Holcim France: Enriching biodiversity during quarrying activities.

Holcim France: Enriching biodiversity during quarrying activities

The cement plant of Altkirch was originally created for the construction of the big Alsace canal and is located in the Sundgau, close to the German and Swiss borders. In 2007, Holcim modernized the plant, achieving an increased production while reducing its overall environmental impact. The Altkirch plant became certified ISO 9001 in 2001 and ISO 14001 in 2004.

The quarry covers an 83ha wide area and provides the needed raw materials (clay, limestone and shale) to the plant. Nearly 650,000 tones of materials are being extracted each year.

Following key goals have been identified:

  • Full rehabilitation of the area and overall conservation of natural habitats
  • Increase of available fauna and flora
  • Improved plant environmental performance

The site exploitation plan is designed to account for sustainable ecological criteria in order to minimize the impact on the ecosystems. This is accomplished through incorporating progressive rehabilitation in the mining plan. Holcim has defined the site end-use and has a program for annual rehabilitation operations to achieve the final goal.

In order to achieve biological enrichment whilst respecting local biological specificities, the area is being reforested with native species. This work is realized together with the French ONF, Office National des Forêts (National Forest Office).

The onsite assessment and monitoring efforts were conduced with the help of the ONF - Office National des Forêts (national forest association).

Almost half of the exploited sites have already been completely rehabilitated. Monitoring programs are in place to ensure successful rehabilitation.

The progressive rehabilitation has resulted in significant biodiversity enrichment. Large varieties of species have been documented on-site, living in perfect harmony with their surrounding environment. The ONF has identified over one hundred different species on site, including several that are registered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. These species include reptiles and batrachians (such as yellow-bellied toad…), aquatic birds, mammals (such as wild boar and roe deer) and insects (especially dragonflies). This demonstrates that if planned properly, quarrying activities can be conducted whilst also enriching biodiversity.

Besides biodiversity management of the quarry, Holcim also works on environmental performance improvements of its plant site. With the modernization in 2007, the plant has reduced ecological impacts (through reduced thermal and electric energy consumption, reduced emissions). The plant is dedicated to CO2 emission reduction programs, using alternatives fuel in co-processing with low heat recuperation.

Holcim is committed to active engagement with local populations and authorities about its operations and environmental performance. The company organized a discovery week-end in July 2008 to show its operations and demonstrate that quarry exploitation, cement production and biodiversity preservation do not exclude each other. This event was largely covered by the regional press. The plant's efforts in sustainable development have been recognized and praised by the former French environmental state secretary, Mrs. Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, after visiting the site in 2007.