The construction sector is an important part of the UK economy. Aggregates account for approximately 85 per cent of the non–energy minerals extracted in the UK and, are critical for the national economy. The construction sector relies on the supply of construction aggregates, obtained from 1300 quarries in Britain, dredged from the sea bed by a fleet of 28 marine aggregate dredgers and through recycling. Production from all sources is roughly 300 million tonnes each year. The Quarry Products Association estimates that the industry provides employment for an estimated 88,000 people – 38 000 directly and 50 000 indirectly.
Aggregate Minerals Survey for England and Wales
The Aggregate Minerals (AM) surveys, based at four yearly intervals since 1973, provide in–depth and up to date information of regional and national sales, inter–regional flows, transportation, consumption and permitted reserves of primary aggregates. The most recent reports are available from the Communities and Local Government web site. The reports collate survey data for primary aggregates (both land won and dredged) in England and Wales. The report also presents data on the movement and consumption of primary aggregates by sub–region. Data are used to inform Government in order to review and update planning policy guidance.
Quarry fines and waste
Annually, the UK quarrying industry produces over 50 million tonnes of ‘quarry fines’ and over 20 million tonnes of ‘quarry waste’. As part of the Mineral Industry Sustainable Technology (MIST) programme, the BGS reviewed the current activities and available ‘good practice’ of the quarrying industry to minimise fines and waste production. The study included process optimisation, mitigation of the environmental and social impacts of fines and waste, future technology and good practice recommendations. The detailed findings are on the goodquarry website and summarised in the quarry fines and waste download.
Production and process technology
Quarry products, such as construction aggregate, are produced in a multi–stage processing operation that involves drilling and blasting, extraction, crushing and milling, screening and classification. As part of the MIST programme, the BGS reviewed current production practices. The detailed findings are on the goodquarry website and summarised in the production and process technology download.
The strategic importance of the marine aggregate industry to the UK
The British Marine Aggregate Producers Association (BMAPA) commissioned BGS to examine the strategic role and importance of marine aggregates to the overall supply of aggregates in the UK. It focuses on the socio–economic issues associated with the production and use of marine aggregates, and their contribution to national and regional supply. The report is available to download from the BMAPA website.
Assessing the feasibility for underground mining of aggregates
In 2009 the BGS participated in research, led by Camborne School of Mines (part of the University of Exeter) and funded by MIRO, to assess the economic feasibility for underground mining for aggregates. The research focused on whether or not aggregates could be produced and delivered to a local market from an underground operation in the southern and eastern regions of England at a cost comparable with that for production and transport from traditional surface quarries located further afield.