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2022 / 2023 Edition

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‘Supply cannot be assumed’ - MPA welcomes UN sand study

Sand report

UNEP study recognizes strategic importance of sand resources to global economic development

A UN study recognizing the strategic importance of sand resources to global economic development has been welcomed by the UK’s Mineral Products Association (MPA).

The MPA, which represents the vast majority of the UK’s aggregate producers, has endorsed the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Sand and Sustainability report. In it UNEP acknowledges that sand resources – encompassing all primary aggregates including sand, gravel, and crushed rock – are essential for built development and infrastructure, and that their supply cannot be assumed.

The report cites the UK as a model of good practice where aggregate extraction is tightly regulated and well managed, with restoration schemes that deliver biodiversity improvement once quarrying is complete. That is in stark contrast to the way sand resources are extracted in many developing countries where sand, in particular, is removed from active geological systems such as rivers and beaches.

The report also calls for greater use of secondary aggregates which are by-products of other industrial processes, and recycled aggregates made from construction, demolition, and excavation waste. That is another area in which the UK is a global leader with almost 30% of UK aggregates demand being met from secondary or recycled sources.

Mark Russell, the MPA’s executive director for planning and mineral resources, said: ‘In this report, UNEP recognizes sand resources – including sand, gravel, and crushed rock – as a strategic mineral that’s absolutely essential for economic development. We’ve been saying for years that the supply of essential minerals like sand and gravel is simply assumed, it’s taken for granted.

‘One of the key recommendations of particular relevance to the UK is the need for major infrastructure schemes to factor-in the sourcing of raw materials before construction begins – developers need to carry out a resources and materials supply audit, rather than assuming the materials will turn up when they are needed. The supply of essential mineral resources like sand and gravel must be planned for, monitored, and managed to ensure needs can be met.

‘The MPA appreciated the opportunity to contribute to the preparation of this UNEP study, reflecting the UK’s strong track record in operating to the highest standards and delivering outstanding quarry restoration schemes that are proven to significantly increase biodiversity.

‘The UNEP report identifies 10 key recommendations which provide practical solutions to support the sustainable supply of this strategic resource. Taken collectively, the measures identified can help to ensure sand, gravel, and crushed rock are planned, managed, and extracted responsibly with a net benefit to the natural environment as well as the built environment.’

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