Giving back land for nature conservation

Stock image, please contact Amanda Roberts

On 20 July 2021, Sibelco in the Netherlands transferred a first piece of land, 51 of the 118 hectares of the Sibelco Heerlen quarry, to Natuurmonumenten, a Dutch nature conservation organisation.  

Sibelco stopped the extraction of silica sand from this area on 1 January 2019, but is still operating in the rest of the Heerlen quarry where permits run until 2032.  

The extracted sands are sold to manufacturers of high-quality products such as solar panels, wind turbines and mobile phone screens. This specific type of sand is also an indispensable component in the production of engine blocks and fine ceramics. 

The Sibelco quarry as a building block for a heathland nature reserve


Natuurmonumenten wants to connect several nature reserves in the Netherlands and Germany in order to create ‘Heidenatuurpark’, a sustainable, cross-border nature reserve, focused on biodiversity and recreation. The transfer of the Sibelco quarry is an important building block in this project as it enlarges and strengthens the existing ‘Brunssummerheide’ reserve.  

Since the end of the sand extraction, badgers and beavers have already started to build their lodges in the quarry and it is a habitat for sand lizards and a family of foxes. This great area will certainly benefit from improved biodiversity. 

The quarry will be open to visitors as part of the project ‘Rondje Groeves’ which offers bike and walking tours in nature reserves including former Sibelco sand quarries. These projects follow the IBA (Internationale Bau Ausstellung) approach, a way of working that was developed in Germany over 100 years ago to give a powerful financial, social and economic boost to society using the landscape.  

Safety is key for Sibelco, so the open area will be fenced off from the working parts of the quarry to ensure the safety of the tourists and a safe working environment for the Sibelco employees. 

Sibelco will continue to operate the remaining parts of the quarry until 2032. So, in the next few years, a lot of work will be done to not only continue the sand extraction, but also to realise the agreed rehabilitation targets for those lands that will be added to the Heidenatuurpark reserve after 2032. 

 “Sustainability is a fundamental part of Sibelco’s vision for the future. We have a wonderful opportunity to contribute to the rehabilitation of this unique piece of land, and to preserve and develop the biodiversity of the site for future generations. Sibelco is proud to support this important project for nature preservation in the Netherlands and Germany”

Danny Jans

VP Operations Western Europe

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