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Sand supply to struggle to keep up with demand

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World Cement,

The use of sand in construction will drive demand, putting pressure on supply, according to recent analysis by BMI Research. Higher scrutiny of the fragmented sand mining industry by regulators will also hamper its ability to keep up with market needs.

Key Asian markets, such as China and the Middle East, are expected to drive sand demand from the construction industry. For example, the UAE alone has a US$273.7 billion commercial construction pipeline, according to BMI Research’s Infrastructure Key Projects Database.

Sand is a key element in a number of construction materials, including cement and concrete, and glass.

Given the expansion of high-rise building development around the world, a construction that typically involves significant amounts of glass, BMI Research expects the glass-making industry to “add to industrial sand demand”.

In addition to construction demand, demand will be compounded by the “effects of climate change […] as countries look to rebuild shorelines after storms or due to rising sea levels,” BMI Research said. “Low-lying nations, such as the Maldives, for instance, will use sand to rebuild receding coastlines against rising sea levels.”

Increased awareness of environmental issues will also cause higher regulatory oversight of the sand mining industry.

Cambodia recently banned sand exports, after it discovered 56 million t of unaccounted-for sand exports to Singapore. Meanwhile, in the US, local opposition and environmental scrutiny, is expected to see a movement of the industry – which comprises over 4000 companies with over 6000 operations according to the US Geological Survey – to more remote locations.

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