The Garden Guide

Book: Landscape Planning and Environmental Impact Design: from EIA to EID
Chapter: Chapter 6 Mineral working, planning and design

After use plans for quarry restoration

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A few old quarries have been given a very successful afterï¾­use. My favourite example is at Dysart [Fig 6.14] on the coast of Fife. Stone was worked long before canals and railways made longï¾­distance transport from inland quarries feasible. When the quarry was finally abandoned, the town council, proving the virtues of local democracy, converted it into a picturesque harbour which is now a local tourist attraction. Unfortunately a coal mine discharged colliery waste onto the foreshore and siltedï¾­up the harbour (Cunningham 1912: 43). This is one quarry which most certainly should not be backfilled or restored. In the west of Scotland there is a small stone quarry, at Kilsyth [Fig 6.15], which has been abandoned and made into a country park (Walker 1980). A lake, which occupies the deepest part of the quarry, is enlivened by a small island, built on old mine buildings, and a wooden bridge. In America MCQ Industries have established a residential development on the rim of a flooded marble quarry (Committee on Surface Mining and Reclamation 1979: 36). In 1980 the Scottish Development Department published a report on the Potential for a large coastal quarry in Scotland (Dalradian Mineral Services 1980). The idea was to relieve the shortage of aggregates in the south of England by opening a 'superquarry' in Scotland and, as in the eighteenth century, transporting the output by sea. A remote site, at Glensanda in the west of Scotland, was found by a mineral operator in 1982. A policy of concealment has been adopted for the life of the quarry. Granite is extracted through a glory hole and the 'totally enclosed crushing and screening plant will be slotted into specially blasted notches in the hillside to control dust emissions and also obscure them from view outside the site' (Mine and quarry 1985). When the quarry is eventually closed there will be an opportunity for innovative development, as at Dysart. Other superquarries have been opened in Wales and Norway. They have a troubling aspect: because puncturing a wilderness cannot be good: The southern part of the Isle of Harris is dominated by the grey mountain of Roneval. Eagles nest on its northern corrie, and from the summit there is a glorious panorama east across the Minch to Skye and Wester Ross... Roneval is now the focus of a major public inquiry because of a planning application by Redland Aggregates ltd to turn its eastern slopes into a huge stone quarry [Fig 6.16] (Johnson 1994). Imaginative designs have been prepared for Roneval, as they have for the deep openï¾­pit copper mines in Southern Arizona, where 'men are creating giant landscapes purely as byï¾­products of their search for mineral deposits' (Matter 1977: 203). The designer points out that a major resource is being wasted through a misguided application of the conservation approach. The pits and dumps are being 'restored' by revegetation techniques, when they could be developed creatively: The builders are scraping off the vegetation of the foothills, paying high premiums for the right to build subdivisions of little plateaus, each one with a picture window view of the valley below. The mining companies are crating foothills with unobscured views of the surrounding areas and then trying their best to disguise their efforts with cosmetic attempts at revegetation. The irony is completed by another set of subdividers developing housing in a floodplain, probably best suited to agricultural purposes, directly below the mining areas thereby setting up the primary source of tension between the inhabitants of the area and the constantly expanding waste dumps above (Matter 1977: 203). The disused pits would be flooded, on the 'crater lake' principle, and used as reservoirs. It is a most imaginative environmental impact design. A similar idea has been investigated in Australia. Kerr Quarry was opened in the 1870s to win stone from a scenic area 20 miles east of Melbourne. At that time there were few inhabitants near the quarry and no one was concerned about the landscape. In the 1970s the owners wished to extend the quarry and use the opportunity to tidy up some of the ugly quarry faces which had been formed. By this time the quarry was in the midst of a tourist area with visitors and local residents concerned about its environmental impact. A landscape designer drew up proposals for housing on the quarry terraces to create 'a significant and attractive residential area of unprecedented originality' (Elliott 1976). The proposal was rejected by conservationists who persuaded the owners to agree to regrading and revegetation. It will be many years before people become experienced in planning longï¾­life quarries. They should remember Agricola.