Europe and Central Asia
3 Dec 2014

“Extractive activities and biodiversity can go hand in hand”

Sand Martins in HeidelbergCement quarries © Hartwig Brönner
By BirdLife Europe

An interview with Richard Grimmett, Director for Conservation at BirdLife International and Jury member for the 2014 edition of HeidelbergCement Quarry Life Award.

This year, BirdLife’s Director for Conservation Richard Grimmett was part of an International jury which selected the winners of the Quarry Life Award 2014 – an initiative by HeidelbergCement. In this interview, Richard talks about his experience as a jury member of this international contest and explains why he believes mineral extraction activities can go hand in hand with biodiversity. That’s also been the reason why BirdLife has teamed up with HeidelbergCement three years ago, to help the company manage its quarries in a way that will most benefit nature.

The Quarry Life Award competition is part of HeidelbergCement’s efforts to promote biodiversity. Every second year, projects targeting biodiversity in quarries are put forward and implemented by students and other researchers and their quality is being evaluated by an international jury of HeidelbergCement managers and independent nature conservation professionals. This years’ winners are announced at a special ceremony in Prague, on 9 December.  

How do you perceive quarries in their role to biodiversity promotion?

Quarries have an important role to play in relation to biodiversity conservation and, clearly, they can have a major impact. There are opportunities for restoration; we have seen many good examples of that across Europe, opportunities for habitat creation, possibilities for creating new wetlands and new areas of grasslands. So it is about managing the impacts and maximising the conservation opportunities, alongside avoiding most sensitive areas.

How can the extractive industry further act on biodiversity protection – can extraction and biodiversity go hand in hand?

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I have no doubt they can go hand in hand but it requires a responsible industry for that to be possible. It is very much about making sure that the most sensitive areas are avoided: there are some places where it is not appropriate to quarry for materials. But I think there are the opportunities to look for minimizing and offsetting impacts and perhaps go beyond that for net positive conservation contribution by the sector.

What was your impression from the Quarry Life Award contest? Do you find it valuable?

The Quarry Life Award was a very exciting opportunity for many countries to take part in. We have seen some great projects put forward, some great opportunities for universities, for civil society to work with quarries to address some biodiversity issues, to add value from a conservation point of view.

Some of the projects I have seen really added to an understanding of the conservation issues as well as to what management responses might be. They have got the quarry managers thinking about these issues as well as the local stakeholders, so lots of positive externalities from this scheme.

And how should HC further use the results of the contest?

I think it is really important to maintain the links that have been built up with civil society and with academia, with university departments who are interested in continuing with those projects. We hope that HeidelbergCement, as they did after the first edition, would implement some of the recommendations that are coming from these projects, looking how they might be included into biodiversity management plans, looking to build relationships with those local institutions beyond the projects.

Did you enjoy you participation in the Quarry Life Award jury?

Yes, I did actually - very much! It was a great opportunity for me to see some quarries on the ground. The danger of being on the steering committee (Richard has been a member of the Quarry Life Award Steering Committee for 3 years) is that you don’t get to see what’s happening on the ground with quarries and understand the realities from the point of view of the quarry manager. My visit to Romania was hugely instructive. I’ve learnt what it actually means to be quarrying in a country like Romania, what the conservation issues are and what the opportunities are to address those. Very interesting.

What would be your advice to the future of the Quarry Life Award competition?

I think it would be good to try to establish some connexion with the quarry in advance, try to understand where they are with the biodiversity management planning, where they are with the local stakeholders, and then look to see what added value you could bring from any project that you might put forward… It would also be interesting to think about how, as an NGO or as an academic institution, you could benefit from that project you might put forward.

So are you looking forward to next year’s competition?

Yes! I have really been impressed by the projects that have come forward and I am very much looking forward to next year, to see what new projects come forward and whether there are any new countries that come on board. It is a good scheme of exciting prospect for the next round of the competition!

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