Minister Recognizes MPA Legacy and Role at Biodiversity Strategy Launch

International Mining & Minerals Association
30 Jan 2011
MPA Chief Executive Nigel Jackson
On 25 January Environment Minister, Richard Benyon MP, recognized the significant contribution that the mineral products industry can make to UK biodiversity in a House of Commons reception organized by the Mineral Products Association (MPA) and the RSPB. The event, which brought together MPs, industry leaders and conservationists, launched MPA’s biodiversity strategy.

Nigel Jackson, Chief Executive of MPA, said: “The mineral products industry has a proven legacy of high quality restoration and still has further significant potential to protect and enhance biodiversity, including common as well as rare and threatened species and habitats. Continuing good site management, restoration and after-use of minerals sites is expected to contribute significantly to the achievement of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and MPA members have a unique role to play.

“I believe MPA members are uniquely placed, equipped, organized and motivated to help the UK achieve its BAP targets on habitat creation. We can do something industries which get far more Government attention, such as retail, automotives, pharmaceuticals and energy, cannot do. But we need good economic conditions to invest, reasonable and proportionate legislation and a planning system that is fit for purpose.”

MPA’s biodiversity strategy is outlined below:

1. Extend our knowledge of the wildlife interest and potential on and adjacent to active sites and how best to manage this, and maximise benefits through restoration and after-use, including initiating a comprehensive field study in 2011.

2. Share best practice between our members and partners around the country through regular briefings and a specific working group.

3. Develop our partnerships with conservation organisations, decision makers and individuals to ensure that we are delivering both what people want and wildlife needs. To support this work we will organise a biodiversity exchange in 2011 of all organisations with an interest in improving biodiversity associated with minerals operations.

4. Celebrate our successes through an annual members’ award for Biodiversity Achievement starting in 2011 and sponsored by Natural England.

5. Understand our contribution to delivery of local, national and international biodiversity, including Biodiversity Action Plan targets and future improvement using a range of indicators.

6. Increase our influence through contact with policy makers at all levels, including engagement with European initiatives in association with European Trade bodies.

7. Promote biodiversity education using industry assets such as restored sites and field study and education centres to encourage out of classroom learning and to make the most of first-hand experiences of the natural environment.

The biodiversity strategy will provide a framework for the industry’s contribution to the achievement of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP). Recent research by the RSPB indicated that mineral sites could meet 100% of the targets for nine out of 11 priority habitats in the UK BAP.

The mineral products industry is already collaborating with the RSPB and Natural England on Nature After Minerals (NAM), a successful initiative designed to help identify and deliver biodiversity opportunities on former minerals sites. However, for the UK mineral products industry to continue to make a vital contribution to improving biodiversity and for initiatives such as NAM to keep running, Government support at all levels is essential. 

Nigel Jackson stressed, “National and local policy makers need to continue to recognize the role that the industry can contribute to biodiversity objectives, for example through the planning system and by securing adequate funding.  The NAM initiative relies in large part on the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund (ALSF) which the Government has recently decided to scrap. Loss of this fund is a major setback for the interests of biodiversity and other key Government objectives.”

Environment Minister, Richard Benyon MP, said, “What has been said today about the value of the legacy of this industry is really appreciated and really understood by me.”

MPA members manage or control an area of land of over 115 square miles; equivalent to a National Park such as the Norfolk Broads.  To date MPA has identified the establishment of at least two National Nature Reserves, 22 local nature reserves, 15 field study and educational centres and 13 nature trails within its membership, but the full picture is still being gauged.  

Poul Christensen, Chairman, Natural England, said, “You do leave a legacy in what you do. The Nature After Minerals programme is doing a hell of a good job for the natural environment - keep on doing it. I salute the minerals industry in the way you do nature conservation: working with local people and conservationists to transform extraction sites into new habitats for wildlife, new business opportunities and new places for people to enjoy. The contribution MPA members make to the natural environment hasn’t always received, in my view, the recognition it deserves, it isn’t celebrated as it deserves to be and, to help right that wrong, Natural England is delighted to be supporting a new Biodiversity Award to celebrate the achievement of your industry."

Dr. Mark Avery, RSPB conservation director, said: “It’s still a surprise to some members of the public when they hear that places where minerals have been dug out, big holes in the ground, can be fantastic places for nature afterwards - but there are lots and lots of really good examples and the number of examples is growing all the time. I think that is a sign of success for the Nature After Minerals project.  There really are some wonderful sites for wildlife as a result of our joint working.”

As part of NAM’s work, recent wildlife surveys have revealed that many rare species can be found on former quarries. Species include bitterns, marsh harriers, shoveler ducks, rare native orchids, smooth snakes, sand lizards, nationally scarce moths and butterfly species.