Falling reserves threaten sand and gravel supplies
THE Quarry Products Association says it has identified a very real threat to future sand and gravel supplies following the release of the DCLG Aggregate Minerals Survey (AM2005). The four-yearly report provides an understanding of minerals production and consumption, based on survey returns completed by industry operators. The survey also highlights that national permitted reserves of crushed rock and sand and gravel are falling, confirming a trend that the QPA has suspected for some time.
AM2005 reveals that, in England, overall land-won permitted aggregate reserves at active quarries have declined by 750 million tonnes since the previous survey in 2001, a fall of 18%. However, there is specific concern about declining sand and gravel reserves, which at current production levels will last only nine years without substantial increases in new permissions. In the South East, the area of highest demand, the problem is particularly acute, with existing reserves only equivalent to six years’ supply.
The potential supply problem arises because it typically takes five to 15 years to move from identification of an aggregate deposit to production. With average sand and gravel reserves of only nine years, the issue is whether sufficient new permissions can be secured in time to replace what is being used.
National planning policy is clear on the strategic need for aggregates and this was underlined in DCLG’s 2006 Minerals Policy Statement 1 (MPS1), which stated it is ‘essential that there is an adequate and steady supply of material to provide the infrastructure, buildings and goods that society, industry and the economy needs’.
The QPA says it is vital that government sustains this strategic policy and that the planning system delivers effectively so that new permissions can be forthcoming.
The Association’s director general, Simon van der Byl, commented: ‘AM2005 reveals that permitted reserves are falling, which in turn implies that there are not enough new permissions coming through to replace the aggregates we are now using. Unless the existing managed aggregates supply system is maintained and supported both by industry, national and local government, the current situation can only get worse.’