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Our Flemish Partner Natuurpunt signs charter with Sibelco to transform former quarries into nature havens

Small phantom waders far away on the hunt for some delicious muddy worms, herons staring at you from the distance curiously observing every step you take. When you walk along the mudflats in Schansheide in Belgium, nobody would suspect that this area once was a mining quarry.

The transformation of this land is a testimony that nature can be restored and reclaimed as important habitats for birds and other species. The mineral extraction company Sibelco and our Partner Natuurpunt have a long-standing relationship that makes nature restoration projects like these possible.

In 2022, for their 150th anniversary, Sibelco handed over 35ha of land – a former quarry site near Antwerp – to Natuurpunt to maintain, transform, and manage. Now they are moving forward with just another milestone for nature. The Maatheide Blokwaters, an 18ha of former quarry land close to the Dutch border, was given to our Partner during the signature of an important charter between the two parties this October.

Nature in Flanders is highly fragmented. Sibelco allows us to make extra efforts to strengthen local nature. In addition to setting up nature restoration projects with dry heathland and drifting dunes, the target species for this area are the smooth snake and natterjack toad which are European-protected species,” said Bart Vangansbeke, President of Natuurpunt.

In the long run, Maatheide-Blokwaters will become a nature haven for a variety of bird species such as the little Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula), the Great White Egret (Ardea alba), and the ‘near threatened’ Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus).

Sibelco and Natuurpunt have been collaborating since the 80s. What started as a simple access to the sites to monitor birds, became a strong and valuable relationship for nature. This is also due to the revamping of Sibelco’s sustainability strategy to focus on biodiversity. The relation gained momentum and the company started to hand over the maintenance and management of reclaimed quarries to restore nature properly.

The newly signed charter reinforces the pre-existing collaboration and common strategy, but it also marks an important milestone as a symbol to other industries. It is a chance to find new opportunities for a robust nature between the different quartz extraction phases. Natuurpunt and Sibelco are convinced that the cooperation can lead to important added values for nature and each other.

Partnerships like that of Sibelco and Natuurpunt are an important pillar in nature restoration and a great example of how coexistence between industry and nature can be possible through a joint effort. We cannot wait to see the observing faces of the Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea) and the pointy beaks of the Ringed Plover in the forthcoming scenic area of Maatheide-Blokwaters.

Cover photo: ©Yves Adams

Walk on-site in Maatheide-Blokwaters during the 150th anniversary event. Photos: ©Tom Cabuy

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