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Global sand scarcity – conflicts and synergies in an increasingly populated world

Sand

Sand is a key ingredient in the recipe of modern life, and yet it might be our most overlooked natural resource. Rapid urbanization and global population growth have fuelled the demand for sand and gravel, with between 32 and 50 billion tons extracted globally each year, and both consumption and prices are expected to rise.

Astonishingly, despite the central importance of sand, we possess no clear global overview, or statistics, of the sand resources available or those being mined. This has led to a lack of sustainable exploitation, planning and trade and a chaotic pattern of sand extraction. For instance, illegal sand extraction has been documented in 70 countries across the globe, and battles over sand mining have reportedly killed hundreds in recent years. Sand extraction from rivers and beaches also exerts far-reaching effects on ecology, local infrastructure, national economies and the livelihood of those who live along the world’s rivers and their floodplains. 

The extraction of sand creates an apparent paradox in an increasingly populated world. The growing need for sand alters and destroys nature and environments, while sand simultaneously improves the livelihoods and health of millions of people in the Global South. 

This talk will present an overview of the existing knowledge on the positive outcomes and negative consequences of sand mining. Focusing on the Global South, Dr Bendixen will introduce examples of the synergies and conflicts that arise when sand is being mined.      

About the speaker

Dr Mette Bendixen

Mette Bendixen obtained her PhD in Physical Geography from the Centre of Excellence Center for Permafrost (CENPERM) at the University of Copenhagen. Since 2018, she has worked as a Research Scholar at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) funded by the Danish Carlsberg Foundation and the Independent Research Fund Denmark. Mette’s work focus on understanding the effect of landscape dynamics on sediment fluxes with a particular interest in coastal dynamics in a changing climate. She is also interested in studying how the emerging global sand scarcity impacts and alters the landscape, ultimately affecting the livelihoods of millions of people living in the areas affected by mining.

 

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LSHTM Centre on Climate Change & Planetary Health

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