silica and moulding sands association (samsa) part of the Mineral Products Association (MPA)


silica and moulding
sands association




SAMSA members seek to operate responsibly in order to minimise the impact of their operations on the environment and local communities, to embrace sustainability principles and protect the health and safety of workers in silica sand operations and beyond.

The silica sand industry directly employs and invests in hundreds of workers throughout the UK and indirectly employs thousands of British workers in sub-contracting and throughout the supply chain. Our industry provides essential and beneficial raw materials for British industries that employ many thousands more.

SAMSA members operate within the guiding principles of MPA’s Sustainability Policy.

Environmental protection

SAMSA members are conscious of their environmental responsibilities and they take them seriously. For every silica sand operation a planning and permitting regime must be followed in order to ensure that the operations will minimise their impact upon the environment and local communities.

Environmental protection measures, coupled with sensitive quarry design, can be highly effective. It is quite possible that there is a silica sand quarry in your neighbourhood, or maybe you drive past one every day and you don’t even know it!

Even during their working lifetime, silica sand quarries provide attractive havens for wildlife. Various species of birds are drawn towards exposed sand faces for nesting or towards the man-made lakes that are used to clean and continually reuse process water. Quarry operators seek to schedule their operations in order to work in harmony with the species that choose to visit the quarry site.

When time comes for quarrying operations to cease, each quarry operator is committed to a restoration programme that is agreed with the local authority as part of the planning and permitting process. It is common for quarry restorations to enhance the biodiversity of the area so that more plant and animal species thrive there afterwards than before quarrying began. Many former quarries achieve protected SSSI (site of special scientific interest) status, which is testament to the high quality of restorations undertaken.

Examples of environmental controls:

In sensitive areas, quarry sites operate regimes designed to minimise the potential for sand grains to be picked up by the wind in dry weather. This may involve the use of water sprays, road sweepers, enclosure of plant and equipment and minimisation of exposed areas of sand faces. All of this is backed up by extensive monitoring regimes to ensure compliance with the latest guidelines on air quality and nuisance prevention.

In order to minimise noise nuisance, the timing of specific operations is strictly controlled so that it only occurs at designated times of day. Screening bunds are installed to act as barriers to noise propagation. The use of the latest “white noise” reversing alarms on quarry mobile plant helps to eliminate the nuisance caused by traditional reversing bleepers. Again, all of this is backed up by monitoring regimes to ensure that any noise impact at sensitive properties is within prescribed limits.

Waste management

All producers have a duty to handle, store and dispose of all waste correctly and it is a legal requirement to apply the well documented “hierarchy of waste”. This instructs all operators to prevent, reduce, reuse and recycle material wherever possible before considering disposal.
At some larger sites, absolutely all waste is nowadays recycled or converted to biofuel with zero going to landfill.

Pollution control


All processing operations are regulated by Local Authorities to control emissions of dust to air. There are strict limits on the emissions from process chimney stacks and these are controlled by dust abatement systems, such as bag filters or cyclones. Operators must implement monitoring systems to ensure that these systems continue to work effectively.

Many silica sand operations require water abstraction and discharge. Licenses for these activities are regulated in the UK by the Environment Agency and these set out the relevant quality and quantity parameters. To ensure compliance and prevent any detrimental effect on local water courses or environmental habitats, agreed regular testing, monitoring and measurement regimes are in place.

Environmental Dust

All operators are fully aware that some activities can cause emissions of dust and wind-blown sand which may lead to nuisance or raise health concerns with neighbours. Planning conditions for all quarrying operations require monitoring and measurement of particulate deposition and air quality.

Typical control measures at operational sites include:

  • Speed limits on unsurfaced and site haul roads for all vehicles.
  • Dampening down to prevent the risk of material being picked up by the wind.
  • Suppression methods such as mobile water bowsers or fixed spray/misting systems.


Oils, fuels and lubricants can present a significant hazard of pollution to ground water if they are not stored and disposed of correctly. Storage tanks must be double-skinned or located in bunded areas, while smaller containers must be stored on drip trays to ensure that any spillages or leaks are contained.


Many operations are located near to noise sensitive properties such as houses, schools and hospitals. Noise has the potential to cause nuisance and sleep disturbance and acceptable noise levels at night time and weekends will be lower than weekday levels.

To prevent noise nuisance, working hours may be restricted for some activities such as quarrying, loading and dispatch. It is normal for conditions to be set within a site’s planning consent to limit noise levels received at neighbouring properties. Monitoring schemes are put in place to ensure compliance.

It is now commonplace for mobile plant to be fitted with white noise, broadband reversing alarms to reduce noise impact. Noise screening bunds are also typical on many sites.

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