We are living in changing times. When the country voted to leave the European Union, as a nation and an industry we entered into a period of uncertainty, both in terms of our economy and where the UK sits in the broader European landscape.
Breaking down barriers is vital if we are going to safeguard the future of the mineral extractives sector. But it appears we have a long way to go, despite our best intent.
Like all industries, mineral extractives and quarrying is in a state of perpetual motion when it comes to embracing and adopting new technologies and future-looking operating practices.
We are now halfway through our centenary year. The focus of the celebrations has been to demonstrate and showcase how far both the mineral extractives industry and the Institute of Quarrying have come over that time. As an industry we have progressed in so many different respects, from employee training and development to health and safety standards and environmental awareness. The activities and events we have already held along with the ones yet to come are not just about reflecting on the progress and development of the industry, but also to look ahead and outline our vision and goals for the next 100 years.
We are all bombarded every day by new technology and new working practices. Without acknowledging it, each of us engages in daily personal development that enables us to keep our heads above the flood waters of modern-day life. That ever-increasing speed of change also interfaces with our work lives, whether we like it or not. It is the role of a professional body such as IQ to help us to be better-equipped employers and employees.
The minerals extractives sector plays an instrumental role in our everyday lives, yet quarrying and related value-added activity has an impact on the environment that requires active management. Environmental issues represent a key priority for professionals in our sector and there are many programmes and schemes in place which not only work to reduce the negative impacts, but also add significant natural capital to the industry’s balance sheet.
Like many, when the time came, I opted to take the traditional path into higher education, studying for my degree at the University of Hertfordshire and my PhD at the University of Bath, the latter supported by Aggregate Industries. But, given my time again, I’ve often thought that the apprenticeship pathway might have suited me better.
Rightly consigned to history are the days of accepted poor practice and safety at work in our sector. Today, the UK minerals extractives industry is the global benchmark for operational standards of safety, delivered through a commitment to, and investment in, better operational practices, as well as improved standards of education, training, skills and leadership.
This year the Institute of Quarrying celebrates a century of service supporting people working in the mineral extractives industry. That’s a major landmark for any organisation to achieve. On a personal level, it’s an honour to preside over what promises to be an extraordinary year of celebrations that will raise the positive profile of our industry, in the UK and internationally.