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LIFEnews features 2010

Extracting nature conservation benefits from quarry and mining activity in Natura 2000 sites

(Photo: A. Köck) (Photo: A. Köck -
LIFE05 NAT/D/000053)

Demand for raw materials continues to grow and Natura 2000 sites are among those areas affected by the extraction of European minerals. Harmonising mining sector operations with biodiversity policy goals can be a challenge and LIFE project achievements in this field have been highlighted as good practice by new Natura 2000 guidance that promotes wildlife-friendly mineral extraction methods.

Strategic planning, compliance with appropriate assessment procedures and stakeholder collaboration are cited by the European Commission as two crucial ingredients required for the integration of biodiversity considerations by EU mining and extractive industries. These key success factors form part of new guidance material that has recently been released by the Commission. The guidance focuses special attention on sound management of Natura 2000 areas in accordance with Article 6 of the Habitats Directive and contains good practice case studies that demonstrate how positive contributions for nature and biodiversity can also be gained from the extraction sector.

In a joint statement, Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment, and European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, in charge of Industry and Entrepreneurship said: “These new guidelines will give Member States and industry clarity regarding the undertaking of non–energy extractive activities in accordance with Natura 2000 requirements. There is no change of legislation or policy, but merely guidance on existing law. Our central aim is to meet the needs of industry, while avoiding adverse effects on wildlife and nature. The guidelines ensure the proper implementation of the EU ‘Habitats’ and ‘Birds’ Directives."

Similar guidance has already been released for wind farm developments and the Commission is planning additional advice covering aquaculture, inland waterway transport, ports and estuaries.

LIFE experience

(photo:LIFE96 ENV E 000509) (Photo: LIFE03 NAT/IT/000134)

LIFE project experiences form part of the Commission’s new guidance for minimising mineral extraction impacts on Natura 2000 sites. Featured LIFE initiatives include the UK Marine SACs Project (quoted in the guidance as an example of how to identify impacts from aggregate extraction on a range of Annex I habitats and Annex II species) and Belgium’s LIFE Nature work with Upper Meuse dry grasslands (noted for its approach to mitigating impacts from a limestone quarry on Natura habitats).

Many other win-win outcomes have been secured from LIFE Nature restoration operations in former mineral extraction sites and an illustrative sample of these include:

  • Italy’s LIFE03 NAT/IT/000134 involving the restoration, using natural engineering techniques, of three abandoned stone quarries in the country’s south eastern region. Here, LIFE’s support provided important inputs to the long-term conservation of priority habitat pseudo-steppes with Thero-Brachypodietea grasses and annuals;
  • Estonia’s LIFE00 NAT/EE/007082 improved some six hectares of open sand habitat in a derelict sand pit at Sooküla. Removal of trees and wet habitat vegetation during this project created an important refuge for natter jack toads, woodlarks and sand lizards;
  • Austria’s LIFE03 NAT/A/000010 addressed impacts associated with industrial peat extraction on a Natura 2000 site at the Weidmoss Bird Reserve. Results from the project have converted an industrial wasteland into valuable wildlife habitats and also created a new recreation area for the people of Salzburg;
  • Germany’s LIFE05 NAT/D/000053 ongoing work from the Rosenheimer master basin bogs, provides another example of how stakeholder participation combined with appropriate strategic planning can help to tackle negative legacies of peat extraction;
  • France’s LIFE04 NAT/FR/000080 bat conservation project led to the reopening of an old mineral mine for use as a roost by Schreiber’s bats; and
  • Spain’s LIFE04 NAT/ES/000043 also improved the suitability of abandoned mines for bat colonisation. By doing so this project made useful steps towards strengthening the conservation status of threatened chiropters in the country’s Extremadura region.

See the LIFE website’s thematic pages for more experiences from LIFE projects showing how Europe’s extraction industry can operate more closely in harmony with wildlife and the wider environment.

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