Holcim: Securing permits by restoring habitats

Note: This case study shows how Holcim is helping achieve the CBD Aichi Stratgic Goals C and B. See more cases in WBCSD’s report “Biodiversity and ecosystem services – scaling up business solutions

The business case

In Switzerland, since the 1950s, 90% of the Dry meadows have been lost and thus are now considered an endangered habitat. Testori Quarry of Holcim Switzerland was also one of such Dry meadow areas where some rare species were on decline due to habitat loss. In response, Holcim Switzerland restores its closed and degraded Testori quarry, where this initiative also helped to get an extension for an active quarry Mormont. Testori now provides habitats for rare species and gradually the site is becoming one of the best examples in the region of the Dry meadow habitat, which is nationally important from an ecological perspective.

The issue

Founded in Switzerland in 1912, Holcim is one of the world's leading suppliers of cement and building materials. Holcim's core businesses include the manufacture and distribution of cement, and the production, processing and distribution of aggregates (crushed stone, gravel and sand), ready-mix concrete and asphalt. The company also offers consulting, research, trading, engineering and other services. With 80,000 employees worldwide, Holcim has production sites in around 70 countries and in 2011 recorded sales of over CHF20 billion. Holcim Switzerland, apart of the Holcim Group, employs approximately 1,300 employees and is a leading supplier of cement, aggregates, ready mixed concrete and lime.

The Eclépens plant of Holcim Switzerland has one active quarry, Mormont, and one closed quarry, Testori. Mormont supplies limestone, the main raw material, to the cement plant.  To ensure the continued supply of limestone, the plant needed to extend its quarry permit. The Testori quarry, closed in 1953, over the time, developed into a forest comprising woody trees and shrubs. However, this reduced the extent of Dry meadow, a rare and endangered habitat in Switzerland that was present prior to quarrying at the site. Locally threatened and rare species that depend on this habitat such as lizard orchids and aspic vipers were on the decline. In Switzerland, Dry meadows are considered as an endangered habitat and today only one-tenth of these ecologically valuable lands exist compared to 1950. The loss is primarily due to changing land-use practices. Today, Dry meadow habitats, including Testori are classified as nationally important in Switzerland.

The response

In order to extend its Mormont quarry permit, Holcim Switzerland offered to reestablish the Dry meadow habitat that was present prior to quarrying, at the closed site, Testori. The company recognized the opportunity to use its closed quarry to create increase the biodiversity value from forest to an area of national biodiversity importance.

As a first step, the specialists working at the plant undertook a multi-year comprehensive study (including floral and faunal survey) to understand the biodiversity profile of the site. Based upon the findings, an action plan was developed, together with local authorities and expert biologists. The main objective of the action plan was to promote conservation of the Dry meadows ecosystem in order to provide habitats for the Lizard orchid (Himantoglossum hircinum) and Aspic viper (Vipera aspis).

As part of the restoration process, in order to minimize the damage to natural floral and faunal population, heavy machinery was avoided for vegetation removal. Instead, “soft clearing” - plant by plant - was undertaken, sometimes over several years. Horses were employed to help transport tree cuttings and cleared material without damaging the delicate soils. These activities were normally conducted in January to minimize the disturbance to the snakes. To promote herbaceous and shrub vegetation to grow, regular pruning of the taller and woody vegetation to a desired height was undertaken. Since the inception of the project, progress has been tracked through annual botanical monitoring which has informed update and revision of the action plan as required.

The results

The Testori rehabilitation project earned Eclépens approval to extend its quarrying permit for Mormont and at the same time brought back an important ecosystem to the Testori site. Today, the site is a favourite location for naturalists and supports a range of IUCN Red List flora and fauna species, including the Pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgarism) and Bee orchid (Ophrys apifera).

The project has demonstrated that closed quarry sites and non-productive sites can be opportunities to restore and enhance biodiversity which help in reducing the overall impact from the extraction operations. This approach can also help to secure the needed consents and approvals for extraction operations elsewhere.Restoration of quarry sites that is informed and guided by regular monitoring supports an adaptive management approach, which improves understanding of the optimal process for and benefits of returning quarries to their natural state

By using its present landholdings to create a high value habitat, Eclepens has converted the risk into an opportunity that benefitted the company as well as the environment.

Further information:  Cyrille Roland cyrille.roland@holcim.com


Holcim: Securing permits by restoring habitats 32.72KB
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