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Sand and gravel processing plant, BGS©NERC

The construction sector is an important part of the UK economy. Aggregates account for approximately 85 per cent of the non–energy minerals extracted in the UK and, are critical for the national economy. The construction sector relies on the supply of construction aggregates, obtained from 1300 quarries in Britain, dredged from the sea bed by a fleet of marine aggregate dredgers and through recycling. Production from all sources is approximately 260 million tonnes per year. The Mineral Products Association estimates that the industry provides employment for an estimated 88,000 people – 38 000 directly and 50 000 indirectly.

Additional information on construction minerals can be found in the sections on Planning, Digital maps and Commodities and statistics.

Aggregate Minerals Survey for England and Wales

The Aggregate Minerals (AM) surveys, based at four yearly intervals since 1973, provide in–depth and up to date information of regional and national sales, inter–regional flows, transportation, consumption and permitted reserves of primary aggregates. The most recent reports are available from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) web site. The reports collate survey data for primary aggregates (both land won and dredged) in England and Wales. The report also presents data on the movement and consumption of primary aggregates by sub–region. Data are used to inform Government in order to review and update planning policy guidance.

Production process and mineral waste

Washed gravel, BGS©NERC

Construction aggregate is produced in a multi-stage process that involves drilling and blasting, extraction, crushing and milling, washing, screening and classification. This process produces large volumes of mineral waste; typically 10% of that extracted by quarrying. Past research projects have looked at production and process technology and quarry fines and waste.

The strategic importance of the marine aggregate industry to the UK

The British Marine Aggregate Producers Association (BMAPA) commissioned BGS to examine the strategic role and importance of marine aggregates to the overall supply of aggregates in the UK. It focuses on the socio–economic issues associated with the production and use of marine aggregates, and their contribution to national and regional supply. The report is available to download from the BMAPA website.

Assessing the feasibility for underground mining of aggregates

In 2009 the BGS participated in research, led by Camborne School of Mines (part of the University of Exeter) and funded by MIRO, to assess the economic feasibility for underground mining for aggregates. The research focused on whether or not aggregates could be produced and delivered to a local market from an underground operation in the southern and eastern regions of England at a cost comparable with that for production and transport from traditional surface quarries located further afield.