We have developed much expertise in the extractive (quarry) industry. Sadly this is an area which has suffered from 'light touch’ regulation and a lack of enforcement in Ireland. The extractive industry includes numerous quarrying activities ranging from limestone extraction to sand and gravel extraction. There is usually requirements for 'progressive restoration' of a quarry.
Most if not all sand and gravel deposits are as a result of eskers which were formed after the last ice age. Enormous tracts of eskers have been removed (quarried) in the last 100 years or so in Ireland and England. This type of industrial quarrying is utterly unsustainable. There is now a shortage of sand and gravel in the UK and dredging of estuaries has begun as a way of extracting sand for the construction Industry. The authorities there have also implemented a levy per ton of material extracted in an effort to curtail the extraction of sand and gravel.
Dredging on an industrial scale is also ongoing in China to satisfy the insatiable demand for material to build its expanding cities.
Limestone is also required as an aggregate to mix with sand and gravel in the manufacture of cement and for foundations for roads and buildings.
Far more care is required to curtail our demand for sand and gravel and of limestone aggregate.
Did you know that upwards of 200 loads of readymix are required to secure a wind turbine to the ground!
Fracking is a means of natural gas extraction. The process involves the boring of multiple holes/ wells into the earths crust. Thereafter a large quantity of water and usually chemicals are injected at high pressure to fracture the underground rock and soil structure to release natural gas. This method should be treated with great caution as there are considerable risks attaching to altering the groundwater aquifers, a process which is irreversible.
It has been suggested by some of its proponents that it isn’t fair to criticize the process ‘if it is done properly’. It is considered that such statements are rather baseless; a process, which interferes with groundwater aquifers in such a radical way, must be treated with great caution if not alarm. Unfortunately, all too often environmental impact statements contain many noble covenants, which are seldom implemented or enforced.
The evidence available would suggest that this relatively new technology is proving to be problematic particularly in the United States.
For the purpose of this discussion it is assuming that no chemicals are being used. If chemicals are used, there are obviously issues of aquifer contamination. Fracking is an extremely risky process, which should be approached with great caution. The process involves radically altering the geological makeup of the earth's crust in order to extract a relatively small quantity of gas.
Moreover, Fracking is but another symptom of our addiction to fossil fuels, which we urgently need to break.
Often, the justification for an environmentally divisive project is that it will ‘give employment’. Employment is an entirely different issue. Projects must first be considered in the context of ‘proper and sustainable planning’. Without a sustainable environment, there will be no way of providing sustainable employment for future generations. Many applications tend to concentrate on the employment benefits that may accrue from their proposed development, rather than on the more important planning issues which relate to a sustainable environment or indeed the health and safety implications which arise pursuant to their proposals. Such arguments are completely erroneous. If one were to look at employment, then it is arguable that an intensive horticultural facility would invariably provide far more employment than a quarry and unlike a quarry, will provide sustainable employment. Once a quarry is exhausted, the land is usually laid barren and with very dangerous cliffs and lakes in the absence of proper reinstatement. Moreover, most business operates on the basis of 'adding value' to generate income. It is arguable that the converse is true of the extractive industry which in fact 'subtracts value' from a sparse resource: i.e. agricultural land, rendering it useless for all time. It should not be lost sight of that a development proposal emanates from a speculative commercial venture to generate wealth for its proposer. People are employed to create wealth for their employer and not out of some benevolent objective. The creation of employment will never be the primary motivation, bar it is directly driven by statutory authorities with the specific objective of generating employment, which is rarely the case.