On 25 May at its Delegates Assembly, UEPG, the European Aggregates Association, signed a Letter of Intent with the Regional Office for Europe of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) towards the goal of working together to further foster biodiversity in quarries and pits across Europe. The Letter of Intent commits both parties to organize a high-level meeting twice a year over the next three years to explore and develop joint projects in several specific areas of common interest which have already been identified.

UEPG represents the largest non-energy extractive industry in Europe. Over 3 billion tonnes of crushed stone, sand and gravel are extracted from 24,000 quarries and pits across Europe. These are operated by 14,000 companies most of which are SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises), employing some 250,000 people directly and indirectly.

IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization, with more than 1,200 government and NGO members and almost 11,000 volunteer experts in some 160 countries. IUCN’s work is supported by over 1,000 staff in 45 offices and hundreds of partners in public, NGO and private sectors around the world. IUCN works on biodiversity, climate change, energy, human livelihoods and greening the world economy by supporting scientific research, managing field projects all over the world, and bringing governments, NGOs, the UN and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice.

The outgoing UEPG President, Jim O’Brien, indicated that there was a long and positive history of cooperation between UEPG and IUCN and commented that “In 2007, UEPG was the first industry association to sign up to IUCN’s Countdown 2010 initiative, and in 2010 it was the first industry association to join the European Union Business and Biodiversity Platform which is implemented by IUCN and partners. UEPG has gathered case studies from its members which show how operating and restored quarries and pits can become biodiversity havens. The goal now is to develop an even closer cooperation with IUCN and thereby to further enhance our biodiversity performance”.

Monica Jacobs, Head of IUCN Brussels Office, commented that “IUCN welcomes the commitment of UEPG members who, in a time of economic challenges, understand the vital importance of conserving biodiversity and using resources sustainably for the future. I am pleased to see UEPG members’ environmental sensitivity and awareness, and their efforts for sustainable operations. IUCN wishes to further support UEPG and its national members across Europe, and in particular its many SMEs, in their biodiversity-enhancing operational and restoration projects. The signing of the Letter of Intent builds on the already existing cooperation that exists between IUCN and UEPG, and takes our partnership one step further in conserving ecosystems and biodiversity in the aggregates industry.”