Health & Safety (H&S) and Security
The aggregates industry operates with heavy mobile and fixed machinery in a changing outdoors environment. This leads to higher accident rates and more severe injuries, making the aggregates industry the most dangerous industrial sector: 1st sector with highest fatal incidence rate (6.8) and >65% of accidents have more than 1-month leave (highest sectorial rate)5. Furthermore, most of the workers are isolated from the others so it complicates the connection between workers, machines, sites, etc.
Efficiency, Selectivity and Profitability of quarrying operations
As mentioned above, 98.5% of quarries are SMEs. However, the remaining 1.5% corresponds to large companies employing ≥25% of workers. This heterogenous scenario forces a search for flexible solutions to answer the whole sector’s needs. Although the machinery involved in the aggregates quarrying sites is becoming more efficient and updated, technologies currently work as isolated islands with no connection among the different processes in the quarry. This is even more critical for multi-site quarries.
Operating quarries requires removing natural vegetation, topsoil and subsoil to reach the mineral deposits. Thus, ecosystems might be affected by: Noise and vibrations generated by the machinery; Pollution and decreased air quality such as dust, CO2, NOx, PM2.5, PM10 directly derived from the RM but also from the non-electric machinery; Disruption of the movement of surface water and groundwater and interruption of natural water recharge and can lead to reduced quantity and quality of drinking water for residents and wildlife near or downstream; Land use and waste generation (extractive and industrial waste).
Due to the long lifespan of quarries, even if they were initially isolated, the growth of cities is causing them to encroach on densely populated areas. Their proximity to neighborhoods leads to social conflicts, such as traffic, environmental concerns and loss of trust in the RM value chain. These challenges are closely interlinked, e.g.: dust from in-pit traffic and crushing signifies H&S hazard, production losses due to excessive fines during crushing, environmental impact, pollution and noise, leading to social tensions. Thus, one single action to reduce dust influences the 4 main challenges H&S, profitability, environment and social.