A sand quarry supporting biodiversity

Malcolm Fraser, an Operations Officer in our Forth Regional team, recently attended a CEMEX Biodiversity Stakeholder Event. CEMEX are a leader in the building materials industry and their commitment to environmental issues shows the value of partnership working, sharing best practice, and demonstrates that regular dialogue delivers solid environmental outcomes.

Mineral extraction and habitat creation at Cambusmore quarry.

CEMEX’s Cambusmore Quarry and its natural heritage

This is a sand and gravel quarry near Callander, current mineral permission consents cover 188ha. The main extraction area lies between the River Teith and Keltie Water just above where they meet. There are some additional current and proposed extraction areas on either side of the main area.

The site has been active for 20 years, and much of the main area is now worked out. As you’d expect water bodies and wetland areas now cover quite large areas of the site. There’s a main lake that is used for angling, alongside several settling ponds. Some areas are being reforested with a mix of species.

The River Teith is a Natura site, designated for salmon and lamprey, so water quality and the condition of the river bed habitats are really important. The watercourses also support otter.

The water bodies are well-used by waterfowl and other birds. Bats also use the water bodies, rivers and other habitats for foraging. Again, as you’d expect in a sand quarry, sand martins are a common sight.

Sand martin adult prospecting an existing nest burrow in an exposed earth bank on river bank. ©Laurie Campbell

Sand martin adult prospecting an existing nest burrow in an exposed earth bank on river bank. ©Laurie Campbell

But more generally, the site is large, fairly quiet (despite the heavy machinery) and has a good mix of habitats, so it’s got a lot of value for nature and people. That’s my guess anyway, on the day the rain was hammering down so hard that no-one was brave enough to take a look around!

The organisation and the event

CEMEX has a global partnership with Birdlife International. In the UK they are partnered with RSPB, and I got the feeling that this was a long-standing and successful partnership. RSPB have a Project Officer based within CEMEX who advises on site management and restoration.

Many of the speakers at the event were CEMEX staff. They all presented a unified front as conscientious wardens of their sites with a genuine interest in the wildlife they see around them.

CEMEX has prepared a Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) for this site and many other of their landholdings. These plans contain real, achievable actions to work with and around wildlife, and to improve the habitats on the site.

They also produce a series of ‘advisory information’ sheets, mainly to help staff understand the species they encounter and any relevant laws or other considerations.

For example their sheet on sand martins talks about:

  • when the birds are present, and their preferred habitats;
  • preparing sand bank faces (on active areas of the site) to make them less attractive for nesting;
  • instructions for working around sand banks that have been colonised; and
  • consequences of taking incorrect action.

These BAPs and advisory notes all sit underneath CEMEX’s Biodiversity Strategy. In short, I got a strong feeling that they really do take site management for biodiversity seriously. This also fits with my previous experience of other large mineral companies, specifically Tarmac.

Other stakeholders at the event included local community representatives, ecologists, NGOs and other ‘usual suspects’, the landowner. But importantly a good chunk of the audience were CEMEX site staff. It was a delight to see how CEMEX staff took a keen interest in the topic and several of them recounted with some pride seeing species such as red kite, osprey, and red squirrel.

All in all a positive event.

You can read more aout what CEMEX is doing to help biodiversity on their sites and download their species advice sheets here.

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