Concrete plant spells trouble for bat colonies in protected cave

The present quarrying operation directly abuts Tal-Iburdan cave, impacting on the geological stability of the cave

Source: MALTA BATS - Research & Conservation (Facebook)
Source: MALTA BATS - Research & Conservation (Facebook)

A massive concrete plant that will produce almost 2,000 blocks an hour, is being proposed for a spent quarry that presently is an eyesore inside the Special Area of Conservation at L-Għar tal-Iburdan in Rabat.

The present quarrying operation directly abuts Tal-Iburdan cave, impacting on the geological stability of the cave.

The cave acts as a breeding and roosting site for bats hosting the lesser horseshoe bat and the Maghreb Mouse-eared bat. The natural vegetation, agricultural and arable land of the surrounding area, act as important bat foraging grounds.

The proposed concrete plant, proposed instead of backfilling the quarry, will occupy 15,000sq.m of the 65,000sq.m covered by the quarry.

It is estimated that for the backfilling of 580,000 cubic metres of inert waste over a period of two years would require about 45 inbound trips on a daily basis from Monday to Saturday, by using 20cb.m hauling trucks.

The proposed plant will produce between 30sq.m and 120sq.m of fresh concrete every hour: at full capacity it will require between six to 20 daily inbound truck trips for the delivery of aggregate rock and sand, and up to three daily trips to deliver cement.

The proposal to backfill the quarry void and construct the concrete plant is being made by Tlata Co. Ltd, which is owned by Paul Falzon. The plans include a concrete batching plant for the production of ready-mix concrete for the construction industry.

The owners said they are committed to mitigate the negative visual impact and attenuate noise. “The principal activities will take place at a level well screened by adequate boundary walls and topographical barriers. The emissions of dust will be partly controlled by appropriate devices and vehicle washing to prevent dust and residues migrating to nearby roads and land.”

But the Environment and Resources Authority wants the quarry backfilled and restored to agricultural land. While restoration and backfilling will improve site views by removing the existing scar on the landscape, a concrete plant would “defeat the scope of the proposed restoration of the site by introducing new industrial elements into the surrounding sensitive rural landscape.”

ERA warned that the “permanent introduction of an industrial after-use would also imply that the site context would continue to be prejudiced and would not be allowed to recover”.

Instead ERA called for interim measures to ameliorate the situation on site, especially to stop the stockpiling of stone material on top of L-Għar tal-Iburdan, which is causing significant damage.

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