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The valued components approach

This step will highlight different real-life examples of approaches to impact assessment

In this article we will highlight two instances of effective rehabilitation efforts of quarries. The benefits and effectiveness of this approach will be looked at through the lens of a valued components approach.

The use of Valued Components (VCs) to focus analysis has been a core element of environmental assessment practice in Canada and elsewhere for decades, since Beanlands and Duinker (1983) described a comprehensive framework for ecological impact assessment based on what they called Valued Ecosystem Components. Since that time, the concept has been applied to the assessment not only of potential ecological effects, but economic, social, heritage and health effects as well.

A VC-centred approach is useful to assess a project’s contribution to sustainability. Conducting impact assessments using this approach calls for the examination of potential changes to the environment as well as to the health, social and economic impacts of a designated project on valued components (VCs). It also requires the consideration of mitigation measures. Applying a VC lens to the assessment of environmental, health, social and economic effects allows a more holistic analysis- This also includes the consideration of long-term effects on future generations and the evaluation of cumulative effects. VCs are elements of the human and natural environment that are perceived as important by participants in an impact assessment process and that should be carried forward into the assessment. Usually, companies will take an inclusive approach and actively consult local communities to find out what is important to them in order to define specific VCs. Sustainability is contextual and project dependent and may be defined differently by communities or even groups within communities. VCs could be viewed positively by some and negatively by others depending on the context and preferences. The goal is not to seek consensus on areas of importance but rather to document and understand the views expressed.

Below, we will highlight two situations where a plan to rehabilitate two closed quarries was realised through a multi-stakeholder process, initiated by the company GSM Italcementi which was the operator of these quarries.

The first example of a successful rehabilitation project of a closed quarry, in Varennes sur Seine, Seine-et-Marne (France), where a wetland zone for nesting birds and other species was created. Ecological engineering solutions, such as restoration of reed beds and the creation of artificial sand and gravel islands with different substrates were implemented in collaboration with researchers and local ornithologists. The result is the creation of a wetland zone which attracts birds to nest in the area and is an important contribution to increasing and protecting local biodiversity.

The multi stakeholder approach, including local communities, scientists, research centres and local ornithological experts guaranteed that different points of view were included in the rehabilitation plan and the balancing of potentially competing interests.

Link to SUMEX repository
Link to factsheet by UEPG

In the second example, also by GSM, a multi-stakeholder management committee was created with local communities, scientists and environmental NGOs as well as local policy makers to enact several measures at the site of an old quarry in Pont-a-Mousson, in Meurthe-et-Moselle (France), in order to preserve biodiversity, foster economic development and create a recreational area for local communities. The measures taken include the creation of a harbour zone for recreational purposes (docking boats and swimming), as well as the establishment of an environmental protection zone to protect the local biodiversity.

These efforts resulted in an increase in local biodiversity and increased recreational use of the area, which previously was the site of extractive activities i.e. a sand quarry. The richness in biodiversity as well as the presence of protected plant species led to its classification as an environmental protection zone.

The two above examples of the rehabilitation efforts of closed extraction sites are good examples of the importance of a coherent and holistic plan; Involving diverse stakeholders, and particularly those most affected, is important to ensure that different needs and expectations are met (i.e. environmental, social, economic). A thorough rehabilitation plan, which is should be presented prior to the start of an extractive activity shows that the site operator is taking impact assessment seriously and is committed to reducing the long-term impacts of such an operation.

Relating this to the valued components approach, we see that the rehabilitation efforts had the goal to re-establish several valued components in the area. These included mainly environmental (creation of habitat such as wetland zones, increased biodiversity and establishment of environmentally protected areas) and social (creation of a recreational area) as well as economic (attraction of tourists) components.

Link to UEPG factsheet

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Sustainable Management in the Extractive Industry

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