Focusing on delivering an insight into ‘quarry life’, the 2016 IQ study tour provided 20 delegates with the opportunity to undertake a three–day excursion, visiting six sites spanning across South Wales and into Bristol.
Intended to assist with the learning and development of those currently working towards achieving their qualifications through the Centre for Mineral Products Professional Development at Derby University, the study tour focuses on widening the knowledge, experience and understanding through first hand insights into the industry.
Ensuring maximum benefit to the learning experience, the visits are arranged to provide an understanding into a diverse range of extractives and production environments. This year’s tour benefitted from visits to a surface mined coal site, high PSV gritstone operation, limestone operation, clay brick manufacturing and dimension stone facility.
The first stop on the tour was a visit to Taffs Well Quarry north of Cardiff, which extracts approximately 1 million tonnes of limestone each year. Owned and operated by CEMEX UK, the 70-hectare site was designated as a Special Area of Conservation under the European Union Habitats Directive by the EU in 2005. Flanked on three sides by beech woodland the site also contains species such as oak and ash, additionally benefitting from a rich variety of flora and fauna.
In addition to peregrine falcons, the woodland area additionally provides a home and hunting ground for birds of prey including goshawks, sparrow hawks, buzzards, merlins and tawny owls. The rare blind cave spider, found in only one other UK location and lesser horseshoe bats also reside in the site's Lesser Garth Cave, a site that contained evidence of hearths and bones of animals dating to the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age.
The tour continued onto Cattybrook Brick Works to the north of Bristol. Charles Richardson, Engineer of Bristol and South Wales Railway founded the company in 1865.
Realising the potential of the clay in the area for high quality engineering brick manufacture when visiting the nearby Patchway tunnel excavation he initially leased a few acres of land at Cattybrook to produce engineering bricks.
In 1871 this initiative developed into a partnership with Ernest Street & Edward Grover, creating the Cattybrook Brick Company Ltd. During 1872 the company produced 30 million engineering bricks to line the Severn Tunnel, with Cattybrook bricks additionally being used in the construction of Portishead Power Station, Fry's factory at Keynsham & Imperial Tobacco in Bristol. It is now owned and run by Ibstock Brick.
Day 2 took the tour to Craig-Yr-Hesg, owned and operated by Hanson. The site is a high Polished Stone Value gritstone quarry, producing around 350,000 tonnes a year of high quality aggregate,which due to its durability and skid resistance is exported to asphalt plants across England and Wales and used in producing road surfacing materials.
Celtic Energy welcomed the tour during the afternoon to their East Pit site. Mined by Celtic Energy since 2005, the site covers an area of around 400-hectares with a current operational area of around 80 hectares.
The mine produces high quality anthracite coal from the twelve individual coal seams, running up to one hundred and fifty metres below the surface, producing essential supplies of anthracite for the domestic, industrial and power generation markets.
The final day took the tour to Forest Pennant, courtesy of Forest of Dean Stone who have been quarrying and processing the unique Forest Blue/Grey and Grey/Green Sandstones since 1922.
The stone is a unique source of carboniferous Pennant sandstone, locally quarried and sawn in Gloucestershire and has been used in a variety of historically important projects such as Hampton Court and the interior of St Johns and Exeter Colleges at Oxford University.
The stone continues to be extracted by the traditional plug and feather method, with all building and walling stone still being cropped and fettled by hand. This provides the additional benefit of avoiding the risk of structural cracks in the raw blocks of stone and providing a lower environmental impact.
Furthering their ecofriendly stance, Forest Pennant was additionally the first specialist masonry company in the UK to generate its own green electricity through the installation of a micro hydro turbine generator, used to power the companies processing equipment.
Concluding the site visits saw the group attend on Clearwell Caves, a 4500-year-old former iron ore mine and natural cave system. Formed by underground streams 330 million years ago, the site is comprised of a warren of dimly lit passageways, caverns and pools, with the caves also home to several species of bats.
Large-scale commercial mining concluded in 1945, with the site opening as a working museum in 1968. Iron ore in the form of ochre continues to be mined here, still used in making artists' pigments.
Rounding up the tour, Cath Pickett from the HSE provided an educational evening presentation, covering the latest hot topics from the HSE.
The study tour and globally recognised qualifications, delivered through the Centre for Mineral Products Professional Development have been devised as part of a partnership between the Institute of Quarrying, University of Derby Corporate and industry experts and are aligned to the training needs of the industry.
Find out how you can help your career reach new heights by visiting www.derby.ac.uk/quarrying