July 5, 2011

Certifying Sustainability

By Therese Dunphy

Last month, our neighbors to the north brought the concept of green aggregates one step closer to the United States. Holcim (Canada) Inc. and Environmental Defence jointly established Socially and Environmentally Responsible Aggregates (SERA), a not-for-profit organization charged with developing rigorous, but voluntary, certification standards for responsibly sourced sand, stone, and gravel.

“We see this as shifting away from the combative nature of where the industry is with various stakeholders,” Bill Galloway, senior vice president at Holcim (Canada) Inc., told The Globe and Mail. By locating aggregate operations in areas that minimize environmental harm and using operating practices that avoid impacting neighbors, Galloway says that aggregate production can be green.

Along with announcing the formation of SERA, the two groups released draft standards for green certification. These include items such as the selection of greenfield sites that don’t include environmentally sensitive lands, creation of wildlife habitats, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, greater use of recycled materials, attention to water quality issues, and involvement of local communities.

The draft standards are the result of two years of discussions between Holcim and Environmental Defence. Rick Smith, the activist group’s executive director, told the newspaper that operators receiving such a green stamp of approval would face less opposition from groups such as his own when seeking new permits. Typically, his organization is involved in three to six fights against aggregates operation at any given time. “A great amount of that sting would be taken out of this issue if this standard were broadly adopted by the industry,” Smith asserts.

To get the venture off to a strong start, SERA secured the services of BRE Global, the same group that helped develop the BES 6001 Framework Standard for the Responsible Sourcing of Construction Products in the United Kingdom. That certification was the first of its kind to offer third-party certification of a wide range of construction materials and products. Many U.K. operators — including Aggregate Industries, Cemex, Hanson, Lafarge, and Tarmac — have had their operations certified through BES 6001.

The idea is similar to one successfully pioneered by the lumber industry. Certainly, the fact that traditionally combative parties were able to collaborate on this process is a positive sign. Perhaps, it’s an idea that should cross the border, eh?

3 things I learned from this issue:

1. Loader scales can be used at the face to track blast yield, page 17.

2. A crusher liner can wear thin — or through — in some areas before hitting the halfway point of its predicted lifecycle, page 22.

3. Coyotes near a mine site can trigger an imminent danger order (I’m not kidding), page 30.

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