration after failing to restructure its debts.The company has now been bought out by Breedon Holdings Ltd, headed by Vaughn McLeod, Ennstone's former chief executive, and backed by Barclays Ventures and several other undisclosed financial institutions. This buy out of the company safeguards over 1000 jobs, 100 at the Breedon and Cloud Hill quarries and a further 900 across the UK. Ennstone released a statement saying that they had explored a broad range of strategic options over the past eight months, but despite the support of their UK banking syndicate, the deteriorating market conditions meant they had been unable to achieve a solvent restructuring of the group.

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Extension for Guernsey quarry

UK hard rock quarrying, BGS©NERC

A planning inspector has given permission for Les Vardes Quarry on Guernsey to continue to extract material until 2030. The change in permission for the quarry, which works a Precambrian diorite for roadstone has to be confirmed by the States of Guernsey as the rural area plan for the island will have to be changed. The quarry will be used for water storage after operations cease.