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Viewpoints by MPA Chief Executive Jon Prichard

It doesn’t seem that long ago that the mineral products industry was pushed to capacity trying to meet the post-covid demand for essential materials. Now we’re facing the opposite challenge; the economic forecast is grim and there are mixed views on when recovery will kick off, the short-term outlook is subdued to say the least.

So what happens in an essential sector like ours when the market is shrinking? Producing construction materials and industrial minerals requires strategic thinking, calculated investment and long-term planning – something that’s extremely difficult when there’s pressure to cut cost fast.

So MPA members have to strike a fine balance – to drive down their expenditure without slashing costs to the degree that they risk shrinking their businesses in the long-term, and to ‘sweat the assets’, the production facilities they are able to keep running, to maximise efficiency and squeeze out every ounce of value.

Published: Winter 2023/2024


AS AN INDUSTRY we work hard to supply mineral products for housing and regeneration, improving transport infrastructure, flood defences and energy security – all critical end uses.

To deliver this, the operational standards to which we hold ourselves to account are recognised as being among the best in the world. So one would hope that society might appreciate the production of these essential materials, and that Government – who are, after all, the largest consumer of mineral products – would ensure that access to them was fairly straightforward.

Published: Summer 2023


Joining a new industry sector – even one to which I have been relatively close to as a civil engineer – was always going to be a steep learning curve.

But it’s also the only time you can offer a ‘fresh pair of eyes’ on established practices and perceptions, an opportunity to reflect on what I’ve seen and heard – from the MPA team, from MPA members I’ve visited so far and from some of the external stakeholders on whom our licence to operate depends. These issues may be welltrodden ground for those inside the industry, but for many outside they’re still not within their field of view.

Published: Winter 2022/2023


Viewpoints by former MPA Chief Executive Nigel Jackson

The ‘big picture’ and complacent capitalism

Why does it take a crisis to focus thinking? Surely when things ‘seem ok’ is the best time to ponder the risk of disruption and work out how best to avoid it or how to respond?

Call me naïve but isn’t that what Governments with the limitless access to the brightest and best minds 
are there to do? To contemplate population growth, consumption per capita, what can be produced indigenously to supply demand and what must be imported, whilst at the same time considering the economic, environmental and social impacts? 

Published: Summer 2022


Never Assume Supply

‘Told you’! It should be no surprise that with so much pent-up demand being unleashed at once, that pre-Covid supply capacities and rhythms would be tested as the economy recovered. 

But for the mineral products industry and its family of essential materials, that’s mainly affecting bagged cement for builders who buy from merchants. To put this in perspective, that particular material ‘flow’ represents about three days in the annual pipeline of overall mineral product supply. An important three days, admittedly, because of the amplifying effect it has across the domestic home improvements and landscaping markets.

Published: Summer 2021


Delivering both Net Zero and Net Gain

These are serious times for many species, habitats and our planet. Unlike the army of ‘armchair experts’, the mineral products industry is focussed on delivering action, as it has been for the past 30 years.

Next year (2021), COP 26 (the 26th UN Climate Change Conference) in Glasgow will be another important step towards confronting the harsh realities we all face. It should prove to be the most ‘can-do’ yet. I certainly hope so. MPA will be actively engaged as best we are able, sticking to the science, staying practical and
proportionate, and guided by evidence.

Published: Winter 2020


Consumption, civilisation and carbon

In the light of devastating forest fires, alarming deforestation, accelerating glacial and polar melting and the recent UN Climate Change Summit, I feel compelled to add ‘consumption’ into the climate change debate.

None of what you’re about to read is "denialist", far from it. The era of conjecture about whether and why
climate change is taking place must give way to the era of how we respond, both by mitigation and adaptation.

Published: Autumn 2019 


Less hot air, more action

I am an earth scientist who, in the early seventies, was deeply concerned about the prospect of global warming, has since witnessed the thesis become a reality, and accepts that climate change will get worse unless checked.

I live in the UK, which contributes between 1% and 2% to global greenhouse gas emissions, but can be driven to distraction believing that, provided we play our part, things will get better. At the same time, the top five emission contributors – China, USA, India, Russia and Japan – who account for nearly 60% of the world’s greenhouse gases, collectively, get worsefaster than we can get better.

Published: Summer 2019


No time for complacency

It’s not hard to be politically neutral given the country’s predicament – four political forces masquerading as two major parties, a centre ground the silent majority yearn to occupy, with no credible runner to back. Like it or not, feeling disenfranchised and populist opportunism are on the rise.

An ageing population, perhaps inhibiting a millennial world where historic attitudes can seem inward and even backwardlooking, conflicts with a younger generation, who are more attuned to issues around gender, race, nationality and migration, and are challenging conventional wisdoms! Is it any wonder that so much in politics seems to be more about division rather than unity?

Published: Autumn 2018


We have done localism . . . now we need some strategy

Is everywhere divided? Election result after election result seems to suggest so by exposing and exacerbating splits. North and South, young and old, town and country, somewhere and anywhere.

It is hardly a surprise given the understandable political choice and force of devolution and localism that empower and ultimately fuel drift away from the body corporate. One can appreciate the comfort and security the local and smaller picture can provide, but what about the bigger picture?

Published: Summer 2018