BAJR Federation Archaeology

Full Version: "Are Archaeologists Killing the Goose?" - A sign of things to come...
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Hi All,

Attached (if successful) is a pdf of the industry magazine Mineral Products Today. An article on page 14 might be worthy of interest and discussion.

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Quote:no industry invests as much in archaeology in the uK as mineral products. Operators accept the responsibility to foot the bill for historical investigations provided they are reasonable, proportionate and consistent from county to county. But MPA members in some areas are complaining that the level of work they are being asked to fund ahead of a planning permission is unreasonable and is sometimes making the mineral unviable.

I remember these arguments before... however they have a powerful lobby. and if they do it, you can bet your bottom dollar that developers will be close behind... then of course the legislation will change, and archaeology will return to the 70s and 80s.

There we go..... ??
They are indeed a very powerful lobby but it is questionable if these bodies should weald so much political influence.

Interestingly is CBI best practice document for mineral extraction and archaeology... http://www.cbi.org.uk/pdf/arch-practice-guide.pdf
Is it not worth listening to their concerns (I'm not suggesting that we're not, of course). But there has been a trend amongst a number of archaeology firms over the last few years to significantly up their prices in certain fields/client industries to quite exhorbitant levels. We've seen this in gas pipelines over the last couple of years, apparently and ultimately to the detriment of a key operator who had begun charging absurd amounts for fairly simple procedures, with no return for the industry or the staff.

Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate both how we as archaeological contractors approach key client industries like these, and also to re-evaluate the validity of our methods and techniques. Perhaps making money for the sake of it doesn't do anyone any favours in the long run, we are an end-of-line contractor in many instances and need to recognise and maintain client relations on a rolling and favourable basis.

The curatorial aspect needs to be incorperated into this discussion. Having worked across the country in varying positions, I'm acutely aware of the stark contrast and inconsistencies evident amongst the practises and recommendations of curatorial staff. Sometimes, as with regional research frameworks, this is clearly and quite rightly going to be case. In other instances I can't see these being relevant factors in the inconsistencies.

(I should add that I am not slighting or intending to insult anyone by those comments, nor am I suggesting that many archaeological organisations are not partaking of a such ongoing evaluations - we clearly are).
One small thought that struck me after reading this again, was this.

WE spend much time saying we are worth much more - we are professional and should charge professional rates.
When we do charge the sort of rates a professional charges, then we are seen as greedy.
Can we have it both ways? Are we a cheap unwanted requirement? OR a sensibly priced desired necessity?

The Minerals groups may feel hard done by, but I would like to ask them, just what quarry or extraction has become non viable due to archaeology? Answers on a small postcard. They make profit, and thats fine, it is what they need to do, and we need them for building and roads, and as archaeologists, we get to find and disseminate. They are looking for a quantifiable payback. So what is it.?
Improved pay and career prospects for archaeologists must come at a price.

Unless there was a change of heart by central or local government and they agreed to subsidise and/or underwrite archaeological salaries, administrative costs and benefit entitlements (not going to happen!!), the costs have to be passed onto either the 'users' of archaeology in the form of direct charging for the resources that archaeology benefits (museums, archives, HERs, educational facilities). OR to 'the abusers' of archaeology (those persons or industries that benefit as a result of being granted permission to offset the archaeological resource in pursuit of profit). In general, the UK archaeological business model is that the cost should be borne by the latter. (I agree there is a whole philosophical discussion to be had there, but it can't be one that ignores the evidence of customary practice).

I can't see under those circumstances that there is any justification for excusing any individual or corporation their responsibilities to fund archaeology. If they argue that their 'profit-base' is insufficient to contribute to the costs of archaeology, I think they need to address the question of their business model, and not the motives or aspirations of the conservators or curators. I note for example that similar 'profitability' fears were raised at the time of the introduction of the Landfill Tax and the Aggregates Levy. Neither measure however has significantl?y reduced the level of commercial activity....
BAJR Wrote:The Minerals groups may feel hard done by, but I would like to ask them, just what quarry or extraction has become non viable due to archaeology? Answers on a small postcard.
One site I evaluated some years ago became non-viable. There was insufficient material to extract for them to make a profit if they had to deal with the archaeology, which was substantial, even allowing for the profits from landfill that could have been made. It is the only site I know of where this has been the case though.
Thanks Odin. It makes me wonder just what their margins are as well!
Quite a few quarry works are small as they're likely to get quarry consent for small land parcels at a time and cannot garuntee that they'll get the next land parcel they apply for. I too have done an evaluation where the land parcel become nonviable. I actually sympathised with them given the nature of the archaeology present and the curator's demands which I regarded as OTT. My sympathy toward aggregate firms does not flow readily.

I have also heard PMs explicitly state that they're going to milk them for all they're worth because the aggregate firm has to pay for it and seen the hourly rates charged bumped up to improve the profit margin. I know that prices are set flexibly, but I can't help but think that if all the other statutory elements (environmental protection consultants, geologists etc) are also using quarries as cash cows some deposits must quickly become nonviable.
trowelmonkey Wrote:Quite a few quarry works are small as they're likely to get quarry consent for small land parcels at a time and cannot garuntee that they'll get the next land parcel they apply for. I too have done an evaluation where the land parcel become nonviable.

But to offset this, most planning permissions for quarry works are for extended periods of time i.e 40 years + and surely the potential to adjust costs over the life of a quarry more than accounts for preliminary costs involved in archaeological survey or excavation. I mean any development where the archaeological costs have to be born upfront and before the development has reached a point where cash flow is generated, could argue that archaeological costs are excessive.....but as an overall charge to the development this would seldom reach the 1% level and often much, much less. I doubt very much whether the archeological costs of quarrying are anymore expensive if looked at over the lifetime of the quarry (including of course the premium if backfilling produces a source of income and of course the profits from final land disposal, after the landscape is restored).....

.....in fact there may be an argument that effective archaeological management could INCREASE the value of a quarry site i.e where a dormant quarry resource can be 'quickly' bought into operation at time of need, if all planning conditions relating to archaeological remains have been effected and/or where future land use/development can be undertaken without the necessity for archaeological intervention.
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