Ireland’s Supply Of Aggregates Is Progressively Diminishing. A new report by The Irish Concrete Federation outlines the steps the Government needs to take in order to meet targets set out in Project Ireland 2040
The Irish Concrete Federation’s new publication, entitled “Essential Aggregates: Providing for Ireland’s needs to 2040”, is an industry led call for Government to ensure that Ireland’s future supply of aggregates is planned, monitored and managed in a sustainable manner, to provide for Ireland’s future infrastructure development. According to the ICF, Ireland will need to produce an estimated 1.5 billion tonnes of aggregates (crushed rock, sand and gravel) to meet housing and infrastructure targets set down under the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 plan. The report identifies that demand for aggregates in Ireland at 12 tonnes per capita is twice the current EU 28 average, due to Ireland’s infrastructural deficit, dispersed pattern of settlement and resulting large road network.
While Ireland currently has a ready supply of high quality aggregate reserves, existing reserves at active quarries and pits are being progressively diminished by ongoing extraction activity and are not being replenished at an equivalent rate. Ireland needs an authorised reserve of approximately 1.5 billion tonnes of aggregates to meet expected demand for Project Ireland 2040.
However, scarcities in particular products such as sand in the eastern and midland regions of the country are already emerging as terrestrial sources of aggregates from sand and gravel and rock deposits continue to be diminished. It is increasingly difficult to source quality aggregates required for construction products such as high specification concrete, adjacent to major population centres, in particular, Dublin. In the absence of a local source of aggregates, demand can only be met by transporting large volumes of heavy product over longer distances with the obvious negative economic and environmental consequences. The Federation is warning that these scarcities of some aggregates are due to natural shortages, a lack of forward planning and delays and other shortcomings in the planning process.
It’s a simple statement of fact that Project Ireland 2040 will not happen without aggregates. The Irish quarrying industry comprises approximately 500 active quarries. These quarries produce aggregates from crushed rock, sand and gravel which are used as key building materials in the construction of all of Ireland’s social infrastructure and are essential to our quality of life. Aggregates are also the basic raw materials for concrete products which are ubiquitous in Ireland’s built environment. There are approximately 220 ready mixed concrete plants and 20 large scale precast concrete plants located throughout Ireland. In addition, there are 40 plants producing bitumen bound road surfacing materials for Ireland’s national road network.
Put simply, Ireland’s economy could not function without aggregates which touch virtually every aspect of our lives – in housing, schools, hospitals, offices, roads, rail, airports, water infrastructure and agriculture. Aggregates underpin the economy and are the backbone of sustainable construction in Ireland, without which modern and future living will not be possible.
According to the ICF, it is crucial that the link is made between the need for Ireland’s future housing and infrastructure and the raw material supply chain that enables those societal necessities to be delivered and that this raw material supply chain is identified and protected. ICF recommends that the following proactive steps are taken by Government and other stakeholder organisations to ensure that future demand for aggregates can be supplied sustainably to ensure the achievement of the Government’s objectives.
National policy makers must recognise that supply of aggregates cannot be assumed and must be planned, monitored and managed to ensure that future demand can be supplied in a sustainable manner and support growth in the economy. A national policy for aggregates must be developed by Government to underpin and inform local and regional planning policy and to promote the identification and protection of essential strategic reserves of aggregates throughout Ireland.
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Editor of Irish Construction Industry Magazine