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Environment

Why are mineral wastes significant?
     
The generation and disposal of mineral wastes - and the potential for associated environmental and social impacts - can be a source of friction between aggregates companies, local communities and other stakeholders.
 
The generation and disposal of mineral wastes - and the potential for associated environmental and social impacts - can be a source of friction between aggregates companies, local communities and other stakeholders. Naturally, as there are environmental, social and economic costs associated with storing and managing wastes, aggregates companies try to first minimise the generation of waste and then find beneficial uses for any waste that is produced. However, at many sites there is a net excess of waste after beneficial uses have been considered, and this must be managed to avoid the potential environmental and social impacts noted below.

Mineral waste tips may be visible from far outside the site boundary, while dust picked up from tip areas can travel significant distances and have a nuisance impact on local communities and businesses. Erosion of material from tips can lead to the contamination of surface waters with suspended solids, affecting water users and freshwater ecosystems.

Aerial view of waste tip

Mineral waste tips can have a considerable impact on the local community.

  Mineral waste generation
     
What is a significant issue at one site may be absent or irrelevant at another and therefore the true significance of mineral wastes can only be defined at a site-specific level.
 
There may also be local concern regarding the stability of waste tips, particularly when they are near residential, commercial or amenity areas. Finally, land sterilisation and changes to surface features (such as surface water flows and animal and plant habitats) may also be potential issues for some operations.

In the absence of proper planning and restoration, these environmental and social impacts can continue beyond closure of the operation. However, the nature and extent of the impacts will vary from one site to the next according to the specific local context. In particular, the local community related impacts are likely to be significantly influenced by the nature and proximity of housing, amenity areas and local businesses. What is a significant issue at one site may be absent or irrelevant at another and therefore the true significance of mineral wastes can only be defined at a site-specific level. Many of these potential impacts can be prevented or mitigated by the implementation of good practice. The acceptability of impacts that remain after good practice measures have been put in place should be considered in the context of the economic and other benefits that accrue from aggregates production.

. . . more