Sand Mining: Growing Pains of Cross-Border Trade

Two deadly storms, Typhoon Hato in southern China and Hurricane Harvey in Texas, struck the world’s largest economies in the span of one week, leaving billions of dollars of damage and displacing thousands. Such storms destroy beaches, the natural buffers for coastal communities against surging seas. Fast repairs for beaches and infrastructure increase demand for sand, a key ingredient for concrete, roads and energy production. Over two decades sand went from a local product, with transport economically unfeasible beyond 30 miles, to a commodity with global trade, explains Susan Froetschel, managing editor of YaleGlobal Online. Agencies like the US Army Corps of Engineers and China’s State Oceanic Administration oversee activities including dredging to remove hazards and stockpiling sand for infrastructure. Fast-growing economies and a growing middle class in Asia, particularly China, fuel demand for sand even as environmental concerns and permitting requirements limit supplies. Nations and communities that want to restore beaches, or expand territory as is the case in Singapore and China, often eye low-cost sand in nearby nations with ample supplies and fewer regulations. Government agencies caution that sand-mining statistics can be unreliable, and uneven record-keeping in many countries may hide real capacity. – YaleGlobal