Page 3: Primary sector
Cement is a product that originally dates back to the Egyptians and Romans. However, since its ‘rediscovery’ in the C19th, it has been evolving in response to new technology and innovation resulting in the complex product of today. In a typical year, the UK mineral products industry contributes to the building of 160,000 new homes, improvements to water services and the maintenance of the UK road and rail networks.
There are around 1,300 quarries and manufacturing sites in the UK producing £5bn worth of products each year. Over 80% of the raw materials used in its processes come from Lafarge’s own operations and are therefore under its direct control. This integrated supply chain ensures Lafarge can manage quality, quantity and guaranteed delivery though its own activities.
In its primary sector activities, Lafarge’s extraction processes involve drilling or controlled explosions to blast limestone, granite, shale or clay from quarries. This provides the raw ingredients required to make cement, aggregates and concrete. The rock is transported to a crusher to produce the different sizes of rock needed to suit different products for customers.
Lafarge is committed to sourcing its materials and managing extraction in the most responsible and sustainable way possible. Rock quarries are usually operated for many decades and then restored. Sand and gravel quarries are shallower than rock quarries and can be worked in stages. This means the land is used and restored in phases. As the majority of raw materials to make cement come from new quarries, Lafarge is also investigating how it can reduce dependence on these sources. It is looking at ways of treating waste and by-products from other industries to replace natural materials. This is an important aspect of its sustainable practices.
In addition, it works with external bodies such as the Environment Agency in the planning stages of assessing a new quarry site. This means Lafarge can take into account key issues affecting the environment from the outset. At the end of the quarry’s life, Lafarge is committed to the restoration of land. For example, it uses recovered inert waste from its extraction and waste management processes as part of the restoration process.
It then works in partnership with other organisations (such as the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust) to re-use the land for the good of the community and to provide a lasting legacy. For example, the National Memorial in Staffordshire is on a former quarry site. Lafarge has also been involved in managing 34 SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest), as well as creating award-winning parks, lakes and education centres. Over 700 SSSIs have been developed in the UK from former sites of mineral operations.