Mining company in Israel will set example for control of invasive alien species

Invasive alien species infested the Hanaton quarry before the restoration project took place.

Invasive alien species infested the Hanaton quarry before the restoration project took place.

When in 2012 the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (BirdLife in Israel) wrote to the CEO of a big international building materials company, it was to complain about an environmental problem caused by their mining.

Invasive plants had colonised the Hanson Israel quarries and their seeds were mixed in the production gravel. Consequently, the weeds were spreading by the truckload to building sites across the country.

Companies dislike to be in the spotlight for environmental liabilities, so Hanson Israel belongs took immediate action and a programme for eradication and control of weeds was prepared jointly with SPNI.

With the next growing season, treatment of the problem had begun at the Hanson mining sites. The results from the first year are clearly visible and very encouraging.

Hanaton quarry after the removal of invasive plants.

Hanaton quarry after the removal of invasive plants.

Two years later Hanson Israel and the Society for the Protection of Nature (BirdLife in Israel) have teamed up to spread out something better: a methodology for keeping invasive plants under control and a commitment to work in partnership to promote responsible mineral extraction and care for biodiversity among the mining sector and the communities living around quarries.

Their objective is to ensure that half of Israel’s production of aggregates is weed free. Producers will be required to follow  a voluntary code of conduct whereby systematic management of the quarries ensure that they stay out of risk. In the long run, this will encourage the government to raise the standards and the producers and clients to minimise ensuing costs for weed control.

Invasive plants were removed from the roads used to transport quarried materials.

Invasive plants were removed from roads used to transport quarried materials.

Today, construction companies have no means to select weed free aggregates on the market. The risk of spreading the unwanted seeds is high as the quarries themselves are a source of seeds of invasive species. Besides these ecological damages, invasive plants are a hazard for infrastructure by causing damage to roads and pipes, and the costs of treatment are externalised to the construction sector – an inefficient solution.

With invasive alien species being the 2nd largest pressure on global biodiversity, a focus on prevention such as the one proposed by SPNI and Hanson can be a great solution. Driven by the maxima that prevention is better than cure, I think the case of Hanson Israel and SPNI is a good example that could encourage other companies in the minerals extraction and construction sectors to stay free of invasive alien species.

4 thoughts on “Mining company in Israel will set example for control of invasive alien species

  1. I’m not sure I understand. The invasive plants, and their seeds, where eliminated how exactly? Were they hand picked or pesticides were needed? And if pesticides were used wasn’t the material (gravel etc.) coming out of the quarry “after” the treatment somehow contaminated by them for common use? Thanks

    • Manlio Turri, thanks for the questions. Indeed, getting rid of invasive plants is not an easy task. It takes a lot of effort. Typically it requires mechanical removal of the above ground parts of the plants by trimming, mowing or cutting and follow up spraying with herbicides on the stumps to minimise regrowth. The operation needs to be repeated several times during the growing season, which usually leads to the exhaustion of the plant’s energy stores in the root system. The residues of herbicide in the gravel and sand are not a great problem as the materials usually stay on stock piles for some tome before they get transported out of the quarry. This time is sufficient for the the cemicals to break down into non harmful compounds.

      The project in Israel discussed in this post aims to develop a workable and easy to apply methodology that can be taken forward and implemented by mineral extraction operators across the sector. The specific activities are now being tested and monitored for success and when we are certain in the best approach, it will be published and shared (including through this blog).

  2. Very interesting. IAS (Invasive Alien Species) spread successfully in degraded areas. Some characteristics as production high number of seeds or adaptation to new habitat, among others give them advantage. Mine areas are a perfect target for this species to spread. Fortunately EU is aware of this problem and an new legislation is about to come out http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/invasivealien/index_en.htm
    I would like to inform you about this tool, you are also invite to become user and to send us feedback http://easin.jrc.ec.europa.eu/
    Thanks

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