New research: Illegal Sand Mining in South Africa

Photo © Romy Chevallier/ SAIIA
Illegal sand mining operation in South Africa.

Uncontrolled and often illegal sand mining activities are destroying some of South Africa’s most valuable natural resources at an unprecedented rate.

Sand mining is the extraction of surface sand from beaches and inland dunes, or the dredging of sand from riverbeds. The sand is typically sold to the construction industry, for the production of materials such as tiles, cement bricks and other sand aggregates.

Although often small-scale and remote, these activities are exceeding the regenerative capacity of many rivers, valleys and estuaries ecosystems throughout the country. A new SAIIA policy briefing explains that the cost of these unsustainable activities is far-reaching, with large economic, social and ecological consequences for South Africa and local resource users.

The frameworks governing small-scale sand mining in South Africa lack the necessary resources to support better environmental compliance, and the enforcement mechanisms to successfully deter illegal activities are weak. Existing policy and management responses lack the urgency needed to avert the irreversible destruction of these riverine environments and conserve sand as a finite resource.

Better enforcement is needed to discourage illegal sand mining and to end the extraction of all river and estuarine sand mining. This should be done while concurrently seeking more sustainable sources of sand for the fast growing construction industry.

SAIIA has just released new research on this topic. Click here to download the briefing by Romy Chevallier, ‘llegal sand mining in South Africa.’

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