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New MPA briefing on sand supply

Sand supply

Mineral Products Association publishes ‘Sand Supply – a UK Perspective on a Global Issue’

THE Mineral Products Association (MPA) has published a briefing, ‘Sand Supply – a UK Perspective on a Global Issue’, as a contribution to the current global debate regarding the availability, access to and consumption of sand.

In recent years there has been increasing attention on the demand for sand, the potential for global shortages and the consequences of unregulated extraction as the link has been made between the societal demands for homes and infrastructure and the associated pressures that this can place on finite mineral resources, particularly at a local scale.


While the references to resource pressures have typically focused on ‘sand’, what is usually being referred to is construction aggregates more generally, and particularly sand and gravel supply.

The MPA briefing complements a new UN Report in which Joyce Msuya, acting director of the UN Environment Programme, writes: ‘we now find ourselves in the position where the needs and expectations of our societies cannot be met without improved governance of global sand resources’.

The MPA’s new report clarifies that the UK is not running out of sand and construction aggregates, has robust regulatory systems, and industry operating standards are generally high, which allows the delivery of a sustainable supply of aggregates from extracted and recycled sources.

Key points in the new MPA briefing include:

  • There will remain significant UK and international demand 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.
  • Sand is also extracted and used for a range of high-quality non-construction uses such as glass manufacturing.
  • Population growth, greater affluence and more urbanization and development are driving large increases in global demand for materials and mineral resources, including sand and other aggregates.
  • In some parts of the world, the regulation of natural resources is inadequate and can be associated with illegal harvesting/extraction and environmental degradation.
  • The need for resource-efficient urbanization and development globally, together with the implementation of effective regulations for sustainable construction and minerals/natural resources supply are key issues.  
  • Linked with regulation and corporate behaviour, there needs to be greater transparency about the governance and activities of minerals and other natural resource industries and the revenue flows associated with industry activity. The international Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) is designed to increase such transparency and create a platform for debate about the governance of the sector.

Mark Russell, MPA executive director of planning, mineral resources & BMAPA, commented: ‘The minerals and minerals products industries, of which aggregates is a major constituent, are essential to the economy and our way of life. They represent the largest materials flow in the UK economy – around 1 million tonnes per day in a typical year.

‘The UN reporting makes the link between the demands for construction materials alongside the implications of global sand supply if these societal needs are not supported by sustainable, well-managed supply chains.

‘The issues of sand supply are mirrored by increasing global demands for a range of natural resources and insufficient regulatory capacity to manage such issues in many countries. In this respect, these very much represent global issues that are being played out at a local scale.

‘While industry and regulatory standards have evolved to provide a sustainable supply of aggregates in the UK, we must not be complacent about the need to maintain these standards in the future.

‘Mineral operations in the UK can provide excellent examples of global good practice, both to mitigate and manage potential impacts and to deliver biodiversity and environmental net gain through effective site restoration. The challenge is how to translate the learning and benefits from these into solutions that may be able to be effectively applied elsewhere around the world.’

A copy of the full MPA briefing can be downloaded below.


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