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Planning Process

How are future aggregate extraction sites chosen?

     
Minerals can only be worked they are found.
 
Understanding the factors that determine the location and spatial distribution of aggregate extraction sites is fundamental to the development of policies to provide for the future supply of minerals and the policies necessary to control the impact of mineral working on the environment and local communities.

The location of future mineral sites is dependent on the underlying geology, since minerals can only be worked where they occur. Beyond this there can be a series of considerations, some economic, some practical and others that are environmental in nature, that will determine whether in reality, the site is acceptable as a potential site for mineral extraction and processing.

Key principles
Unlike most other forms of development, minerals can only be worked where they are found. This means that the spatial distribution of mineral resources and thus the potential for workings is dictated first and foremost by geological considerations and not by the demands of human geography. Land that has the necessary geology to be considered as potential future mineral resource that may be capable of being worked must then be considered by the minerals company in terms of whether the mineral is available in circumstances that are both economic and practical to work.

Finally the resource must also be assessed against the likely impact on the environment and local community. This process, both by the company and by the Mineral Planning Authority, significantly reduces the potential extent of the available resource. The policies that are applied and the process through which sites are chosen is fundamental to the control of mineral working and provision for the future supply of minerals to meet the needs of society.

Historically the onus has been on landowners or mineral companies to promote the sites that they wish to bring forward for minerals extraction.
  Resource Map 1:100 000 series showing the area around Mount Sorrel igneous rock quarry in Leicestershire.

Resource Map 1:100 000 series showing the area around Mount Sorrel igneous rock quarry in Leicestershire.

This would then form the basis of the consideration of sites by a Mineral Planning Authority as part of its Minerals Local Plan, now known as a Mineral Development Framework (MDF). The purpose of the identification of sites or areas for possible mineral working in the MDF has been to point the minerals industry to the most appropriate locations for potential sites. It also provides certainty for local communities about the location of future mineral sites.

Promotion of a site by a landowner or mineral company would normally be accompanied by an appraisal of the geology (content, depth, quality in accordance with approved standards), method of working, possible impacts, and restoration options. The information required at this stage is largely strategic with the detail being left for a possible future planning application stage, possibly accompanied by an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

Although land allocations can be made irrespective of land ownership, aggregate sites will in reality only come forward with the willingness of a landowner whether this is a private individual or company, or a mineral operator. Before negotiating for mineral rights from a landowner, a mineral operator would have first satisfied itself that the site contained an economically viable mineral reserve and that there was a reasonable prospect of securing planning permission within the constraints of the planning system. It may be that a company would acquire the right to work mineral but will not promote the site in the MDF or bring it to an application stage until the right conditions exist. These conditions might be practical, operational or environmental in nature.

. . . more