Contribution to biodiversity through the rehabilitation of Milos mines
IMERYS Group is the world leader in mineral-based industrial solutions, offering specialized solutions necessary for its customers. IMERYS INDUSTRIAL MINERALS GREECE SINGLE MEMBER SOCIETE ANONYME mines and processes industrial minerals, mainly bentonite and perlite.
S&B is aware of the importance of protection and management of biodiversity, not only regarding the areas under its management but also of the protection and preservation of the natural environment in general. From the early years of its land reclamation efforts (mid ’80s) S&B set the following objectives which served the overall goal of successful reclamation and contribution to biodiversity on the island of Milos:
- Establish ecosystems which can become autonomous after a 3-5 year period creating the conditions for local fauna to re-establish its presence and biodiversity value to increase.
- Successfully introduce indigenous and local Mediterranean species in the field, in large scale.
Milos’ local community that enjoy the benefits from successful reclamation work and contribution to biodiversity conservation and management.
Biodiversity conservation as part of land reclamation has been established in Milos since the mid ’80s.
S&B assumed action ahead of time -before reclamation became a legal obligation, in the late ‘70s- founding Rehabilitation Departments in its Greek mining activity locations. By the mid ‘80s, systematic reclamation was well established in the Milos quarries with necessary infrastructure in place: dedicated Department led by forester, plant nursery and specialized equipment, steady financing and continuous R&D. Early on, it became evident that successful reclamation could be achieved only by using local plant species, able to survive the island’s hard climate and soil conditions. Extensive studies and research collaborations with scientific institutions and academia led to the development of innovative ideas & methods. Such collaborations included: the reproduction of a wide variety of plants in the laboratory and in nurseries; their large scale production and introduction in nature; monitoring and recording of the evolution of the re-created ecosystems.
The outcomes were excellent and were embraced enthusiastically by academics and peers. In 2004, a study undertaken by the Biology Dept. of Athens University proved that the reclamation method developed used succeeded the inhabitation of Rehabilitated areas by local fauna within a short period (micro-fauna during the first 3 years and larger fauna later on), which in some cases show higher populations compared to the ones without disturbance. Therefore, by creating optimal conditions, nature is successfully introduced back into the mine. The fact that S&B receives regular invitations to present its work in national, European and international fora further reinforces its widely acclaimed work.
Due to the wide variety of plants used (over 80 different species) the habitats created on the depleted quarries are very stable and resistant against external stress factors (e.g. diseases, water scarcity etc.) and of high biodiversity value. Every year, around 15,000 local plant species, bushes and trees, and approximately 700 kg of local plant seeds are collected, prepared in the company’s owned nursery’s Seed Germinating Chamber, and re-introduced to reclaimed areas and other degraded areas from fires, overgrazing or other human interventions for which the contribution of S&B is sought. Internal awareness is raised by regular seminars headed by the Rehabilitation Supervisor in Milos Operations, external awareness by sharing knowledge and expertise with the scientific community, peers and any interested party. Environmental education of local community (e.g. schools) is achieved by regularly visiting of the plant nursery or the education activities of the Milos Mining Museum supported by S&B.
Some of the most important scientific co-operations of more recent years are:
• A five-year research program (2005-2010) carried out by S&B in cooperation with the Institute of Mediterranean Forest Ecosystems of the National Agricultural Research Foundation (NAGREF) and the University of Athens. Work still continues with effort in the reproduction of rare plant species, study of the effects of fertilization on plants’ growth and the expansion of the use of climbing plants.
• Cooperation with the research team of the Energy Raw Materials team from the Patra’s University Geology Department and the Forschungsinstitut fur Bergbaufolgelandschaften e.V., Finsterwalde (2002-2008) to study applications of soil improvement materials. S&B’s know-how has been built over a 30-year period, and biodiversity management is fully integrated in the company’s business strategy.
S&B’s work on biodiversity management for Milos’ mines reclamation has many benefits.
It protects and sustains biodiversity as a natural capital for the island, a fundamental element for its residents’ and visitors’ welfare. Directly, it serves the ecosystem by its contribution to regulating the quality and quantity of water, air, soil, with subsequent positive influence to the local flora and fauna. Indirectly, it serves other socio-cultural needs, as, for instance, by strengthening eco-tourism, outdoor recreation, environmental education etc S&B’s entire extraction activity stands at less than 4% of Milos’s total surface area. During its 80-year presence on Milos, already 43.6% of total surface area mined has been reclaimed, while of the remaining land 77.5% is still in use for mining and 13.4% is awaiting reclamation. This means that 87% of old quarries have been reclaimed. Conservation work over and above S&B’s own mines, in Milos or elsewhere, is a regular part of the company’s contribution. Over 85% of S&B’s extractive area is agricultural land and the rest is forest land, which for Milos means phrygana and shrub ecoregions.
Summarizing S&B’s "Return of natural capital": More than 331,000 plants in nearly 200 hectares planted since 1992, 14 tons of local plant seeds through hydroseeding; Successful reproduction and introduction to nature of 81 different species, of which 3 are indigenous (Dianthus fruticosus, Salsola aegea, Silene cythnia), 76 are local, 10 characteristic of the "Aegean phrygana" habitat, 17 resistant to fire, 22 resistant to grazing (grazing and fires are the top 2 anthropogenic factors of ecosystem degradation in Greece); Successful reproduction and introduction of the rare Milos cedar (Juniperus macrocarpa), Milean gillyflower (Dianthus fruticosus) and the endangered Aegean lily (Pancratium maritimum); 100% of local or indigenous plant species used in reclamation since 2010. Success of S&B’s work is evident from the visible results in reclaimed mines. In addition, use of KPIs in a filed study by the Athens University Biology Dept. completed in 2004, in which S&B quarries were included, recorded positive results of fauna colonization.
Milos island, Greece
Working with Organization
S&B has established synergies and cooperation with many stakeholders as mentioned above.
Milos Reclamation Department headed by an experienced forester and 4 full-time staff.
S&B’s Rehabilitation Dept. is recognized as a "center of expertise" in biodiversity management by the Cyclades Forest Authorities, Milos/neighboring islands’ Municipalities, the scientific community and peer companies. S&B freely provides know-how, specialized equipment and local plants for conservation of areas degraded by fire, grazing or other human activities, or assists in third parties’ and peers’ reclamations. In recent years, a Plant Micro-Reserve is being created at a 3 hectares reclaimed area. Around 40 local wood and 15 turf species have been planted, aiming to establish a healthy population of the majority of Milos and Cyclades wood species. Resource efficiency and low intensity techniques have been central to developing reclamation methods.
For example: as water is scarce on Milos the plants used are carefully selected to require practically no watering; plant clippings are collected, shredded and turned into compost, 4-5 tons of which are used annually in reclamation for soil improvement. S&B’s work also serves socio-cultural needs by strengthening eco-tourism, outdoor recreation and environmental education. The work of S&B on Biodiversity conservation received a distinction at the Greek National Scheme of the 2013-2014 European Business Awards for the Environment.