Supply Chain Risks due to Extreme Weather Events

The UK Government is aware of risks that are posed by extreme weather events to infrastructure such as roads, railways, power and communications systems, and consultations have taken place with various industrial sectors. The minerals industry as represented by producers of solid, non-energy, industrial minerals and construction materials has a voice in that consultation.

It is interesting to consider the minerals industry and its place in the supply chain, and the interaction with company supply chains. Of course there is no single supply chain, rather a complex web or a set of loops - the quarrying industry for instance provides materials that go into steel, electronics, and tyres, all of which are used to build heavy machinery that is used to mine the materials in the first place. Any producer of anything is both part of a supply chain and the end user of it's own chain. We have to focus on the items that are critical to us and/or that we can influence, and the issues that threaten our own ability to contribute to the greater Society supply chain.

Minerals is a bit of a Cinderella industry in many ways because it is right at the beginning of the supply of materials to Society at large - the four basic human needs of Food, Water, Shelter, and Warmth are all provided in whole or in part by mined and quarried products. It is a very true mantra that says 'If it can't be grown it must be mined'.

The members of the Mineral Products Association in the UK support (in 2011) an annual £400 billion turnover of industries using mineral products, and over 2.5 million people employed by those industries. A million Tonnes of mineral or finished products is put into the national supply chain each working day. Supply chain risk to mineral availability is a risk to many other business sectors and to individual consumers.

It has been asked what actions are being taken by businesses to manage supply chain risk or scarcity of resources. And how great is the level of awareness in businesses of risks posed by climate change.

Where climate change affects the world of water our main actions divide firstly into changing working processes on the ground - trying to minimise the minerals industry environmental impact at each step of our processes - and secondly engaging in legislative debate and technical research elsewhere. We are heavily involved in emerging legislation on Carbon, Biodiversity, and Water Resources. One of the risks to the future 'licence to operate' would be poor legislation driven by hasty or poorly informed responses to physical climate change issues and the way to minimise that is to engage.

Awareness certainly in natural resources industries (food, minerals, water supply, energy, engineering) is much higher than it was 3 or 4 years ago, and more widely spread amongst the people in those organisations. There has to be a question mark for industries that have a less direct connection with the environment - businesses perhaps in the middle of a supply chain or smaller sectors that do not have the time or staff to really concentrate on the wider picture.

The weather itself, all the media stories, internal company ambassadors, and the news all contribute to making awareness widespread nowadays - what probably has further to go is acceptance of the issues. But there are gaps. For instance the recent gas shortage alleviated by a single LNG tanker arriving in the UK hit the headlines, but the minerals crisis in Europe of a few years ago - that gave rise to the Raw Materials Initiative - went largely unnoticed by the public.

Specific events in the aggregates sector include operational disruption due to flooding, temporary shutdown of sites due to lack of process water, and indeed prosecutions for technical breaches of licences. Then there are geopolitical issues. When the second Gulf War was at its height and Afghanistan was warming up, there was a worldwide shortage of large earthmover tyres - some of the main manufacturers being American and their requirement under the Patriot Act to first supply the military.

What support is needed from Government to encourage the integration of supply chain sustainability? In the author's view:

  • Certainly advice and communication to the businesss community through a range of media would be welcome.
  • The creation or retention of forward looking support teams such as the Climate Change Committee and working groups on future responsive legislation. The Water Bill 2012 promises to introduce such responsive legislation in the field of water resources and much of the debate thus far with Government departments has been very fruitful. There may be other sectors that need the same treatment.
  • Encourage diversity of supply chain manufacturers - the Rare Earths situation and the growth of energy imports have highlighted that the UK is too dependent on too few suppliers. Too many of our national eggs are in other national baskets. Government should support home-grown suppliers to minimise both environmental and geopolitical risks. Fiscal and legislative measures have a role to play.
  • Ensure that UK supply chain operators enjoy a level playing field in the global context.

Finally, how do we communicate climate-driven supply chain risks through 'the business community' that is itself such a diverse group from 1 person businesses to multi-nationals? Probably the CBI together with the British Chambers of Commerce along with professional bodies and Trade Associations do offer adequate platforms for communications - the challenge is perhaps resourcing the data handling and boiling down the vast amount of information to the key issues and the real issues that can be influenced by businesses of all sizes.


Other Articles from Wardrop Minerals Management Limited

A Few Quarry Problems Solved

Coastal gravel quarry in a Scottish raise bed, A limestone quarry in Staffordshire, A gritstone quarry in South Wales and many more.

Read more about - A Few Quarry Problems Solved...

Minerals Sterilisation considerations for Land Developers

For many years, since minerals planning was formalised through a Minerals Local Plan based system in the early 1980s, County Councils as mineral planning authorities have carried a general responsibility to try and avoid mineral resources - mainly bulk materials such as aggregates and clays - from being sterilised, or put beyond use, by permanent surface development.

In the author's experience this responsibility was discharged fairly patchily in the distant past but following the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in 2012 many Counties are applying sterilisation policies with greater vigour.

Read more about - Minerals Sterilisation considerations for Land Developers...

Frequency Analysis of Clays in a Sedimentary Sandstone Sequence

The author's former company in the early 1980s purchased and began to develop a High Polished Stone Value (PSV) quarry in South Wales. The geological sequence was the Carboniferous Pennant Sandstone and altogether about 160 metres vertical thickness of this deposit was to be intercepted by the quarry working.

Prior to purchasing the operation a core drilling exercise was carried out involving drilling through the full relevant sequence.

Read more about - Frequency Analysis of Clays in a Sedimentary Sandstone Sequence...

Aggregates Landsearch - Then and Now - Changing practices in land search for aggregates and other construction materials

It is a simple truism that minerals can only be worked where they lie, and quarries for sand and gravel or for crushed rock need landsearch activity to identify mineral bearing land for greenfield developments or extensions to existing operations.

Read more about - Aggregates Landsearch - Then and Now - Changing practices in land search for aggregates and other construction materials...

Responding to DEFRA at the MIRO Review of Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund Research Projects, Wellington Arch, London - 12th March 2008

Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a privilege to be able to respond on behalf of the Mineral Industry Research Organisation to DEFRA's Review of the Sustainability Fund Research Projects. MIRO and English Heritage have selected a most interesting venue for this launch and The Wellington Arch is perhaps slightly more relevant than many people might at first think.

Read more about - Responding to DEFRA at the MIRO Review of Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund Research Projects, Wellington Arch, London - 12th March 2008...

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