Sand mining is the extraction of sand, mainly through an open pit (or sand pit)[1][failed verification][2] but sometimes mined from beaches and inland dunes or dredged from ocean and river beds.[3] Sand is often used in manufacturing, for example as an abrasive or in concrete. It is also used on icy and snowy roads usually mixed with salt, to lower the melting point temperature, on the road surface. Sand can replace eroded coastline.[4] Some uses require higher purity than others; for example sand used in concrete must be free of seashell fragments.

Sand mining presents opportunities to extract rutile, ilmenite, and zircon, which contain the industrially useful elements titanium and zirconium. Besides these minerals, beach sand may also contain garnet, leucoxene, sillimanite, and monazite.[5]

These minerals are quite often found in ordinary sand deposits. A process known as elutriation is used, whereby flowing water separates the grains based on their size, shape, and density.

Sand mining is a direct cause of erosion, and impacts the local wildlife.[6] Various animals depend on sandy beaches for nesting clutches, and mining has led to the near extinction of gharials (a species of crocodilian) in India. Disturbance of underwater and coastal sand causes turbidity in the water, which is harmful for organisms like coral that need sunlight. It can also destroy fisheries, financially harming their operators.

Removal of physical coastal barriers, such as dunes, sometimes leads to flooding of beachside communities, and the destruction of picturesque beaches causes tourism to dissipate. Sand mining is regulated by law in many places, but is often done illegally.[7] Globally, it is a $70 billion industry, with sand selling at up to $90 per cubic yard.[8]

Illegal mining

Sign in County Mayo, Ireland, forbidding the removal of sand and stones from a beach.
Sand theft or unauthorised or illegal sand mining leads to a generally unknown global example of natural and non-renewable resource depletion problem comparable in extent to global water scarcity.[9][10][11] Beach theft is illegal removal of large quantities of sand from a beach leading to full or partial disappearance of the beach. In India illegal sand mining is the country's largest organized criminal activity.[12]

By country

Sand mine in the Czech Republic.


See also: Mining in Australia and Cronulla sand dunes, Kurnell Peninsula

In the 1940 mining operations began on the Kurnell Peninsula (Captain Cook's landing place in Australia) to supply the expanding Sydney building market. It continued until 1990 with an estimate of over 70 million tonnes of sand having been removed. The sand has been valued for many decades by the building industry, mainly because of its high crushed shell content and lack of organic matter, it has provided a cheap source of sand for most of Sydney since sand mining operations began. The site has now been reduced to a few remnant dunes and deep water-filled pits which are now being filled with demolition waste from Sydney's building sites. Removal of the sand has significantly weakened the peninsula's capacity to resist storms. Ocean waves pounding against the reduced Kurnell dune system have threatened to break through to Botany Bay, especially during the storms of May and June back in 1974 and of August 1998.[13] Sand Mining also takes place in the Stockton sand dunes north of Newcastle and in the Broken Hill region in the far west of the state.

A large and long-running sand mine in Queensland, Australia (on North Stradbroke Island) provides a case study in the environmental consequences on a fragile sandy-soil based ecosystem, justified by the provision of low wage casual labor on an island with few other work options.[14] The Labor state government pledged to end sand mining by 2025, but this decision was overturned by the LNP government which succeeded it. This decision has been subject to an allegation of corrupt conduct.[15]

Sand mining contributes to the construction of buildings and development. The negative effects of sand mining include the permanent loss of sand in areas, as well as major habitat destruction.


See also: Sand mining in India

Sand mining is a practice that is becoming an environmental issue in India. Environmentalists have raised public awareness of illegal sand mining in the states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh,[16] Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu[17] and Goa of India.[18] Conservation and environmental NGO Awaaz Foundation filed a public interest litigation in the Bombay High Court seeking a ban on mining activities along the Konkan coast.[19] Awaaz Foundation, in partnership with the Bombay Natural History Society also presented the issue of sand mining as a major international threat to coastal biodiversity at the Conference of Parties 11, Convention on Biological Diversity, Hyderabad in October 2012.[20][21] D. K. Ravi, an Indian Administrative Service officer of the Karnataka state, who was well known for his tough crackdown on the rampant illegal sand mining in the Kolar district, was found dead at his residence in Bengaluru, on 16 March 2015. It is widely alleged that the death is not due to suicide but the handiwork of the mafia involved in land grabbing and sand mining.[22]

Sierra Leone

Recently, activists and local villagers have protested against sand mining on Sierra Leone's Western Area Peninsular. The activity is contributing to Sierra Leone's coastal erosion, which is proceeding at up to 6 meters a year.[23]

United States

The current size of the sand mining market in the United States is slightly over a billion dollars per year. The industry has been growing by nearly 10% annually since 2005 because of its use in hydrocarbon extraction. The majority of the market size for mining is held by Texas and Illinois.[24]

Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Florida

Frac sand facility in Blair
Frac sand facility in Blair, Wisconsin
Frac sand mine in the Town of Oakdale, Wisconsin with a large looped track with 3 rail lines

Silica sand mining business has more than doubled since 2009 because of the need for this particular type of sand, which is used in a process known as hydraulic fracturing. Wisconsin is one of the five states that produce nearly 2/3 of the nation's silica. As of 2009, Wisconsin, along with other northern states, is facing an industrial mining boom, being dubbed the "sand rush" because of the new demand from large oil companies for silica sand. According to Minnesota Public Radio, "One of the industry's major players, U.S. Silica, says its sand sales tied to hydraulic fracturing nearly doubled to $70 million from 2009 to 2010 and brought in nearly $70 million in just the first nine months of 2011."[25] According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), there are currently 34 active mines and 25 mines in development in Wisconsin. In 2012, the WDNR released a final report on the silica sand mining in Wisconsin titled Silica Sand Mining in Wisconsin. The recent boom in silica sand mining has caused concern from residents in Wisconsin that include quality of life issues and the threat of silicosis. According to the WDNR (2012) these issues include noise, lights, hours of operation, damage and excessive wear to roads from trucking traffic, public safety concerns from the volume of truck traffic, possible damage and annoyance resulting from blasting, and concerns regarding aesthetics and land use changes.

As of 2013, industrial frac sand mining has become a cause for activism, especially in the Driftless Area of southeast Minnesota, northeast Iowa and southwest Wisconsin.[why?]


A sand mining operation in the Red River, in Jinping County, Yunnan

Much sand is extracted by dredges from the bottom of rivers such as the Red River in Yunnan, or quarried in dry river beds. Due to the large demand for sand for construction, illicit sand mining is not uncommon.[26][better source needed]

In 2020 the Coast Guard Administration of the neighboring country of Taiwan expelled or detained nearly 4,000 Chinese sand dredging vessels.[27] Illegal sand dredging by Chinese vessels causes environmental damage in Taiwan[28] as well as the Philippines.[29]

See also


  1. ^ "Sandpit Owners Ordered to Take Corrective Steps". Los Angeles Times. 15 July 1969. p. OC–A1. Archived from the original (Subscription required) on 7 August 2009. Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  2. ^ Lubasch, Arnold H. (8 October 1967). "$75-Million Industry Park Planned for L.I. Sandpit". The New York Times. p. R1.
  3. ^ Marco Hernandez; Simon Scarr; Katy Daigle (February 2021). "The messy business of sand mining explained". Reuters.
  4. ^ "Battle lines in the sand". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2 November 2005.
  5. ^ Ravishankar, Sandhya (20 June 2019). "Mining The Coasts of Tamil Nadu". The Lede. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  6. ^ Ratcliffe, Ruth (9 April 1997). "Opposition to sand mining on Stradbroke". Green Left Weekly. Archived from the original on 3 September 2012. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  7. ^ Graham J Whitehead (2004). "Sand Mining". City of Kingston Historical Website. Retrieved 16 January 2023.
  8. ^ Mills, Ryan; Staats, Eric (17 November 2016). "Shrinking Shores: Florida sand shortage leaves beaches in lurch". Naples Daily News. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  9. ^ Vince Beiser (26 March 2015). "The Deadly Global War for Sand". wired.
  10. ^ Christian Hellwig (19 April 2015). "Illegal Sand Mining is a Thing and it's a Problem". Global Risk Insights. Archived from the original on 5 January 2019. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  11. ^ Jakob Villioth (5 August 2014). "Building an economy on quicksand". ejolt. Sand has by now become the most widely consumed natural resource on the planet after fresh water
  12. ^ "Sand Is in Such High Demand, People Are Stealing Tons of It". HowStuffWorks. 6 March 2017. Retrieved 4 February 2022.
  13. ^ "Kurnell – A Pictorial History".
  14. ^ "Victorian sand mining moves closer to full production". ABC Western Victoria. Archived from the original on 27 May 2006.
  15. ^ "Queensland sandmining: Corruption watchdog asked to investigate donation". The Guardian. 24 June 2014.
  16. ^ "Illegal mining flourishes in Madhya Pradesh, even after IPS officer's murder". 2012. Archived from the original on 7 October 2012. Retrieved 16 January 2023.
  17. ^ Marion Guégan; Cécile Schilis-Gallego. "Sand mafias silence journalists in India". Retrieved 16 January 2023.
    Sandhya Ravishankar (20 June 2019). "Collusion of Officials with Beach Sand Miners Revealed in Internal Repor". Archived from the original on 10 March 2021.
    Sandhya Ravishankar (20 June 2019). "Minung the Coasts of Tamil Nadu". Archived from the original on 25 November 2020.
  18. ^ Rajadhyaksha, Radha (10 January 2010). "No attacker brought to book so far". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 31 December 2013.
    Viju, B (24 March 2011). "Creeks and rivers up for sale". The Times of India. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
    Singh, Vijay (3 April 2012). "NCP leader waves gun at tehsildar". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 31 December 2013. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
    Viju, B (27 October 2009). "Sand mining issue haunts Naik". The Times of India. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  19. ^ Viju, B (25 September 2010). "HC bans sand mining across Maharashtra". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 3 November 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  20. ^ "Effects of Sand mining in coastal bio diversity". Convention on Biological Diversity.
  21. ^ "Sand". India Environment Portal. Retrieved 16 January 2023.
  22. ^ Mondal, Sudipto (17 March 2015). "IAS officer who took on sand mafia found dead in Bengaluru residence". Hindustan Times. Archived from the original on 17 March 2015. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
    "IAS Officer, Who Took on the Sand Mafia, Found Dead in Bengaluru". NDTV. 16 March 2015. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
  23. ^ "Unsustainable Sand Mining in Sierra Leone". 30 July 2012. Archived from the original on 1 August 2012.
  24. ^ "Industrial Sand Mining Industry: Statistics, Forecasts, Company Data". Pell Research. Retrieved 16 January 2023.
  25. ^ Paul Tosto (March 2012). "MPR News Primer: Frac sand mining". MPR News. Retrieved 16 January 2023.
  26. ^ Xu Jingxi (August 2012). "Crackdown planned on illegal river sand mining". China Daily. Retrieved 16 January 2023.
  27. ^ "Taiwan expels thousands of Chinese dredgers from its waters". The Straits Times. 25 January 2021. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  28. ^ Jensen, Sally (September 2020). "Illegal Offshore Sand Mining Around Taiwan Destroys Ocean Habitats". The Oxygen Project. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  29. ^ Sutton, H I. "Satellites Show Scale of Suspected Illegal Dredging in South China Sea". Forbes. Retrieved 29 January 2021.