A strange phenomenon happened in the national and international media this year. Stories began appearing about a global sand shortage:
- World Faces Global Sand Shortage (NPR).
- Why There Is A Shortage Of Sand (The Economist).
- The World Is Running Out Of Sand (The New Yorker).
- The World’s Disappearing Sand (The New York Times).
- The World Faces A Global Sand Shortage (Business Insider).
- The Deadly Global War For Sand (Wired).
- The Demand For Sand Is So High There Are Illegal Sand Mining (Smithsonian Magazine).
- The World Is Facing A Global Sand Crisis (The National).
- How a Worldwide Sand Shortage Could Devastate the Design World (Architectural Digest).
The list goes on and on.
Many of the articles focus on international markets, where illegal mines and black market activity have handcuffed availability and driven up prices. In China and Dubai, an unprecedented building boom is devouring sand as fast as they can make it.
Focusing on the United States, relevant points include diminishing reserves in places such as California; and how population growth now 1) requires more sand to be used and 2) has spawned development to serve that growth, often right on top of possible deposits.
Rogue environmental groups have seized on these reports as evidence that we are mining Mother Earth to extinction. Cemex’s agreement to phase out operations at its long-running Lapis sand plant in Marina, Calif., was largely due to environmental concerns. That was the last beachfront sand operation in the country.
But environmental groups may be doing us a favor here. Now we have a great argument as to why new sand and gravel operations are a necessity: We are running out of sand.
Then there are the hurricanes. The damage the recent weather events in the Caribbean and Houston, Texas, brought will require enormous amounts of sand. Not to mention our rumored $1 trillion infrastructure plan.
The truth is, we have plenty of sand, even if it is often located in inconvenient places. We just have to get deposits permitted and processing facilities up and running. But the price of a ton of sand is now going to be higher because the commodity is in demand and plants will be located further away.
While many of us may be asking, what sand shortage, let’s go with the current vernacular: we are running out of sand. Because we can fix that.