The Garden Guide

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

Long-life mines and quarries

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Over 40 years may be regarded as a long life for a mineral operation. It will probably be longer than the period for which any single mining engineer or planner is involved with a project. Some workings can last for a very much longer period: marble has been won from the Carrara Valley since Roman times and quarrying continues apace. It is common for longï¾­life quarries to be deep, open pits of comparatively small lateral extent. They deserve the name quarry, which derives from the Latin quadrare 'to square', better than other types of mine. Since they grow larger and deeper as they are worked, progressive reclamation is rarely possible and it may be difficult to find an afterï¾­use. Mineral planners should aim to safeguard against harmful sideï¾­effects and respect the land so that, as Jellicoe suggested for the Hope Quarries, 'their ultimate use could be as astonishing in their benefit to a leisured society as are the Norfolk Broads today'. Sheila Haywood summarised the situation as follows in her book on Quarries and the Landscape: Respect for the land itself is apt to be a surer guide than popular clamour for 'instant' results. The land is permanent: even a hundred year operation is transitory in a historical sense, and a fleeting moment in geology (Haywood 1974: 62). Some old quarries become tourist attractions during their working life: the travertine quarries outside Rome, the diamond mines in South Africa, the Rubislaw granite quarry in Aberdeen, and 'the massive Bingham Canyon open pit copper mine [which] is claimed to be the second largest tourist attraction in the State of Utah' (Down & Stocks 1977: 18). In the aesthetic terminology of the eighteenth century they are, like an Alpine gorge or the Grand Canyon, 'sublime' rather than 'beautiful'. French aestheticians might describe it as a 'heoric landscape'. The fact that tourists wish to visit such places should not be taken to imply that they wish such features to impinge on their daily lives. In his Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful, Burke states: Whatever therefore is terrible, with regard to sight, is sublime too, whether this cause of terror be endued with greatness of dimensions or not; for it is impossible to look on anything as trifling, or contemptible, that may be dangerous (Burke 1756: Part II Section II). Greatness of dimension is a powerful cause of the sublime... A perpendicular has more force in forming the sublime, than an inclined plane; and the effects of a rugged and broken surface seem stronger than where it is smooth and polished (Burke 1765: Part II Section VII). Since people do not wish to live with views of terrifyingly sublime quarries, it may be concluded that zoning and concealment will normally be the most appropriate policies. When the quarries are finally abandoned some reclamation expenditure will be necessary to prevent the world's population of 'orphan quarries' from growing beyond its present level. If excavations have gone below the water table these pits can, like Rubislaw quarry and the Big Hole of Kimberley [Fig 6.13], become small versions of Oregon's Crater Lake.