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Industry news: November 2009

UK Coal announces production figures

Coal mine, BGS©NERC

A recent statement released by UK Coal plc shows a constant level of production for both the third quarter of 2009 compared to 2008 and the year–to–date for the company’s deep and surface mining operations. UK Coal reports total coal production of 5.4 million tonnes compared to 5.5 million last year, 4.4 million from deep mining operations and 1 million tonnes from surface mining, compared to 4.3 and 1.2 respectively from 2008. UK Coal also reports that the price of coal has dropped from last year’s record prices due to lower market demand for electricity in 2009. However prices still remain at historically high levels, reaching £2.06/GJ for the third quarter of 2009 (compared to £2.31/GJ in 2008). Total production in 2009 is predicted to be lower then anticipated, dropping from 6.2 million tonnes to 5.7 million tonnes. This is due to the combined effects of a fatal accident at Kellingley colliery and unexpected geological problems at Thorseby, Daw Mill and Welbeck collieries.

Source: http://www.ukcoal.com/press-releases [No longer available]

Government approves sites for potential new nuclear power stations

UK nuclear power plant, BGS©NERC

A list of 10 sites in England and Wales has been released by the government that could potentially be the locations for new nuclear power stations:

Braystones, Cumbria

Bradwell, Essex

Hartlepool

Heysham, Lancashire

Hinkley Point, Somerset

Kirksanton, Cumbria

Oldbury, South Gloucestershire

Sellafield, Cumbria

Sizewell, Suffolk

Wylfa, north Wales

The majority of the locations are on the sites of existing nuclear facilities with the exception of Braystones and Kirksanton. Only one site has been rejected: Dungeness in Kent was deemed unsuitable on environmental grounds as the site is susceptible to flooding and coastal erosion. The government hopes to fast-track the construction of new plants, with the aim of having the first one operational by 2018. Energy Secretary, Ed Milliband, commented "the new Infrastructure Planning Commission would have to make a decision on each application within a year of receiving it, to avoid a repeat of previous lengthy inquiries." It is hoped that the new power plants will replace the majority of the UK's existing nuclear power facilities, which are due to be decommissioned in 2023. Industry experts warn that unless extra capacity is generated there could be potential power shortages in the future.

New figures confirm severity of construction recession

Construction materials, BGS©NERC

The latest quarterly figures from the Mineral Products Association (MPA) show further significant falls in sales of aggregates and cement and record declines in the aggregates and construction sectors. Sales of aggregates and cement fell by 20 per cent, ready mix concrete by 26 per cent and asphalt by 17 per cent when compared to the third quarter of 2008. 2009 saw orders for new construction work fall by 20 per cent following a drop of 19 per cent in 2008. Consequently demand for construction materials will remain low for some time. Director of Public Policy at the MPA, Simon van der Byl, urged the government to "use the forthcoming Pre-Budget Report to reverse the current policy of cutting public investment by 50 per cent." and stated "that investment in construction is very effective in stimulating further economic growth and employment, and provides significant long term social and economic benefits."

There was some positive news for the construction industry, with data released by financial information supplier, Markit, showing new business levels in the construction industry in October remaining the same as September, ending a period of 19 months of decline. Also a new report by the European Commission predicts that the British economy will grow by 0.9 per cent in 2010.

Sources: http://www.mineralproducts.org/09-release018.html and http://www.aggregateresearch.com/article.aspx?id=17706

New quarry health and safety group formed

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has assembled a new team of specialist inspectors to try to reduce death, injury and ill-health at quarries and opencast coal sites in Great Britain.The team will consist of five inspectors who are specialists in the quarrying sector. It is hoped that this new approach will reduce health and safety incidents in the quarrying sector, which is one of the most dangerous industries in Britain. Figures from the HSE show that, since 2000, 21 workers have died and over 2700 workers have suffered a reportable injury. However, the industry has reduced reportable health and safety incidents by 50 per cent for 2000-2005. Richard Bird, executive officer of the British Aggregates Association, commented "We welcome the positive moves by HSE to ensure that quarry operations are managed properly in the area of health and safety. Not only will this ensure that the workforce and members of the public are protected, but it will assist in guiding quarry operators through the increasing maze of health and safety legislation."

Source: http://www.hse.gov.uk/press/2009/hse9509.htm

Council buys quarry

UK hard rock quarrying, BGS©NERC

Cornwall County Council has purchased the Castle-an-Dinas quarry, at Ludgvan, near Penzance for £1 million. The quarry was previously owned by Castle Granite Ltd which went into administration in April this year. A spokesman for the Council said the purchase both secured 12 jobs in the quarry and guaranteed supplies of building stone and crushed rock aggregate for use in local road works projects. The quarry, which incorporates an aggregate coating facility, is the sole local suppler for aggregates and without it the Council faced having to import aggregates from outside the county at an increased coast and to the detriment of the environment. Graeme Hicks, Cornwall Council Cabinet member for highways, transport and planning, said "Buying the quarry will make sure we can get hold of the right materials at the right price. Work on Cornwall's roads is vitally important to everyone in the county and I'm proud of the fact that the council has taken this step."

Sources: http://www.aggregateresearch.com/article.aspx?id=17820 and http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/cornwall/8365732.stm

Tarmac retain position as number one UK aggregates producer

A report published by BDS Marking Research Ltd this month shows that Tarmac has maintained its position as the largest producer of aggregates in the UK, despite the economic downturn leading to the closure and mothballing of several of its sites.The report revealed that Tarmac has approximately 23 per cent of the aggregates market with Aggregate Industries ranked as the second largest producer followed by Hanson, Cemex and Lafarge. According to the report 43 pits and quarries closed during the year (due to a combination of the economic downturn and lack of reserves).The total aggregates market in the UK fell below 200 million tonnes during 2008, the lowest figure since the early 1980s; this is expected to drop again by 20 per cent in 2009. BDS estimates the aggregates market will stabilise in 2010 with no further drops. However, there is the possibility of longer-term declines due to public sector cuts expected after the 2010 general election.

Sources: http://agg-net.com/news/tarmac-maintain-number-one-position-in-uk-aggregates and http://www.bdsmarketing.co.uk/cms/ [No longer available]

Quarry plans withdrawn

The Hanson Heidelberg Cement Group has announced it is withdrawing plans for a 1.25 million tonne sand quarry near Longworth, Oxfordshire. A spokesman for Hanson said that the company withdrew the application after planning officers recommended that local county councillors refuse it. Hanson intends to resubmit the application after planning officers’ concerns have been addressed. Local opposition groups have said they would continue to campaign against any new quarry applications. Hanson planned to use the material to build house bricks.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/oxfordshire/8375814.stm