chapter  3
30 Pages

NATURAL RESOURCES

The countryside offers a broad Spectrum of opportun­ ities to a wiae range of users. It is seen as a place to live or work; a place to escape from the bustle of city life and to paint and write about; a place to grow food and trees and a haven for wildlife; a collecting ground for water supplies and a reservoir of raw materials. There is a feeling that 'the countryside stands for ali that is important in Britain; it is the expression of the good life away from the stresses and strains of the city, and the symbol of everything that is considered truly British' . Whilst the links between town and country are deep rooted, long lived and ali embracing, Lassey has stressed that 'the urban conglomerates are much more dependent on rural based resources than are rural regions dependent on urban centres; rural areas are the principal source of food, air, water and other raw materials on which life depends'2. This Chapter will focus on some important aspects of this rural resource base, concentrating in particular on the natural resources which are so important to life and livelihood. Landscape, an important nonutilitarian resource in the countryside, will be considered in Chapter 4, and Chapter 5 will explore the importance of social resources within rural resource management. 3.1 NATURAL RESOURCES - UTILITY AND CHARACTER Natural resources were defined in Chapter 2 as those 'which have some tangible practical value', and three types of natural resource (mineral resources, water resources and ecological resourdes) will be

considered here. Whilst these three are not the only natural resources which could be considered, they are included because they illustrate the most important dimensions of the natural resource base, and they figure large in resource-use conflicts (see Chapters 6 to 10). Common properties of the resources Ali natural resources, including the three isolated here, share certain characteristics which in turn influence how those resources are used. First, ali natural resources derive ultimately from the natural environment, and so there is a limit to the total quantity of those resources which will be available. Whilst many natural resources can be recycled, the overall resource base is finite (unless technological developments make recycling or substitution more viable). Secondly (as noted in Chapter 2) ali resources are culturally defined. Therefore differ­ ent aspects of the natural environment might be regarded as ‘resources1 in the future if the framework of this cultural definition changes. Resources are thus those parts of the natural environment which are useable under present-day technical, economic and cultural conditions; if one or more of these conditions changes then some things which are presently regarded as 'resources1 will cease to warrant this utility connotation, and others will become 'resources'. The third important property of natural resources is their uneven distribution. Few natural resources have ubiquitous distributions between and within countries - the quantities, qualities and character­ istics of the natural resource base varies in space as well as time. Certain economic minerals (such as iron and copper) have markedly uneven distributions, and the quantity and quality of other natural res-' ources such as fertile soil, commercial forests and fresh water show distinct spatial variations over even small distances. Finally, natural resources need to be allocated carefully to ensure equitable distributions, sustainable levels of use, and patterns of use compatible with long term social and environmental objectives (such as reduction of environmental pollution). The allo­ cation of natural resources is complex. In an ideal situation simple economic theory 4llows market forces to dictate resource use by competition between 60

supply and demand - this inter-play is often judged via economic cost-benefit analyses carried out by each of the major decision-makers involved in the allocation p r o c e d u r e ^ . However the market mechan­ ism is not a suitable basis on which to allocate countryside resources because of imperfections in market forces, and the need to include welfare and equity consiaerations alongside purely economic factors4. Planning intervention thus demands constraint and rational judgements in balancing factors such as social, cultural, strategic and environmental impacts of proposed changes in deciding on the allo­ cation and use of natural resources. Intervention in resource allocation is required to foster attainment of certain culturally-defined goals (such as preservation of cherished landscapes (Chapter 4.2) or scientifically important ecological habitats (Section 3.4 in this Chapter)), accommodation of both local and national government poli­ cies (such as the national need for mineral resources versus the local concern about landscape despoilation and pollution which often stem from quarrying activities (see Chapter 6.1)), and harmonisation of conflicting interests of urban and rural populations (such as the conflict between urban demand for water, and rural resistance to flooding of upland valleys for reservoir construction)5. The chosen natural resources Mineral resources are included in this Chapter be­ cause they offer a suitable illustration of the problems of dealing with non-renewable natural resources. Once used, non-renewable resources can­ not be harvested again, so that enlightened resource management is required to ensure optimum benefit from resource development and use. Moreover, use of non-renewable resources often triggers off environ­ mental impacts such as pollution and reduction of scenic quality, so that the wider repercussions of mineral extraction (see Chapter 6.3) must be taken into account at ali stages of resource-use decisionmaking . Water resources and ecological resources are included as illustrations of renewable natural resources which will last indefinitely if properly managed (see Chapter 2.4). Both water and ecological resources highlight a recurrent problem in managing renewable resources which is that the quality of the resource

base is often impaired (sometimes very seriously) by inadequate or inappropriate management. This arises, for example, via pollution of water resources, and depletion of plant and anirnal stocks through overintensive use, such as recreation use (see Chapter 7.5) or through intentional removal or persecution, such as via changing farming practices (see Chapter 9) or via mineral extraction activities (see Chapter 6). Each of these natural resources influences landscape as a resource (Chapter 4) as well as providing the ultimate resource base for social and cultural use of the countryside (Chapter 5). 3.2 MINERAL RESOURCES The Resource Base Mineral resources have played an extremely important role in the evolution of human society, and to a large extent the present high standard of living in industrial countries such as Western Europe and the United States has been possible and is presently sustained by the exploitation of mineral resources. Evidence of mineral exploitation is impressed in both the course of evolution of human societies (hence the important Bronze and Iron Ages of the prehistoric past) and in the present day landscape of many rural areas. Thomas argues that most peoples1 mental image of Wales is dominated by 'hundreds of derelict mines, formerlv extracting iron, lead, zinc, copper, manganese or gold ores, (which) dot the countryside 16, Like most types of natural resource, minerals are only seen as resources when a use for them is perceived, and after the development of techniques for extracting them, removing impurities, and manufacturing useful materials or products from them. Stanford and Moran point out that ali presentlyprized economic minerals (such as petroleum, nickel and uranium) have been around for millions of years, yet they have only been regarded as useable (thus worth exploiting) in recent decades as a response to human needs and developing technologies^. Unlike many natural resources, hpwever, minerals tend to be non-renewable so that the overall resource base is fixed by geological events of the remote past. Since the total resource base cannot be extended, increased use of mineral resources has been accommodated largely by switching to progressively lower grade mineral ores (although increased exploration for previously unknown reserves has temporarily halted this trend in

the case of some minerals such as petroleum and oil and gas). Copper illustrates the trend quite c l e a r l y ö . The very first copper mines, some 3000 years ago, took relatively pure copper by digging it out of surface rocks. This was very high grade ore (which could be processed by the primitive technologies then avaiLable), and mining stopped when sur­ face deposits ran out. By the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries gröwing demand for cop­ per coupled with improved mining and refining technologies, made it possible and viable to extract lower grade ores from deeper mines. By 1900 copper smelters could handle ores with concentrations as low as 10%? by the late 1970*s ores with concentra­ tions down to 0.5% have become viable. This natural progression from high to low grade ores has also occurred with minerals like iron and aluminium, al­ though certain mineral ores (such as lead, zinc and mercury) do not conform to this trend. Mineral resources include both metallic minerals (such as iron, copper and lead) and non-metallic materials (such as cement, coal and water). TABLE 3.1 lists a classification of mineral resources based on how the different materials are used.