Regional Director Hans Friederich attended a debate about « chain approach in raw materials – the case of concrete », organised by The European Partners for the Environment, Resource Efficiency Alliance and the Dutch Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment. He was respondent to the key-note speech in priority area 3 – biodiversity.
The discussion during this session centered around the impact of cement manufacture on biodiversity and what we can do to ameliorate the effects. While there are environmental impacts in most of the steps in the life cycle of concrete, the most critical phase for biodiversity is the exploration through quarrying.
Quarries are located through planning and this is when the most valuable biodiversity areas that should be avoided can be marked. The role of the Red List and protected area maps was mentioned. It is also when potential conflicts can be identified, and when stakeholders can be contacted. The need for inclusive consultation was stressed by all.
The next stage is the actual quarry creation, which is when the landscape will be affected and vegetation will be destroyed. During exploration, the footprint on the landscape will be expanded, and there is a risk of destroying cave systems and lowering the groundwater table. The risk of river and groundwater pollution from waste water is also high during this operational phase of the quarry.
When the limestone resource has been exploited, the quarry will be closed, and rehabilitation will be started, possibly including back-filling with ruble and building waste. IUCN recommends that the aim should be to end up with “no biodiversity loss”.
Specific discussions included: The need to have a level playing field with respect to biodiversity conservation, which is a task for the European Commission; Who should pay for rehabilitation of quarries and how long this responsibility should last, and the companies asked for guidelines on this; the question whether biodiversity conservation actually increases profits or only adds to the costs; who determines and monitors compliance to biodiversity regulations; whether there is a possibility to certify sustainable quarry operations (and who should do this) and traceability of “sustainably mined cement”.