Holcim Belgium: Long-term rehabilitation efforts for enhanced biodiversity.

Holcim Belgium: Long-term rehabilitation efforts for enhanced biodiversity

Holcim's Obourg plant is located in Mons, close to the French border. The plant has active quarries situated on the east side of the village and two closed and rehabilitated quarries on the west side of the village of Obourg. Due to the high groundwater level in the areas, the extraction occurs below the water level.

The surrounding area is mainly composed of residential and agricultural land: grassland, cultivated land parcels and forests.

The exploitation of the quarries enabled the creation of particular habitats such as wetlands. When the extraction activities stopped, a lake was created which welcomes today a large variety of migratory birds. The surrounding cliffs have become the habitat for colonies of cormorants.

The chalky substrate favors the development of dry meadows which promotes unique fauna.

Holcim's integrated objective is twofold:

  • Through rehabilitation, contributing to biodiversity conservation with the enhancement of the local landscape;
  • Awareness rising of the importance of biodiversity and the positive impacts extractive industry can have on its environment.

The rehabilitation of the quarry sites, which begun in 1993, recovers natural habitats for different plant and animal species. Holcim monitors and maintains these sites to ensure the habitats thrive and informs local stakeholders and residents of the efforts undertaken.

Holcim works with external local partners in order to provide the needed expertise to develop tools and instruments for good management planning. The cooperation with the research institute Phragmites provides ecological assessment and monitoring of the sites, the analysis of local ecosystems, as well as the elaboration of management plans and the development of educational materials for local populations.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN ) independent expert panel, who visited the site in January 2009, Obourg serves as example for successful rehabilitation of old extraction sites. The efforts undertaken include close collaboration with local stakeholders. Obourg installed two major facilities on the rehabilitated sites:

The " Jardin Géologique" (geological garden), was created in 2002. It contains a 250m wide geological path retracing 500 years of biodiversity history as well as an exhibition and documentation centre. It aims to inform local populations and visitors on biodiversity issues, in relation with the plant itself. It is a unique educational project in Belgium. See www.jardin-geologique.be for further information.

Holcim Belgium leverages on showing rehabilitation activities and their positive impacts on biodiversity.

Through the several activities undertaken by the House of Biodiversity and the Geological Garden, Holcim's strong engagement to raise awareness on biodiversity issues among local populations and authorities has been particularly appreciated.

The " Maison de la Biodiversité" (house of biodiversity), was inaugurated in spring 2008. It offers different activities, such as guided tours of the quarry, seminars, nature photography workshops as well as a multimedia display on biodiversity. It is primarily funded by the European Union, but widely facilitated by Holcim and local universities as well as strongly encouraged by local authorities and promoted by the regional press. See www.maison-de-la-biodiversite.be for further information.

An integrated landscape approach enables to minimize biodiversity losses in the short term and to maximize biodiversity gains in the medium and long term. Active management of invasive species and design of appropriate rehabilitation enables a richer biodiversity to be established after the quarry operations and offers better habitat to native species than it did before. Measures to further develop the biodiversity are systematically undertaken.