The Economics Of Sand

March 29, 2015 in Daily Bulletin

The world is built upon sand, writes Vince Beiser:

  • Sand is in glass, detergents, cosmetics, toothpaste, solar panels, silicon chips, and buildings – which are really just sand stuck together with concrete.
  • Deserts seem like a limitless source of sand, but that sand is usually unusable because it is shaped by wind, making it too smooth for most purposes.
  • 40 billion tons of sand is used annually and with economic growth driving up demand in places like China and India riverbeds and beaches have had their sand stripped away.
  • Over 20 Indonesian islands have disappeared; their sands converted into land reclamation projects for the small island country of Singapore.
  • But exporting sand is destructive – so much so that Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam have banned the export of sand to some areas.
  • Such bans only fuel illegal mining which further damages the environment. Around 50% of the sand used in Morocco is thought to have been mined illegally.
  • India is dealing with “sand mafias” that work with corrupt police and government officials to kill opponents who would seek to end lucrative mining operations.

Read more about the importance of sand, how the sand mafias operate, how they might be eliminated, and other details here.

Source: Wired