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Industry news: October 2010

Nuclear power to shoulder burden of increased power generation

Power station, BGS©NERC

According to a statement by energy secretary Chris Huhne, nuclear power will be used to shoulder the burden of increased power generation in the UK by 2025. The Government has identified eight sites across England and Wales as suitable for future nuclear power stations, including: Bradwell-on-Sea, Essex; Hartlepool; Heysham, Lancashire; Hinkley Point, Somerset; Oldbury, Gloucestershire; Sellafield, Cumbria; Sizewell, Suffolk and Wylfa on the Isle of Anglesey. Sites at Dungeness in Kent and both Braystones and Kirksanton in Cumbria were deemed unsuitable for environmental reasons. While nuclear power will have a significant role, Mr Huhne hoped that half of all new generating capacity by 2025 would come from renewable sources such as wind power. However, plans for a tidal energy scheme on the Severn Estuary have been ruled out on the grounds of cost and the challenge of attracting private investment. In response to predictions of a UK energy crisis by the middle of the next decade, when many of the existing nuclear plants will reach the end of their lives, Mr Huhne said urgent investment in new and diverse energy sources is vital, including: renewable; fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage (CCS) and new nuclear.


Lafarge rail diversion plan under public consultation

Robin Hood Railway Line, BGS©NERC

Lafarge are to consult the public on proposals to divert a short section of the Robin Hood Railway Line that currently crosses Whitwell Quarry, in Derbyshire, through a tunnel. The plans are to build approximately 1.2 km of new track in the quarry, close to the existing railway, allowing limestone surrounding the tunnel to be extracted. Lafarge already have planning permission from Derbyshire County Council to extract the limestone and now need consent from the Infrastructure Planning Commission to undertake the diversionary works. Network Rail has agreed in principle to the diversion and is liaising closely with the company. It is anticipated that only two weekend closures will be required to complete the work, causing minimal disruption to rail users.


New quality protocol for pulverised fuel ash (PFA)

The Waste Protocol Project, a joint initiative between WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme), the Environment Agency (EA) and industry, has launched its ninth Quality Protocol (QP) – The Pulverised Fuel Ash Quality Protocol. The new QP will divert a significant volume of what is currently the UK’s largest industrial waste stream away from landfill, by creating end-of-waste criteria for both the production and use of pulverised fuel ash (PFA) and furnace bottom ash (FBA), produced during the combustion of coal. At present, half of all PFA produced in the UK is sold to end markets and used in bound materials or grout applications.

Martin Brocklehurst of the EA said: "The quality protocol standard ensures that both human health and the environment are safeguarded and that this valuable material can be reprocessed into a quality product which can be reused, rather than buried in landfill."

According to WRAP, over 3 million tonnes of waste will now be diverted from landfill and increased use of this alternative material will save an estimated 4.4 million tonnes of virgin material from being extracted. Financial impact assessments forecast a potential benefit to the UK economy of £110 million over the first 10 years. There will also be savings in carbon emissions, estimated to be more than 160,000 tonnes over the first decade.

Source:; [No longer available]

ATH Resources report trading update

Opencast coal mining, BGS©NERC

ATH Resources Plc, one of the UK's largest coal producers, reported poor sales volumes during the first half of 2010 with adverse winter weather affecting operations in Scotland. However, sales recovered strongly during the second half of the year, with volumes for the full year approaching expected levels of 1.8 million tonnes. Sale prices of £43 per tonne during the second half of the year were in line with expectations. Unexpected geological conditions at the Group's Glenmuckloch mine reduced production in the latter months; as a result the board have lowered remaining reserve estimates by 50,000 tonnes.

Planned development during the next 12 months will require £14 million of investment to open operations at Netherton, near to the existing Skares Road site, and Duncanziemere, an extension to the Laigh Glenmuir mine. Planning consent for both Netherton and Duncanziemere were granted in June 2010, in total adding 3.1 million tonnes of proved reserves. The Group's proved reserves currently stand at 6 million tonnes which represents a 28% (1.2 million tonne) increase during the course of the year.

Source: [No longer available]

Galantas Gold Corporation report results from the Kerr Veins

Open-pit gold operation, BGS©NERC

Open-pit gold operation (Photo copyright: BGS NERC) Galantas Gold Corporation has reported the results of initial sampling and mining/metallurgical tests from the Kerr Veins by its wholly owned subsidiary Omagh Minerals Ltd (OML). OML operates the UK’s only gold mine near Omagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.

Table of data

A single bulk sample of 133 tonnes was mined from two of the Kerr Veins and the material processed in the company’s on-site plant. Plant feed grades were: 6.13 g/t gold, 12.53 g/t silver and 0.44% lead. Gold recovery was approximately 79%. From the processed bulk sample 4.06 tonnes of dry concentrate were recovered, containing 158.35 g/t gold, 267 g/t silver and 8.53% lead.

Five 20 kg grade control samples were also collected to assess run-of-mine diluted grades. The samples contained, on average, 5.90 g/t gold (gold content of the five samples in g/t was: 2.68, 3.65, 4.62, 15.53 and 3.01).

Production ore is now being extracted from the Kerr Veins and blended with ore from the Kearney open pit.


Lafarge and New Earth Solutions open £15m mechanical biological treatment (MBT) facility in Leicestershire

An official opening ceremony took place recently at New Earth Solutions' mechanical biological treatment facility near Lutterworth in Leicestershire.

Waste management and renewable energy specialists New Earth Solutions has developed the £15 million, 50000 tonne-per-year capacity plant on an adjoining plot to Lafarge Aggregates' landfill site at Cotesbach in the south of the county. Dorset-based New Earth Solutions have signed an agreement with Lafarge to treat 45000 tonnes of 'black bag' waste each year on behalf of Leicestershire County Council, with the remaining 5000 tonne-per-year capacity to be filled by other councils in the region.

At the Cotesbach site, household waste is delivered in refuse collection vehicles. The material is first subjected to a mechanical sorting process to remove all recyclable material – such as ferrous and non-ferrous metals and plastics. The remaining fraction comprised of shredded card, textiles, crushed glass and paper is left to biodegrade in large halls for around nine weeks before being removed for maturation for a further four weeks. Once the process is complete the compost-like output (CLO), known as Nutri-9, can be used on land remediation, for example, on restoring parts of Lafarge's landfill site.

Planning permission for the Cotesbach site was received in December 2009, and it is underpinned by a five year interim contract secured by Lafarge with Leicestershire County in 2008. The contract has the option to be extended for a further two years.

Source: [No longer available]

Cuts in capital investment will hamper the mineral products sector in supporting economic recovery

Construction, BGS©NERC

The Mineral Planning Association (MPA) believes the ability of the mineral products and construction industries to support sustained economic recovery has become more difficult following the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR). Simon van der Byl, Executive Director of the MPA, said "We are extremely concerned about the impact of the CSR for three reasons."

"First, the scale of cuts to public capital investment will significantly limit the contribution which construction and manufacturing can make to economic recovery."

"Secondly, the Government have significantly increased business costs by the decision to turn the £1 billion per annum Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme into yet another environmental tax."

"Thirdly, the Government assumes that planning reforms will boost housing and other forms of development. However, there remains major concern about the dysfunctional plan led system coupled to a restricted local outlook which can only constrain development."

Mr van der Byl added, "We understand times are tough but this makes it all the more important that Government works with industry to generate economic growth."

"The uneven cuts to public investment will reverse construction improvements which have helped give a comparative improvement in economic growth in the last six months. The new tax burden of the CRC, announced without warning or consultation, risks undermining trust between industry and government as well as imposing very significant additional costs on industry."

"The net result is an extremely disappointing CSR for our sector and for the economy as a whole."


Setback for Aggregate Industries quarry plan opponents

Quarry, BGS©NERC

Campaigners have received a setback in their opposition to a quarry reopening in the Devon countryside when the local parish council decided not to oppose it. The sand and gravel quarry at a beauty spot at Venn Ottery Hill, near Ottery St Mary, is due to restart operations to extract sand and gravel in the New Year. However, members of the Venn Ottery Hill Action Group are opposed to work recommencing by Aggregate Industries. The quarry is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and near a nature reserve.

The Newton Poppleford Parish Council have surprised members of the action group by deciding not to oppose the plans, instead calling for conditions to include local road improvements and new signage.

Source: [No longer available]

New releases from the British Geological Survey

It is 175 years since Sir Henry Thomas De la Beche was appointed as the first director of the Ordnance Geological Survey (OGS) – now the British Geological Survey (BGS). The OGS was formed at a time when demand for resources, particularly coal, to feed the industrial revolution was soaring.

During the First World War (1914) the renamed Geological Survey of Great Britain (GSGB) came to the fore, helping to prepare Special Reports on the Mineral Resources of Great Britain and also established a mineral index of the world to support the war effort.

During the 1960s and 1970s the further renamed Institute of Geological Sciences began mapping offshore geology. The project took 25 years to complete, but it is estimated that the findings helped contribute £260 billion to Britain’s economy through the exploration of resources such as gas and oil.

The British Geological Survey has been monitoring global resources since 1913 and continues to try and correct misconceptions about the state of the world’s resources. For instance, the BGS argues strongly that the idea of 'peak metal' comes from a misunderstanding of the history of exploration and extraction. The argument behind peak metal is that we have used more metal than is in the ground, but the BGS says this is just 'scaremongering'.

"We are unlikely to run out of metal as long as we continue to invest in the science" says Andrew Bloodworth, the BGS's Head of Science for minerals and waste. "These unfounded concerns deflect attention away from more pressing issues regarding our use of resources". Mr Bloodworth says that improving the way resources are used and reducing the energy required to extract them are far more important. Further information regarding peak metal may be downloaded from the BGS website: