Sands of time are running out

Building boom threatens an ‘inexhaustible’ resource, says Thomas Ringheim

The World Today Published 26 July 2019 Updated 6 November 2020 2 minute READ

Thomas Ringheim

Former Editorial Assistant, The World Today

While the world focuses on when fossil fuel reserves will dry up, scientists are sounding the alarm over supplies of a resource that used to be regarded as inexhaustible – sand.

Used extensively in building materials and in glass making, sand is being extracted at a pace that far exceeds the rate of natural renewal. In a report published in July in the science journal Nature, researchers from the the University of Colorado calculate that by 2050 the demand for sand will far surpass availability.

At the moment there is no accurate data on the availability and mining of sand, and the researchers are calling for oversight and monitoring systems.

Exact data on the amount of sand mined each year is not available because much of the trade is undocumented or illegal, which means that there is an extensive black market. It is estimated that the sand extraction industry is worth more than $70 billion a year.

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