First publishedon www.AggBusiness.com
A digger carrying out sand extraction in a lake
The UK has robust regulatory systems and high industry operating standards for sand extraction, but must not become complacent on the issue.
That is the view of the Mineral Products Association (MPA), which says growing media attention that culminated in a new United Nations report on the global impact of sand extraction has prompted it to produce its own briefing from the UK’s perspective.
The UN report published in May highlighted the world’s demand for sand and gravel, the potential for shortages and the consequences of unregulated extraction, as the link is made between the desire for homes and infrastructure and the pressures this can place on mineral resources.
The report says sand and gravel is a ’critical resource’. It adds that global demand has grown three-fold in the past two decades and now stands at 40 to 50 billion tonnes per year. It says that lack of regulation in aggregates extraction – especially from rivers – in some parts of the world has led to dire consequences, citing examples of irresponsible and illegal practices which are having a devastating impact on local people, habitats and biodiversity.
Acknowledging these global issues, the MPA report states that the UK has robust regulatory systems and high industry operating standards, which enable the responsible delivery of aggregates from both primary and secondary sources. It clarifies that the UK is not running out of sand and construction aggregates.
The MPA briefing on the UK situation says that demand remains high for aggregates and other mineral products such as concrete and asphalt which rely on aggregates, because these materials are essential to provide safe, resilient and sustainable housing and infrastructure. It adds that sand is also extracted and used for a range of high-quality other uses such as glass manufacturing.
Population growth in the UK, greater affluence and more urbanisation are driving increases in global demand for mineral resources including sand and other aggregates.
The MPA says that in some parts of the world, regulation of natural resources is inadequate and can be associated with illegal extraction and environmental damage.
The association states: "There’s a global need for resourceefficient development, together with the implementation of effective regulations for sustainable construction and supply of minerals/natural resources."
The MPA says that greater transparency is needed around natural resource industries along with the revenue flows from their activities. It adds that the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) is designed to do just that and create a platform for debate about the governance.
Mark Russell, MPA executive director for planning & mineral resources, said: “The UN report makes the link between the demand for construction materials alongside the implications of global sand supply if society’s needs are not supported by sustainable, wellmanaged supply chains.
“In the UK, industry and regulatory standards have evolved to provide a sustainable supply of aggregates but we must not be complacent about the need to maintain these standards in the future. Mineral extraction in the UK has some excellent examples of global good practice. The challenge is how to translate the learning and benefits from these to other parts of the world."