Land restoration project creates habitats for flora and fauna at closed quarry site in Provins, France
Imerys has rehabilitated its Savins quarry around the town of Provins in France, and located in a prominent farming area. The project has created an area rich in biodiversity. Particularly, the body of water has, among other successes, allowed the colonization of dozens of species of flora and fauna.
Reversing the impact of a quarry on the environment is a fundamental aspect of Imerys’ work and its responsibility to preserve biodiversity and promote the sustainable use of land and ecosystems. In its restoration of the Savins quarry in France, Imerys has put biodiversity and education first.
Occupying a 13.7-hectare area, the rehabilitated quarry is located around the medieval town of Provins, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and approximately 20 kilometers from the national natural reserve of Bassée, an area of ecological fauna and flora interest.
The quarry was operated by Imerys for 25 years, used to extract clay to serve the floor and roof tile markets primarily. The reshaping of the quarry was completed in 2020. Now, the site is a sprawling biodiverse area that exemplifies Imerys’ dedication to sustainability and which is now being used to educate local communities and schoolchildren.
The results of this project highlight the impact of Imerys’ continued dedication to sustainability and the effectiveness of a robust Life Of Mine plan, which aims to mitigate and minimize the long-term environmental impacts of quarry activity. The rehabilitation plan for every Imerys extraction site forms part of the environmental impact assessment. This plan is built in association with local stakeholders and included in the permit request necessary to start operation. These plans seek to return land to its former state or transform the land to another use.
Water restoration allows birds, plantlife and wildlife to thrive
The reclamation of the site and the profiling of the quarry was carried out by the contribution of inert materials – for safety, to reduce the risk of erosion and to facilitate the growth of plantlife.
Restoring a three-hectare area of water was key to the rehabilitation project at Provins. This water returned naturally to the quarry hole once Imerys’ operations ceased. However as part of its rehabilitation plan, the site team created an island within the body of water, and reshaped the banks with gentle slopes, using topsoil originally excavated and properly stored when quarry operations first began. These new banks are not only safer for people to walk on, but they also enable fauna to thrive, and favor the growth of flora such as purple osiers, white sweet clover, greater butterfly-orchids and woodland strawberries.
To optimize this process, a model of the topography of the site was created to allow for the creation of three distinctive water zones: a coastal zone – a shallow area where the vegetation provided a course of food and hiding places for wildlife breeding; the pelagic zone – a deeper zone which allows fish to feed and develop; and the terrestrial zone – or the island – which is a nesting, resting and breeding area that is easily accessible to migratory species. The new quarry structure made it easier for birds to establish habitats.
This water area was the foundation for increasing biodiversity – and the plan succeeded.
Along with 10.7 hectares in grassland, several species of amphibians have colonized these new habitats, including the common frog, female palmate newt, female crested newt, spotted salamander, green frogs and frog tadpoles. Meanwhile, more than 90 bird species have been listed, including goldfinches, kingfishers of Europe, little grebes, black storks, Eurasian sparrowhawk and common pipistrelles.
Additionally, around 167 plant species have spontaneously colonized the created habitats.
The amphibians were recovered from nearby roads by specialist environmental association PieVerteBio77, while the flora naturally reestablished itself on site – with the exception of the sea buckthorns, which were planted by Imerys.
Although water was the most important element, many other actions went into obtaining these results and raising awareness of the site’s biodiversity plan, including the creation of a bird observatory, which will also serve as a pedagogical instrument, and the hosting of eight beehives managed by a local beekeeper.
Building understanding of biodiversity – internally and in communities
At the heart of a project of this magnitude is an intricate network of dedicated teams all working together towards the same goal: to restore the quarry. The Imerys team at Provins worked closely with subcontractors, consulting and engineering firms, forester and local authorities.
Imerys continues to build its broader understanding of biodiversity through external guidance. For example, at Provins, the team worked withPieVerteBio77 and, on a Group-wide scale, Imerys’ ongoing partnership with National Museum of Natural History continues to strengthen its action plans and commitments.
The project at Provins took eight years in total and, in addition to the biodiversity and land restoration achievements, has had a positive impact in the community.
Imerys understands that to create long-lasting change, local communities must be involved and successes in sustainability must be highlighted through education.
Part of this included raising awareness about the essential role of mining – for example, how extracted clay is used in everyday life – and the importance of rehabilitation at the end of quarry operations to negate the negative impact of mining. Open days, forums, educational panels and partnerships with schools are only some of the ways Imerys engaged with the community to stress the importance of on-site biodiversity.
“Welcoming people to the site will be our next step,” says Savins Site Director Julien Groulier. “We want the community to participate and enjoy this incredible achievement, and we are eager to show how well the land has been rehabilitated. While safety will of course be prioritized, we cannot forget about the value of education and engagement, particularly when schools and colleges come to visit.”
Long-term action needed to maintain biodiversity
In order to maintain the biodiverse environment at Provins, Imerys will keep the site protected and has installed fences and warning signs. The company will also manage invasive species that have been identified on site.
As a leader in the mineral industry, Imerys has a responsibility to prioritize sustainability. Restoring the quarry shows that a proactive and organized approach is key to the fulfillment of this duty, and essential for the benefit of future generations.