Water and biodiversity

OUR VISION: Our sites are recognised as a valuable natural resource in the local environment.

We seek to ensure sustainable use of land, maximise the benefits for biodiversity and ecosystem services and minimise impacts on the availability of water in the natural environment. We also have a target to reduce mains water consumption by 25 per cent by 2020.

We are patrons of the Freshwater Habitats Trust (formerly Pond Conservation) and corporate members of Bumblebee Conservation.

Water management

We use abstracted ground and surface water and mains water for our process activities. The water is recycled within the process wherever possible and a high percentage is often returned to the natural system. 

We recycle water at many of our sites and are keen to increase this with further investment in appropriate equipment and facilities. 

Through the introduction of water-saving measures, we have achieved a substantial reduction in water use. We will continue to improve water efficiency wherever possible and invest in metering and monitoring equipment to assist our data collection.

Site restoration

Quarrying presents a great opportunity to enhance and improve the natural environment. We have invested heavily in expertise and resources to ensure our exhausted quarries are restored to the best possible after-use. The aim is to leave behind something as good, or better, than existed before quarrying began. With new planning applications, that process begins right at the start and the restoration plan is often one of the most important aspects of a new quarrying scheme.

Some gravel quarries are returned to agriculture, others are left to fill with water and can have a variety of uses from sailing, water ski-ing and fishing to bird watching and nature conservation. A number of former Hanson sites have become important conservation or educational areas and some have been designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). We have won a number of awards for the quality of our restoration programmes from the Mineral Products Association, which represents the industry’s major operators.

BAPs and GAPs

We now have biodiversity and geodiversity action plans (BAPs and GAPs) in place at all quarries that have been active in the last three years. All our BAPs and GAPs are published on our web site and we have set up a database to manage actions contained within them.

In 2010 we introduced a new indicator looking at quarries with high biodiversity value. These are defined as those located within 500 metres of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). All these now have BAPs in place.

Our parent company HeidelbergCement runs an international biodiversity research and education competition called the Quarry Life Award. For further information visit: www.quarrylifeaward.com.

Archaeology

Archaeological discoveries are often made during mineral extraction and help to extend our knowledge of the past.  

We work in accordance with the CBI protocol on archaeology and commission experts to undertake a survey before quarrying begins. A watching brief is often adopted during extraction.

Several key finds have been made in the last few years which have contributed to international knowledge. One of the most northerly examples of a mammoth tusk was found within marine-dredged aggregates in February 2006, contributing to knowledge of the limits of the ice front during the last ice age.  Ongoing work has also been undertaken for the last 18 years at Cassington quarry near Oxford, where finds have included the remains of a bronze age circular house, segments of decorated pottery and flint and the remains of a man from 4,000 years ago.

The oldest shoe ever found in the UK – dating from the Iron Age (700 BC – AD 43) – was uncovered in 2005 at Whiteball sand and gravel quarry, near Wellington in Somerset. 

A team from Exeter Archaeology unearthed the 2,000-year-old shoe at Town Farm, Burlescombe. It was reasonably well preserved with stitch and lace holes still visible in the leather and measures approximately 30cm, equivalent to a modern-day UK size nine or 10. 

The shoe was the third significant find at Whiteball in recent years. In 1999, excavations in an earlier phase of the quarry exposed a Saxon iron-smelting site. And in 2004 a Bronze Age burnt mound consisting of two mounds of burnt stone and two water-filled troughs, was unearthed.

These discoveries highlight the important part that quarrying companies have to play in protecting and preserving our national heritage. Other significant discoveries made at Hanson quarries include: 

  • A log boat from the middle Bronze Age still carrying a cargo of quarried stone discovered at Shardlow quarry near Derby. 
  • Two historic burial sites dating back 4,000 years at West Knighton quarry near Dorchester. 
  • Prehistoric remains at Dix quarry, Stanton Harcourt, near Oxford, which resulted in the discovery of a previously unknown warm inter-glacial period.