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Holcim Germany promotes biodiversity at its cement plant locations

Published by , Deputy Editor
World Cement,

The loss of biodiversity is one of the biggest problems on earth. The global day of action on 22 May drew attention to how biodiversity is being lost worldwide – with serious and irreversible consequences for nature and people. Humans are primarily responsible for the rapid extinction of species ¬– for example through industrial agriculture with monocultures, urbanisation and climate change.

The extraction of raw materials at Holcim always involves temporary interventions in nature and the landscape. Many of Holcim Germany's locations, especially where raw materials such as stones, sand, gravel, chalk or marl are extracted, in return also contribute to fallow land for pioneering plants, breeding grounds for birds, flower strips, flower and orchard meadows. Many former, but still operated, mining and peripheral areas are becoming an important retreat for rare animal and plant species. Holcim’s Plettenberg quarry in Baden-Württemberg, for example, is a valuable refuge with a colourful variety of species – bees and butterflies, for example.

Take butterflies, for example. The Holcim cement plant in Höver near Hanover and the Lower Saxony Nature Conservation Association (NVN) started a project in 2018 that bore fruit in the summer of 2019 and will continue in 2020. The two partners have created new habitats for butterflies, and in addition, a butterfly visitor path with information boards accessible to the public on the company premises in Höver. "With this we want to inform the public and above all the residents of Höver and Bilm about what beautiful winged neighbours and many other insects they can find on their doorsteps," says Carola Sandkühler, Chairman of the NVN. The project is financially supported by the Bingo Environmental Foundation, with EU funds (European Fund for Regional Development) and with state funds from Lower Saxony.

The Lägerdorf cement plant in Schleswig-Holstein includes an old, large orchard in the immediate vicinity of the production site. It has been a valuable human-made biotope for over four decades. At that time, construction and planting on the company property took place in close cooperation with the municipality, which also took on the selection of tree species. Old fruit tree varieties (high stems) are scattered in loose groups in a meadow ¬¬– a hotspot of biodiversity and home for a wide variety of insects such as wild bees and other animals. Due to the extensive use of the orchard meadow, a large amount of biodiversity within the surrounding area could arise over the years.

Raw material extraction and biodiversity are not opposites. A prudent extraction process can even promote biodiversity – for example in Holcim’s gravel plants in Willich, Kaarst, Vorst and Stenden on the Lower Rhine in North Rhine-Westphalia, the break-off edges created by gravel mining serve as breeding grounds for rare bird species such as sand martins, oyster fishermen and common buzzards, for example. The sand martin in particular is dependent on this rare natural formation. The smallest swallow species in Europe digs up to one metre long passages on the gravel sand walls, the ends of which are the brood caves. There, the eggs are laid by the sand martin, which is a safe place from predators. Holcim is aware of this fact, which is why greater attention is paid to the sand martin population during the breeding season and these steep walls are an integral part of our annual harvest planning. At times, steep walls are left standing, which then offer valuable breeding grounds. In 2020 the company will again have large colony populations at all of the above locations. NABU awarded Holcim the ‘Swallow-Friendly House’ award in 2016 for these actions.

These are just three examples of Holcim's efforts in the area of biodiversity. At many other locations throughout Germany there are other projects that contribute to more biodiversity.

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