Aggregates are among the very essentials of life, as important to us as the food from our farms.
Quarries and downstream construction manufacturing sites, through their products, give us places to live, places to work, places to play and much more. The mineral products they produce literally underpin our society.
But mineral extraction does have environmental implications.
Recognising this, the Northern Ireland industry aims to adopt a responsible approach to its work and a considerate attitude to its neighbours.
It is easy to regard a quarry as a hole in the ground. But dig a little deeper and you can start to appreciate that so many of the good things of life come out of that hole.
In a typical year, Northern Ireland’s mineral products support:
The building of new homes
School building and maintenance programmes
Our hospital building and maintenance programme
Maintenance of our road and rail network
Improvements to water and sewage services
The upgrading and maintenance of our airports
Supplies of special sands and aggregates for our gardens and parks
Every year nearly 14 tonnes of aggregates are needed per head of the population in Northern Ireland
A typical family indirectly demands three lorry loads of aggregates each year
A new house requires some 60 tonnes of aggregates
The mineral products industry employs around 5,600 people in Northern Ireland
The turnover of the Northern Ireland Mineral Products industry is approximately
£650 million, approximately 2.75 % of NI GDP
There are around 160 quarries, mines and sand pits in NI.
The construction industry, which contributes around 10% cent of the Province’s gross domestic product, is completely reliant on mineral products.
Annual demand for aggregates in Northern Ireland is approximately 24 million tonnes and the jobs that quarrying supports are often in rural areas where other employment opportunities can be scarce.
In fact, 75% of the total number of quarries and pits in Northern Ireland are situated in areas designated by Government as Targeting Social Need.
All mineral extraction is strictly controlled and has to meet high standards of environmental performance set by government, the environment agency and the planning authorities.
As urban sprawl and land designation increases, it is vitally important that Northern Ireland’s mineral resources are identified and protected for responsible utilisation by future generations.
Northern Ireland is an important source of high quality aggregate for use in road surfaces across the UK and Europe. This aggregate, because of its hardness, provides increased skid resistance on roads thereby increasing safety. The sector also produce high quality limestone and chalk that is used in many downstream products. We also have an essential resource of salt at Carrickfergus that enables us to keep our roads network frost free during the winter.
The mineral products industry in Northern Ireland also produces a wide range of stone products that are essential to modern life. Products such as kerbstones, concrete floors and beams, paving slabs, concrete pipes of a wide range of diameters are used to upgrade the roads, water and sewage facilities and buildings.
To find out more about mineral products in Northern Ireland, email MPANI here.