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 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:
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.