Minerals Resource Assessment

What is a Minerals Resource Assessment?

If the area falls within a Minerals Safeguarding Area, a Minerals Resource Assessment (MRA) is required to assess the potential for the economic extraction of minerals beneath an area intended for development.

The requirement for a Minerals Safeguarding Assessment is driven by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The framework sets out the need to maintain ‘a sufficient supply of minerals to provide the infrastructure, buildings, energy and goods’ for the country’s use.  The correct and most sustainable use of this resource is key given Minerals’ finite nature in the environment. The NPPF is transposed through to development by the Local Planning Authorities, and Mineral Planning Authorities, often at a county level.

When is a Minerals Resource Assessment Needed?

The Planning Authority must safeguard Minerals Resources, which is achieved via determination of Consultation Zones, with the Local Authority usually opposed to any Planning Application that potentially puts areas at risk of sterilisation.

Development of sites within safeguarding area require a Minerals Resource Assessment to consider the quality and quantity of minerals beneath a site as well as the practicality of extraction, both in relation to the hydrogeological set up, but also the added impact to the surrounding area.

Outcomes of a Minerals Resource Assessment can be that a resource is non viable allowing development to continue or conversely, if viability is confirmed, the extraction of the resource can be assessed, allowing for the mineral to be extracted in the most practical and environmentally viable approach so as to minimize any delays to the non-minerals development (often housing) whilst protecting the area from sterilisation of the resource.

Most often for residential development the requirement for a Minerals Resource Assessment is stipulated by a Planning Condition by the Local Authority.

On any site, regardless of size it is a good idea to review the potential that a MRA is needed as this can be a major obstacle should it not have been identified at Due Diligence stage and then goes on to prevent development in envisaged and economic timeframes.

How to Conduct a Minerals Resource Assessment?

A Minerals Resource Assessment is often a desk based assessment utilising online sources of information for the local area. Where the desk based assessment shows that viability of a resources may be likely, or if very limited information is available in the public arena it can be necessary to progress to fieldworks, obtaining information on the site so as to physically characterise the resource and determine site settings such as the observation of water depths, and grading analysis of the natural geology / mineral. On such occasions it is unlikely that the MRA will be the only investigation required on site, with works often combined with the standard ground investigation for foundation design or as part of a Geo-Environmental Assessment.  These services form part of Omnia’s core offering which allows a cost effective approach, especially where involved from an early stage.

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