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.
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.
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.