Sand is one of our most used resources, but the industry is not sustainable
by Staff Writers
Copenhagen, Denmark (SPX) Sep 02, 2021
Houses, roads, glass, electronics. Sand is a main component in large parts of modern civilisation. But we are using it faster than nature can produce it.
Sand excavation is increasingly conducted in mines and along rivers in low- and middle-income countries, but up until now no one has systematically compared various research on how the industry affects these countries.
Professors Lars Lonsmann Iversen and Mette Bendixen from the University of Copenhagen wanted to change that. Together with an international team of researchers they have collected and studied a number of research articles on the sand industry within a so-called review study. They have then compared the results to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and conclude that the road to a sustainable sand industry is long.
'Sand is the most used resource in the world, next to water, but the way it is extracted is in direct conflict with eight of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. We do not have endless amounts of sand, and within the next 50 years we expect it to be in short supply. It is therefore vital that we are now able to point to significant sustainability issues involving the world's sand resources', says Lars Lonsmann Iversen.
The best sand is also the most problematic
'One of the main problems in the sand industry is the fact that the best sand is found in the rivers. Unfortunately, this is where we see the greatest environmental and local human consequences of mining activities', Lars Lonsmann Iversen explains.
'Removing the sand deposits completely changes the nature of the individual river stretches, turning them into downstream rivers and significantly affecting the ecosystem. The sudden lack of sand also affects the sediment discharge in these rivers, resulting in increased erosion. This destabilises the river banks and increases the risk of flooding, and that affects the local population whose houses collapse and whose crops are ruined'.
Besides the environmental consequences, it also affects the drinking water. When the surface water and groundwater mix, the drinking water is polluted and we get new habitats for disease.
'The negative consequences are to a large extent due to the fact that sand is an unregulated resource. Unregulated resources can be misused and exploited by rich countries. The human consequences of these activities can be solved by regulating the way the resource is used locally. For example, the miners may suffer from poor working conditions. The precious metal and diamond industries are already focussing on this issue, but in the sand industry it has gone more or less undetected', says Lars Lonsmann Iversen.
But the researchers also stress a number of positive aspects of the sand industry. It is a necessary component in the global development, and it provides millions of jobs, which support a large part of the population in developing countries.
Alternatives to sand
'When building roads, for example, we could add plastic components to the asphalt instead of sand. And in construction, we could introduce more innovative wooden structures. But efforts are also being made to use desert sand, which is not suitable for concrete and cement production due to its poor binding power', Mette Bendixen explains.
And there is a lot of sand in the deserts. The problem is that grains of sand of the same size have limited binding power, and desert sand is round and uniform. The industry is therefore trying to manipulate the sand structure to make it more useful.
'But we should not expect desert sand to become the next sand resource. It may be used together with something else, though', says Mette Bendixen.
Researchers biomines vanadium aboard ISS
Houston TX (SPX) Sep 01, 2021
For centuries, humans have mined materials to build the tools we use every day, from batteries and cell phones to airplanes and refrigerators. While the process of obtaining these important minerals used to rely entirely on heavy machinery, fire, and human labor, scientists have learned how to harness the natural power of microbes to do some of the work. This process, called biomining, has become common as a cost efficient and environmentally friendly way to obtain the metals around us in nature. ... read more
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.