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Industry news: January 2010

Scotland looks at nuclear waste storage

Dounreay power station, BGS©NERC

The Scottish Government has announced it is to begin a consultation exercise looking into the permanent storage of nuclear waste at up to four sites across Scotland.The Scottish Government plans to store nuclear waste near to existing facilities to avoid long distance transportation. It is also looking to store the waste near the ground surface contrary to UK government policy which prefers underground storage.There are currently five nuclear sites in Scotland which could act as storage facilities: Dounreay, Hunterston, Chapelcross, Rosyth and Torness, near Dunbar. Richard Lochhead Scotland's Environment Secretary said "The consultation supports our commitment to near surface, near site facilities, allowing waste to be monitorable and retrievable with minimal need for transportation over long distances."


Lancashire gas storage project receives second refusal

Plans for a gas storage scheme in Lancashire have been refused for the second time by Lancashire County Council, who voted 12 to one against the project. Canatxx UK had proposed to create up to 36 new salt caverns below the Wyre Estuary for the storage of natural gas. The scheme, valued around £300 million, could have stored 360 million cubic metres of gas but county council officials said the scale and type of development would be detrimental to the open character of the countryside and raised concerns about safety issues, specifically gas migration from the storage facility. This was the second time the scheme has been rejected: in 2007 the Communities Secretary blocked the scheme, in line with the advice of a planning inspector and a technical assessor. A spokesman for Canatxx labelled the decision "a severe body blow to energy security of supply in the UK" and indicated Canatxx would continue trying to develop the scheme.

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Banks appeal against opencast rejection

Opencast coal mining, BGS©NERC

After having proposals for an opencast site near Ledston Village in Leeds rejected by the Council's planning committee last year Banks Mining has submitted an appeal.The site, initially proposed in 2006, is for the mining of 875 000 tonnes of coal over three and half years, with the creation of 40 jobs. The outcome of the appeal is expected towards the end of 2010. David Gosling, senior development planner at The Banks Group, said "We feel the reasons given for this rejection do not stand up to robust examination, and remain absolutely certain that the Newton Lane site can be worked in an environmentally acceptable manner."


Report rejects South East aggregate provision reductions

Sand and gravel quarrying, BGS©NERC

An independent panel has published an Evidence in Public (EiP) report on amendments proposed by the South East of England Regional Assembly (SEERA) to its Regional Spatial Strategy on the reduction of aggregates provision.The report rejects the SEERA proposals to reduce the government guideline amount of aggregate provision from 12 to nine million tonnes per year and proposed a new figure of 11 million tonnes per year. SEERA had stated that the original guideline figure was unrealistic.The report recommended a reduced amount to take into account the current economic situation.The final decision now lies with the Secretary of State. Nigel Jackson, Chief Executive of the Mineral Products Association, commented "It is simply not acceptable for any region to take such a parochial approach when mineral resources are available and potentially accessible."

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Guernsey quarry running out of reserves

UK hard rock quarry, BGS©NERC

Ronez, the owner of the Les Vardes quarry on Guernsey, has announced that unless it is able to expand quarrying operations Guernsey will be forced to import stone from mainland UK or France to meet demand for construction materials due to depleted reserves. Ronez has asked permission from the States of Guernsey to expand its Les Vardes quarry. Ronez’s manager, Peter de Garis, said if these plans were turned down there was only one other possible site on the island where quarrying could take place.


Research criticises Aggregates Levy

Construction materials, BGS©NERC

An analysis of trends in the aggregates market since 1990 recently released by independent company BDS Marketing Research has concluded that the Aggregates Levy has not had a discernible affect on decreasing primary aggregate use but has created serious market distortions. The report, which was prepared for the British Aggregates Association (BAA), stated that the Aggregates Levy put UK concrete at a disadvantage as imported concrete products are not subject to the tax and that stockpiles of quarry by-products are increasing in size due to higher prices. The report also highlighted that, as the public sector uses over half of all aggregates consumed, there is limited potential for increased revenues to the government. The British Aggregate Association has been campaigning for the abolition of the Aggregates Levy since its implementation in 2002.


New hard rock quarries for Scotland

Scotland hard rock quarry, BGS©NERC

A review of hard rock aggregate in Scotland, which highlighted supply shortfalls, has prompted planning authorities to grant consent for greenfield hard rock quarries in central Scotland, according the British Aggregates Association. The review highlighted shortages of consented resources and the strategic importance of these resources in maintaining the country's infrastructure. Collier Quarrying and Recycling has been granted permission for a new hard rock quarry in Fife; this is the first greenfield hard rock quarry to receive consent in over 20 years. Hodge Plant has also been granted permission for a greenfield quarry near Abington in South Lanarkshire. Richard Bird, the BAA's executive officer, commented "it confirms a realistic approach to the production of aggregates now being taken by many Scottish local planning authorities."


Scotgold to list on London Stock Exchange

UK exploration drilling, BGS©NERC

Scotgold Resources, owner of the Cononish Gold and silver project, is seeking to list on the London Stock Exchange after a significant level of interest in the company from UK and European investors following the announcement of the results of a successful drilling campaign late in 2009. The company is already listed on the Australian Stock Exchange and Chief Executive Chris Sangster said "the second listing was an opportunity for the company to expand its business."


Extension for Redcar steel plant

Steel works, BGS©NERC

Teesside Cast Products, which was due to be mothballed at the end of January, is now to continue to make steel until the end of February, or until raw materials run out. The decision was made by the plant owners, Corus, who have also recently announced they will keep the South Bank Coke Ovens at the Redcar site open, safeguarding 120 jobs. Union representatives have welcomed this decision stating it would provide time for an alternative to the future of steelmaking at Teesside to be found. If the plant was to close 1700 jobs would be lost and many more could be affected in downstream industries and contractors. The North East Region Parliamentary Select Committee is currently discussing the plant’s future.


Wolf Minerals provides update on Hemerdon

Hemerdon open pit, BGS©NERC

After securing four million Australian dollars in October 2009 from its strategic partners, Wolf Minerals Ltd has moved quickly to advance the feasibility study at the Hemerdon tin and tungsten project in Devon. Contracts have been placed for metallurgical testwork, plant design and engineering, and design of the waste dump and tailings facility. A comprehensive programme of archaeological investigations is also underway over the proposed site of the waste and tailings facility.

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