Renaturated quarry Burglengenfeld, Germany

Biodiversity and Land Use

At first glance, the large-scale excavation of raw materials would appear to destroy nature and undermine biodiversity. Yet quarries and gravel pits actually provide an important habitat for plants and animals that are being increasingly displaced by development in other areas.

Numerous scientific studies have demonstrated that quarries, gravel pits, and other open-pit mines can be extremely valuable for environmental protection, for they offer undisturbed habitats for rare and protected species.

Many of our sites provide an important refuge for rare species. To protect and enhance such species, we aim to implement biodiversity management plans at quarries of high ecological value.

Carolyn Jewell, Senior Expert Biodiversity & Natural Resources

Our sites are operated in accordance with relevant international, national and local environmental legislation, with environmental impact assessments prepared generally as a pre-requisite for the permitting of quarrying activities. In addition to being economically attractive, a potential project must be compatible with the goals of environmental protection. We assign high priority to mining techniques that minimize environmental damage as well as to measures for the subsequent rehabilitation of mining sites.

In order to promote biological diversity at our mines, we have adopted group-wide guidelines for species protection. HeidelbergCement is the first company in the construction materials sector to do this. The ten principles set forth in these guidelines are designed to facilitate dialogue with environmental protection authorities and associations, as well as with the broader public. They are also designed to promote biological diversity and environmental health both during and after mining operations.

Biodiversity Management Plans

As biodiversity continues to decline, the role of high-value nature conservation areas in supporting populations increases. The rural nature of our operations and the shared geological importance often means that our sites are geographically located close to such high value areas.  In many cases the high value areas have become recognised and subsequently designated after our operations began, resulting in a shared boundary. The consequences of this close proximity could result in our operations having potential negative impacts on the features of specific interest and protected/rare species may migrate on to our sites during the active phase.

Therefore, potential risks to both nature and our continued working could arise. Nevertheless, there can also be an opportunity arising where our sites, when properly managed, can have a positive impact on the abundance and diversity of species in the local area. To manage these risks and opportunities, it is important for us to initially identify which of our sites fall into this category, and then ensure that our interactions with nature at these sites are managed in a sensitive way. 

To this end, every five years a proximity study is undertaken by BirdLife International, as part of our global partnership. When the partnership began in 2011 this was regionally focused, but in 2017 the analysis was undertaken at a global level. During these studies our sites are mapped against protected areas (as defined below) and internationally recognised Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs). 

Protected Areas:
  1. Protected areas designated officially by national nature protection legislation 
  2. Protected areas designated under regional conventions and agreements 
  3. Protected areas designated under international conventions and agreements including Ramsar (wetlands) and World Heritage (natural/mixed) and the UN’s Man and the Biosphere Programme

During the 2017 proximity study, 1,144 Heidelberg Materials sites were analysed in order to understand their high biodiversity potential, as determined by their geographical proximity to high biodiversity value areas. The number of sites that were found to be within close proximity are displayed below by region.

Under Heidelberg Materials’ 2030 sustainability commitments, the company has a corporate goal to have biodiversity management plans implemented at all sites highlighted under this proximity study, by 2030. 

We constantly monitor our progress towards this 100% target and annually report current figures within our Sustainability Report. As of the end 2019, we were at 47% complete for deposits associated with our cement plants, and at 49% for our aggregate sites. Roadmaps are now being developed at the country level to ensure that we reach our target of 100% by 2030. 

Despite this prioritisation of an important subset of our sites, we also recognise that biodiversity management plans are an important tool in managing nature in all our quarries. Hence, several countries have implemented their own national targets of 100% of sites having such plans. 

Case Studies and Projects

Cooperation with nature conservation organisations

Our partnership with the largest international nature conservation organisation, BirdLife International, which we began in 2012, was extended for a further three years in 2018, for the third time in succession. The interaction with BirdLife International and our cooperation with its national partner organisations help us to minimise our impact on the environment and promote biodiversity at our quarrying sites and in their surroundings.

Besides the projects connected with the Quarry Life Award, over 30 local projects were undertaken at locations in Europe and in African countries between the beginning of the partnership and the end of 2019.