Local environment and society
Living next to our industry
The industrial operations that are part of our business can be a source of disturbances in terms of noise and vibrations. This applies particularly to quarries, cement plants and loading operations at our harbours. We work proactively to reduce noise levels through measures such as erecting sound barriers, building in equipment and establishing clear agreements with shipping agents. An open dialogue with our neighbours is important. We communicate with the local community around our cement plants through meetings, newsletters, and online information about the status of emissions and ongoing improvement projects.
Blasting in quarries that are close to residential areas requires special attention. We strive to inform local communities regularly about our planned activities and we blast at regular times.
Dust emissions from our operations
Dust particle emissions from crushing, transport or handling of materials may be considered a disturbance. Dry weather and wind may cause dust emissions from storage piles. We reduce dust emissions by placing equipment indoors, sweeping the roads, and in some cases capsuling the source and developing sprinkler systems for dust control.
Dust particle emissions from cement production have been reduced extensively over many years thanks to new and improved filters. Still, occasional emissions happen due to disturbances in the process or other causes. We work continuously to further improve both filters and processes to minimise these emissions. All our cement plants operate below the strictly set emission regulations.
During 2015 we improved transparency and communication in Kunda, Estonia by sharing data on ambient air monitoring on the website of Estonian Environmental Research Centre. The data enables us to better explain the impacts from company activities and what actions we take to reduce them.
We strive to mitigate the impact of our activities on natural water resources as far as possible. We comply with strict environmental regulations to ensure that raw material quarrying does not damage local bodies of surface and groundwater resources.
The operations where we have most impact on water are cement due to mining, and ready-mixed concrete due to the cleaning of vehicles, equipment and scrapping of obsolete concrete.
Cement production’s impact on water
Groundwater penetration in the quarries causes a lowering of local groundwater levels. At some locations the mining activities impact the local water situation. Here, we take extra precautions and cooperate with the local communities and county administrations to find viable solutions.
At the Degerhamn site, the old water-filled quarry acts as a collecting pond for water from the active quarry and supplies irrigation water to a neighbouring farmer as well as process water for our production and dust prevention.
To control the quality of the water discharged from our sites, many of our sites have sedimentation ponds at significant discharge points, and for a third of the plants quality measurements are included in the control programme at the site. All sites have water recycling installations.
Ready-mixed concrete production’s impact on water
Wastewater from ready-mixed concrete operations is handled according to the local requirements at each plant. Several plants in Norway, Sweden and Denmark have reduce water consumption, mainly by recycling wastewater into production. At these plants, wastewater is handled in sedimentation basins. After sedimentation, water is pumped back into production. The sediment is recycled whenever possible.
Within the framework of the Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI) preliminary sector indicators for water management have been developed, and we have appointed operators who are responsible for water management on plant level. In 2014 HeidelbergCement started to collect data from the cement plants on a global level, and will progressively report on five different water management indicators, among these Total water withdrawal by source and Percentage of sites with water recycling systems .
Local issues challenge future operations
The cement plant in Skövde, Sweden, has been awaiting a decision on its quarry permit application for several years. Different interests and opinions regarding the usage of the area and the consequences for nature have delayed the process. In March, we got an overall approval from court. However, the process will continue to get the final details approved as well.
On the island of Gotland we operate the Slite cement plant, which is our biggest plant. We are now preparing to apply for a new quarry permit starting in 2021. In 2015, the local authorities of Gotland announced that they wanted to appoint new Natura 2000 areas to protect unique nature values. These areas interfere with our future extraction plan. Since then, discussions have been ongoing regarding how to balance the need for cement as a building material and industry and working opportunities on Gotland, as well as protecting nature by defining Natura 2000 areas. A decision on this case has moved from the local level to the national level.
Quarry operations are highly visible and have an obvious impact on the landscape and environment through changing the conditions for flora and fauna. Properly managed quarries can actually increase biodiversity since the open landscape offers both plant and animal species new opportunities in terms of new territories and less competition. These areas attract pioneer species: plants, insects and animals alike.
We work proactively and continuously develop plans to ensure good conditions for biodiversity at our quarrying sites, which comprise a total area of 25 square kilometres. Of these, 16 square kilometres are adjacent to protected areas.
Quarry Life Award – a global initiative
HeidelbergCement has established the Quarry Life Award (QLA), an international research and education competition that takes place every two years. The goal of the competition is to increase the knowledge of biodiversity in quarries and to develop new ideas for ways to promote that diversity. In addition, the competition aims to draw attention to the unique flora and fauna of quarries and gravel pits.
Partnership with BirdLife International
HeidelbergCement has a partnership with the internationally recognized nature conservation organization BirdLife International, to further improve the protection of biodiversity at our quarrying sites worldwide. For several years, many of our quarries have been cooperating with local ornithological societies in different projects.