Most of the worlds environmental damages have come from mineral mines. Over time large markets and industries have been centered around feeding consumer’s obsessions with these shiny and sparkly minerals like diamonds and gold. With a high intrinsic and monetary value those industries for years thrive, but of quartz (pun intended) those industries have become rare due to over extraction. But whoever would have thought that the sand mining industry would someday boom!
Currently India’s sand mafia accumulates around $2.3b a year in the illicit market for sand. It’s estimated that 50,000 lorryloads of sand is being mined per day and gangs around the country are smuggling and selling it to nearby states. Not only is this causing violence as the demand grows, but it’s also taking a devastating toll on the environment.
Much of the global economy depends sand. The sand is mostly utilized in the construction industry, it is generally used to make asphalt and concrete. However, sand is also distributed to produce goods like glass and electronics in America. The United Nations Environment Programmer in 2014 reported that sand accounts for 85% of the weight of minerals mined each year.
As of 2008, Asia has become the largest consumer of sand. For more perspective, the Freedonia Group, a market firm, estimated that out of the 13.7bn tons of sand mind, 70% was bought and used by Asia. Furthermore, half of that 70% was used in China alone to build houses and roads. However, Singapore used the sand for an even more foundational purpose. Vast quantities of sand were dumped into the ocean and now Singapore is 20% larger than it was in 1965. Even beaches are being stripped in order to feed the demand.
Although this resource appears plentiful, it’s becoming scarce and this is for a few reasons. First, not all types of sand can be utilized. Second, it is being extracted way faster than it can naturally replenish. Unfortunately, monitoring these mafias is anything but productive according to Indian Officials. Since the gangs become more violent as the demand grows, most officials are intimidated. Unfortunately, the underlying message is that the negative externalities generated by mining will continue. It appears the mafias intimidating ways will prevent officials from implementing sustainable policy, thus leading to irreversible environmental impact and damages.