ESI is the UK’s leading independent scientific and environmental consultancy providing support to the Mineral Extraction and Mining Industries within the UK and internationally. ESI delivers technical, specialist services and advice to support clients to develop their opportunities, understand and comply with environmental legislation and manage their risks through the combination of sound science and a clear commercial understanding. ESI has a strong team of scientists with a good balance between pragmatic field experience and in-depth quantitative skills for analysis of field results.
ESI has completed work on a large number of mineral extraction sites in a range of settings including, clay, sand and gravel pits, hard rock quarries, coal and metalliferous mines. ESI provides ongoing support to sites with practical advice on day to day water management issues and monitoring reviews as well as input to long term strategic plans. ESI also provides high level technical input and groundwater modelling capability when the situation demands, which is often a cost effective way of proving environmental compliance.
The range of services provided includes:
- Environmental impact assessments
- Regulatory permitting ”“ water abstraction and discharge
- Groundwater control and dewatering
- Groundwater modelling
- Site water management plans and water audits
- Site restoration
- Flood risk assessments
- Waste Management and Landfill
- Water supply and borehole drilling
- Water quality and contaminant assessment
- Monitoring and Environmental Data Management
UK Extractive Industry
The extractive industry remains under continual pressure to ensure that operations have as little negative impact on the environment as possible. In many situations the pressure from the planning and regulatory authorities has increased to meet regulation imposed by government. Stalled ROMP regulations, the Mine Waste Directive and Transfer Licences are three current examples.
Since 1996 ESI has supported large international companies and smaller operators through a focussed approach of achieving compliance whilst ensuring the methodologies developed and used are cost effective and reliable.
The development of long standing relationships has been and will remain an important part of our support to clients as the largest independent, specialist groundwater consultancy in the UK. High levels of staff retention ensure continuity of service – particularly important for the extractive industry where clients often need intermittent support on the same site over many years.
ESI has developed an excellent understanding of the regulators’ requirements ensuring advice on the exact scope of work required to achieve approval for new plans and developments is delivered within agreed timescales. ESI work throughout the UK and regularly provide services to major producers such as CEMEX, Tarmac and Hanson as well as the smaller specialist operators such as Sibelco and Bathgate Silica Sands.
International Mining and Mineral Extraction
ESI team members have extensive international experience within Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Environmental Impact Assessments and due diligence work has been completed on open pit and underground operations. Projects have included coal mines and metaliferous mines, large scale aggregate extraction, cement production and oil refineries. ESI offer supervision of field data collection combined with detailed modelling to provide cost effective solutions for clients.
Environmental Impact Assessments
Minimising the impact of a proposed development on the surrounding water environment is key to obtaining planning permission and maximising the available resource. ESI provides the support required throughout the process from the initial scoping requests, site investigations, environmental impact assessments and the environmental statement and supported by an integrated understanding of the all aspects of the water environment encompassing groundwater, surface water and ecology. In addition ESI has developed an excellent working understanding of regulatory process and has the ability to negotiate and work with regulatory agencies.
Clients have benefited from ESI’s pragmatic and technically robust approach. Discussion and negotiation between developers and the regulators to agree the scope of investigations is essential to ensuring a cost-effective outcome. ESI’s experienced project managers have excellent working relationships with contacts in all regions of the Environment Agency, which is important in developing a sense of trust in this process.
Regulatory Permitting ”“Abstraction and Discharge
Many extractive developments require permits for abstraction licensing and discharge consenting regimes. Of fundamental importance are the conditions attached to the permits which govern the sites activities and permitted interaction with the surrounding water environment.The UK Water Act (2003) states that many mineral dewatering programmes require regulation and abstraction licences that should be renewed every 15 years. During the renewal process it is likely that a detailed Environmental Assessment is carried out. ESI has a strong track record of quickly and efficiently providing the regulators with applications that meet their requirements to allow such applications to be speedily determined.Transfer abstraction licences are due be introduced by the Environment Agency and ESI has assisted several large UK aggregates companies with an audit of sites to determine work required to achieve compliance in advance of the implementation of the new scheme.
Many sites will require permanent or temporary discharge consents (Environmental Permit) associated with mineral processing, site drainage or dewatering. Water quality conditions will be imposed relating to silt settlement, hydrocarbons and other potential contaminants. ESI has in-depth knowledge to support the permit application including the design of required mitigation measures and negotiation with regulatory agencies.
Groundwater Control and Dewatering
Recent climatic changes has impacted on and increased the requirement for accurate predictions of rates of dewatering required.In the extractive industry, planning constraints on lateral extensions for quarries has put increased pressure for deepening of existing sites below the water table.The energy cost of dewatering has become a significant operational factor and ESI’s approach is focussed on efficiency with low operating costs. Environmental constraints, such as drawdown beneath sensitive receptors, are often critical to the feasibility of these schemes.
Our consultancy team has extensive experience of handling all aspects of efficient dewatering and are currently developing and operating groundwater models of some of the largest dewatering schemes in the UK.ESI’s approach in all projects is to work closely with clients to determine the most appropriate level of assessment required for each site. This ensures a cost effective solution is achieved in all cases.
Groundwater models are the most effective and accurate method of developing an understanding of how aquifer systems behave and can be used to make predictions about the system’s future behaviour.Specific questions that can be addressed using a groundwater model include:
- How might a change in quarry depth impact on aquifer properties?
- What will the drawdown be beneath a sensitive receptor?
- Will increased abstraction cause saline intrusion?
How might changes in abstraction affect groundwater quality? In order to produce a groundwater model that can be used as a reliable management tool, it is essential to base it on a carefully worked conceptual model. This requires a thorough review of all the relevant data. ESI’s leading capability supports the selection of the right groundwater modelling approach for the problem being faced: groundwater models should never be more complex than the problem requires (and data available allows).
Site Water Management Plans and Water Audits
Effective control of the site water management system, including both groundwater and surface water components, is necessary to minimise costs and environmental risk during the operational phase. The plans also enable effective site management from the operational through to the restoration phase and post closure. ESI combines a practical approach with modelling of the site water balance to ensure adequate controls are in place to manage the water efficiently and provide the resource requirements for mineral processing. ESI offers a site water audit looking at the requirements for abstraction, discharge,processing and water treatment. The increasing costs of mains water and energy provide additional drivers for operational cost saving and efficiency improvements.
Emphasis on the optimisation of a water-based restoration design is appropriate given the long term effects of restoration. A combined understanding of all the issues involved will lead to realistic expectations for a restoration, with targets that are both ecologically and hydrologically meaningful and practical in terms of cost and engineering requirements.
ESI regularly works with landscape architects and ecologists to devise appropriate restoration proposals. ESI advises on groundwater and surface water interactions and predicts the final water levels so that the restoration is tailored to meet local needs. Input is provided to the design of practical water control measures such as outfall design. ESI has very strong capabilities in the field of landfill permitting and could provide information on integrating landfilling opportunities into the proposed restoration design. ESI’s team members have undertaken research (funded through the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund) into a wide range of potential site after uses including sustainable development, aquaculture, water supply and treatment, flood alleviation and nature conservation.
Over the last decade ESI has been working with a range of clients, particularly in the extractive and water industry, to develop more targeted and efficient ways of defining the impact of industry on water sensitive ecology (hydro-ecology). ESI has a strong track record of working alongside other specialists (e.g. in aquatic ecology and hydrology) as part of a team to deliver clear answers to these problems. Assessments combine the broad, catchment scale, approach with a more detailed local understanding of the water level, flow and quality requirements of the target habitat or species. An understanding of target requirements will then assist in design of appropriate water control and mitigation measures.
Flood Risk Assessments
New developments will usually require a flood risk assessment according to statutory requirements. A risk assessment is also recommended for existing sites when assessing the operational impact of flood risk to the site from adjacent water courses and rainfall run-off. An understanding of the flood risk posed by the site to other receptors may be incorporated within the site water management plan to ensure site discharge is regulated to acceptable levels and sufficient storage is available to cope with significant storm events.
ESI is able to offer a combined understanding of flood risk with the other groundwater and surface water issues on mineral extraction sites to provide optimal cost effective solutions.
Waste Management and Landfill
ESI delivers a leading capability in landfill management in the UK and around Europe. Under the Environmental Permitting (EP) Regulations (2010), the development of a conceptual model and the preparation of environmental risk assessments are required for all sites prior to a permit being issued. ESI provides support in preparing applications, reviewing permit conditions, evaluating the success of sites in achieving compliance criteria and negotiating permit issues with regulatory authorities. With extensive experience across all types of waste disposal sites, including hazardous, non-hazardous and inert landfills, ESI is a natural choice to coordinate the preparation of applications including the environmental permit for a landfill.
Water Supply and Borehole Drilling
Site water supply is of key strategic importance in ensuring the site can continue to operate at all times including during exceptional drought conditions. ESI offers both groundwater and surface water resource assessments from initial feasibility studies, through detailed inlet design or borehole testing to permit negotiations and obtaining the final abstraction licence.
ESI has a strong team of groundwater scientists with a good balance between pragmatic field experience and in-depth quantitative skills for analysis of field results. High standards are demanded from all the contractors which are rigorously supervised, whether on small site investigations or on major, production borehole drilling and testing contracts as the importance of quality assured data is understood. ESI has a track record working for the major UK water utility companies and also providing bespoke site specific water supply solutions for industrial applications.
Water quality and contaminant assessment
Assessment of site discharge water quality will be required to ensure regulatory compliance. ESI can devise appropriate water quality monitoring procedures to provide the necessary data. Mitigation measures may be necessary to achieve water quality objectives and advice on silt settlement lagoons and water management facilities can be provided. Site specific issues can include elevated metal concentrations and acid drainage related to weathering of metal sulphides. Control strategies can be devised in conjunction with the site management to minimise the impact on water quality from this source. ESI have an in depth knowledge of modelling contaminant fate and transport issues within the groundwater system.
Monitoring & Environmental Data Management
ESI works on major infrastructure projects such as mines, tunnels and highways as well as aggregates and other quarrying schemes, using quantitative assessment methods alongside robust environmental monitoring schemes to demonstrate the nature and extent of environmental impacts of such schemes on the water environment, and to design and implement suitable mitigation measures if required. ESI has considerable expertise in designing hydrometric monitoring programs for both groundwater and surface water systems to achieve compliance with permit conditions. Monitoring programs can include training of site personal on manual measurement procedures and automated remote sensing applications.
When dealing with data it is important to have a rigorous quality assurance system in place to ensure data integrity.
Accessibility and confidence in the data are needed to maximise the benefit of the investment made. Suitable environmental data management services should be applied to ensure that these data are not lost, but retained within a secure data management system.
ESI provides customised environmental data management systems and services designed to enforce data quality and meet statistical analysis requirements. ESI can deliver environmental data as spreadsheets, databases or web reports in the form of downloadable data and graphs. ESI is a UK reseller of Earthsoft environmental data management software and has specialist skills in; EQuIS, EnviroInsite and Leapfrog Hydro.
Senior members of the consultancy team are able to provide legal support, testimonies and act as Expert Witness’in support of public enquiries and court cases.