MPA met with a group of Parliamentarians at an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Mining and Quarrying meeting, for which it provides the secretariat, at the House of Commons on 19th March, and took the opportunity to raise a number of issues facing the industry.
Jerry McLaughlin, MPA's Executive Director of Economic and Public Affairs, gave an update of the economic situation at the end of 2018, which showed a welcome increase in year on year aggregates sales volumes of 2%, but suggested that the outlook for 2019 was likely to be flat. Housing had been positive, but growth was likely to slow down this year. Infrastructure was dominated by some large projects, but their progress was uncertain with no real confidence in the delivery of many schemes.
On recycling, he reported that the reality was far better than was generally appreciated, with 30% of the GB aggregates market supplied from recycled and secondary sources, more than twice as high as the European average. Defra had recently set out in the 'Resources and Waste strategy' that "weight" was no longer regarded as the key indicator of environmental impact, stating that plastic was light in weight but high on environmental impact, while aggregates production was high in weight but low in environmental impact.
On the Aggregates Levy review it was hoped that there might be scope for Government in its review to reconsider the case for some sort of community and sustainability benefit, such as an Aggregates Levy Community Fund Scheme, using a small percentage of the Levy income.
Stressing the need to put in perspective the relationship between international issues, for example carbon reduction and resource use, and national and local issues and perceptions, he highlighted the current debate about international shortages of sand and the growing consumption in Asia and Africa consumption which dwarfs UK consumption by comparison. Also, in the UK there are mature and effective regulations and processes to ensure aggregates supply is managed sustainably but in some parts of the world regulatory capacity is very limited and the environmental impacts of resource supply high.
Finally, the issue of safeguarding rail depots and wharves was discussed, acknowledging that the situation in London was probably well understood and some action has been taken to safeguard these sites, but that this was a national problem.
Commenting MPA Chief Executive, Nigel Jackson said:
"MPA values the opportunity to update the members of the APPG and discuss issues relating to the industry. It is a useful forum that we are happy to support to enable Parliamentarians with mining and quarrying interests to challenge industry on its performance."