The Aggregates Industry
The quarrying of aggregates is a major industry. There are over 1000 active quarries in the UK, which directly and indirectly support some 40,000 jobs. The quarries are supported by 25 marine dredgers and an active recycling sector. The construction industry, which contributes around 10% of the nation's gross domestic product, is reliant on quarrying. Most notably, in a typical year, the UK's quarrying network help to provide:
- 130,000 new homes (each requiring an average of 60 tonnes of aggregates);
- £8.0 billion of school and university building improvements;
- £4.5 billion of hospital building;
- £1.7 billion of improvements to water services; and
- Maintenance of our 230,000 mile road and 10,000 mile rail networks.
Every year nearly four tonnes of aggregates are needed per head of population in the UK. This means a typical family indirectly demands one lorry load of aggregates per year.
Aggregates are not just for construction, a vast array of other products, many of which are taken for granted, are manufactured using materials derived from quarrying. These include: paper, glass, cosmetics and toothpaste to name but a few. Aggregates are also used in agriculture, food manufacture and water & sewage purification.
Six companies account for over 85% of the aggregate production in England and Wales. In addition there are over 100 small and medium sized companies. Many have a significant regional presence.
The industry takes its environmental impact very seriously and as a result the UK industry has become a world leader in terms of the quality of its land restoration work. More than 700 Sites of Special Scientific Interest have their origins in mineral operations. In 2009 the industry planted 313,000 trees and 14.4 kilometres of hedgerows. By 2009 there were 283 liaison groups in aggregate quarries.