The Soto Pajares quarry located north-east of Madrid is operated by CEMEX Spain and overlaps with an area of high biodiversity value designated as Natura 2000 site Cortados y Cantiles de los Ríos Jarama y Manzanares which is also a nature reserve. However, meeting conservation objectives while maintaining sustainable and profitable extractive operations presents challenges. The initial mutually-sceptical and mistrusting attitudes of the company and the conservationists were hindering any collaboration.
In order to address these challenges positively, 2011 saw CEMEX Spain formalise a Memorandum of Understanding with SEO/BirdLife and with a local NGO, Grupo Naumwhich. This cooperation agreement has been followed by the joint development of a Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP), specifically designed for the area.
The BAP helps CEMEX Spain to identify and manage activities which could impact the conservation values of the area and to enhance biodiversity in and around quarries. Conservation priorities have been developed using the outputs of a scientific survey. CEMEX has a clearer understanding of the operational risks its extractive activities pose to wildlife and has consequently begun adapting, updating and improving operational practices, such as reducing the use of power and water in the extractive operations. This move has benefited both the company and nature.
Actions such as restoring the riparian habitat in the surroundings, setting up floating islands for bird nesting, modifying quarrying works during sensitive bird periods, etc. have led to improvements in the conservation status of birds like the marsh-harrier, purple swamphen, black-winged stilt, red-billed chough and red-crested pochard. CEMEX staff were involved in the conservation process in an effort to increase their awareness.
The fruitful cooperation continues, and the partners are discussing and preparing a new BAP which includes further restoration works, for example planting 630 additional trees.