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Improving biodiversity management: part 1

World Cement,

The environmental impacts of extractive activities are well known – although not necessarily fully understood – by stakeholders. As a consequence, proper land management and stewardship, quarry rehabilitation and biodiversity have always been key focal points for cement manufacturers and quarry operators.

The 23 members of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI) have operations in over 100 countries, so they are very familiar and well-versed in many aspects of land stewardship. The CSI has already established key performance indicators (KPI) for biodiversity and has produced detailed guidelines on quarry rehabilitation (in 2011). The CSI is currently revising its environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) guidelines.

The latest undertaking of the CSI’s task force on Biodiversity and Land Stewardship sees the publication of new practical guidance on the development and use of Biodiversity Management Plans (BMP).

The objective of the guidance is to provide cement-producing companies with a stepwise guidance and a set of tools to enable them to develop and implement effective and meaningful BMPs. A significant opportunity exists for cement producers to play a part in enhancing biodiversity; and the new guidelines provide a valuable resource for quarry managers, environmental officers and operators seeking to achieve this.

Cement producers have been aware for some time of the capacity that properly remediated quarries have to enhance local biodiversity, through the proper management and maintenance of restored areas. However, the opportunity is much more significant than purely increasing the number of species of plant and animal life present at a location after quarrying has ceased, relative to the situation prior to quarrying. The increasing recognition globally of the importance of a bio-diverse ecosystem, the realisation that biodiversity is important for agriculture, forestry and other industries and our improved understanding of the part biodiversity plays in climate control and natural flood defences all point to the urgent need to protect biodiversity. Many companies are now beginning to understand the concept of natural capital more fully; i.e. the value of nature to businesses and the economy, people and society.

New guidance for biodiversity management plans

Developed through the cooperation of CSI’s member companies, with input from a range of external experts, including biodiversity NGOs and development banks, this new guidance on BMPs complements existing guidelines already published by the CSI. For example, the comprehensive study and best practice guidelines on quarry rehabilitation, undertaken by task force members of the CSI and published in 2011, have subsequently become a valuable practical reference tool for aggregates and cement companies. The primary objective of quarry rehabilitation plans is to leave a site in a safe and stable condition that would meet the needs for a sustainable future post-closure land use. Rehabilitation plans are therefore not limited to improvements in biodiversity, but also to pursuing the potentials of the land with future value/use to the local economy as an enhanced ecosystem. Therefore, in order to provide specific and relevant advice and guidance on the important issue of biodiversity management plans, the CSI subsequently enlisted the help of members to produce the latest guidance, which draws on the experience of many of the world’s leading cement producers to provide practical support to others in the industry.

“The overall objective was to provide a useful and practical set of guidelines, as well as a step-by-step process that could be adopted by any company,” explains Philippe Fonta, Managing Director of the CSI. “Many cement producers are already doing a lot to manage and enhance biodiversity. By drawing on their experience we are able to provide recommended approaches to the development and implementation of a BMP.” Indeed, the guidance even includes templates for goal-setting and action plans.

Impact assessments, quarry rehabilitation and biodiversity management

Prior to commencement of site operations, most governments, authorities and agencies insist on an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) being carried out. An ESIA is developed to identify likely environmental impacts of a quarrying operation, along with any related social or health impacts. Therefore, any operation involving mineral extraction will need to commence with an ESIA. Thereafter, it is highly probable that a quarry rehabilitation plan will be required, as the site nears the end of its life or areas are taken out of production. Unlike an ESIA, a BMP may not be a regulatory requirement and BMPs are not appropriate for all operations. Where a BMP is appropriate, the guidelines developed by the CSI will certainly help significantly with the scoping and implementation.

Quarrying activities can generate something of a dilemma regarding biodiversity. While quarrying can lead to the elimination of some species, by contrast, frequently the act of quarrying, which could lead to the formation of artificial lakes and wetlands, will attract a number of plant and animal species that were not present prior to the commencement of operations. This can be a mixed blessing. Sometimes the appearance of new species – especially amphibians – that were not present before quarrying commenced, can present challenges regarding new permitting. However, in the broader context of promoting and enhancing biodiversity, managing a site that is already more species-rich than before can be a positive starting point for a BMP. Of course, not all sites require a BMP. The guidance provided by the CSI establishes a framework that can be used to help identify whether the biodiversity of a site is of high, medium or low quality. Once it has been established that a BMP is desirable, the guidelines offer a step-by-step approach to developing and implementing a plan.

“The rehabilitation process brings with it an opportunity for a number of individuals and organisations who share a role in land stewardship to work together for the benefit of the environment,” explains Jim Rushworth, Vice President Environment & Public Affairs at Lafarge and Co-Chair of the CSI Task Force on Biodiversity & Land Stewardship. “Land owners, quarry managers, the local authority and the community can work together on management plans and perhaps help to create a habitat that would not exist, had it not been for the quarrying that took place initially.”

The CSI recognised a need for a comprehensive set of guidance notes on biodiversity for two main reasons. Firstly, many of its members are undertaking BMPs as a matter of course, but the approach and methodology differs across the membership. A means of capturing best practice, sharing resources (such as templates that can be used as the basis of a plan) and publicising success stories through case studies was needed, which could benefit all members. Secondly it was recognised that, although the production and use of comprehensive BMPs is relatively routine amongst many member companies, other cement producers do not have access to the resources needed to develop robust BMPs.

As a result, the CSI’s Biodiversity and Land Stewardship taskforce undertook to produce a set of guidelines that provide all cement companies with a practical toolkit. Of most importance to those who are new to the idea of BMPs are steps that focus on stakeholder engagement and the determination of priorities and targets. “Stakeholder engagement is absolutely essential, at an early stage, if a BMP is going to work effectively and especially if it is going to protect and enhance the local environment,” explains Kostis Dragasakis, Quarries and Raw Materials Technology Manager of Titan Cement, and Co-Chair of the CSI Task Force. “This stage is frequently either overlooked completely, or not given enough attention by companies that are less experienced in the procedure.”

Copies of the CSI’s 48-page Biodiversity Management Plan Guidance can be downloaded from the website,

Read part 2 here.

Written by Graham Sprigg, Managing Director of IMS Consulting and a Member of the Cement Sustainability Initiative’s Communications Task Force. This is an abridged version of the full article, which appeared in the April 2015 issue of World Cement. Subscribers can read the full article by logging in. They can also read the magazine on smart phones and tablets by downloading World Cement’s app.

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