Extraction of marine aggregates involves a very small proportion of the of the UK’s continental shelf – typically an area totalling some 85km2 every year. Yet it provides around a fifth of all the sand and gravel used in England and Wales and, significantly, over half what is required in London. The marine aggregate industry is an essential supplier to the construction industry and, through it, helps support the life of the nation.
Despite the industry’s small footprint, BMAPA members recognise that the environment in which they operate is sensitive. They accept the responsibility to manage their operations in ways that minimise any effects on the marine environment and its other users. Furthermore, the industry is extracting a finite natural mineral resource that will not be replenished and using fossil fuels to do so. There is, therefore, a responsibility upon operators to carefully manage both their licence areas and their production operations to ensure that these valuable resources are able to be used in the most efficient and effective manner possible.
In November 2006, BMAPA published a sectoral sustainable development strategy to provide a clear policy framework for marine aggregate operations under the recognised “pillars” of social progress, environmental protection, natural resources and economic prosperity. The strategy provides a benchmark against which future progress reports will be measured.
Following the production of its strategy, BMAPA has now published its ninth annual sustainable development report which draws on data from 2014. A range of key performance indicators allow changes in the performance of the sector to be identified over time.
The strategic importance of the marine aggregate industry to the UK
Sustainable development is more than simply minimising environmental impacts and the responsible use of a finite natural mineral resource. There is a significant socio-economic component that also has to be taken into account – whether this is improving the environment in which people live, or contributing to the economic development of the nation. In order to understand the strategic role that the marine aggregate industry plays in the UK, the British Geological Survey have produced a report which examines the contribution that the sector currently provides, and the challenges and opportunities presented by the future.