The world’s beaches are being mined for sand for a variety of uses (aggregate in concrete, fill, beach renourishment). The practice is often very destructive and poorly managed (or unmanaged). This is a global phenomenon (Morocco, Caribbean Islands, India, South Africa and more). This theft of beach and dune sand is a direct cause of erosion along many shorelines. It is very damaging to the beach fauna and flora, ruinous to beach aesthetics, and frequently causes environmental damage to other coastal ecosystems associated with the beach such as wetlands.
Another major impact of beach sand mining is the loss of protection from storms surges associated with tropical cyclones and tsunamis. Some communities affected by the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean had higher storm surges probably due to beach sand mining resulting in fatalities. Sometimes it is difficult to tell that a beach has been mined. Sand extraction becomes difficult to recognize as the beach readjusts to a new profile after a few storms. But historic accounts of beaches in the Caribbean often reveal that beaches have been narrowed considerably. Mining is particularly senseless in a time of rising sea level when sand is sorely needed as a storm energy buffer.
Surfing in / Sand Mining
A local marine biologist is urging the authorities to take a firmer stance on the crime of sand mining at beaches across the Antigua & Barbuda.
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The expansive Lwera wetland is a major water catchment area that connects several rivers and wetlands in many districts and drains directly into Lake Victoria. For years on, the locals have lived in peace with the surroundings. However, over the past couple of months, sharp noises from sand dredgers are heard. Sand mining companies are breaching rules and are destroying the wetland.
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Activist Sumatra Abdulali, who has been threatened and attacked several times for raising the issue of sand mining, continues to raise awareness on the subject, to the local authorities.
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Officials in Crimea are warning people to stop stealing sand from tourist beaches, or else face a prison sentence. The peninsula’s beaches are being targeted by people who remove the sand for use as free building material, and at more remote beaches it’s being taken away by the lorry-load.
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From 2007 to 2012, the coastline in parts of Taiwan-governed Kinmen -located off the coast of southeastern China- has reduced more than 200 meters and the total land loss currently adds up to 250,000 square meters. Many experts and Kinmen locals, believe this ongoing phenomenon can be attributed to illegal Chinese sand miners operating along the coast.
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A gorgeous stretch of the Wild Coast is the object of a standoff between corrupt pro-mining forces interested in mining the local beach sand for titanium, and a South African coastal community. The drama is structured around two diametrically opposed protagonists. A film review by Variety.
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Whilst reclamation in Jakarta and Bali are more well-known due to the frequent reporting and public controversies, similar projects are also either being planned or underway in other regions across Indonesia.
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The growing global sand and gravel exploitation has not spared France’s beaches either. Under what has been called the “Le Matelier project,” two companies are considering extracting about 13-million cubic metres of beach sand and gravel for 30 years, in the Gironde estuary.
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The new building material could transform polluting emissions into a valuable resource.
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