The world is ‘running out of sand’, and it’s fuelling murders, mafias and ecological devastation

THIS REPORT also raises even more issues for Australia … our security!

NOT only do we have Real Estate OVERDEVELOPMENT for the ‘foreign money laundering market’ of CHINA and INDIA

BUT with this OVERDEVELOPMENT … NSW INC has ridden roughshod over the Windsor Community … to demolish their Heritage Windsor Bridge and Thompson Square to make way for *DAMAGING sand mining in the Hawkesbury River!

AND with the ‘splash of cash’ … Hot Money … where are the checks … the vetting of thousands of people flying in weekly to buy this Real Estate? Who are they? Among them are there …

-members of the Chinese Communist Party? (Yes)

-triads … flying into Sydney Casinos? (Yes)

View: An Australian Border Force official provided security for an international criminal fugitive who has worked with Crown Resorts to bring Chinese high rollers into Australia.

SEARCH for more reports on Crown!

-now among the Indians are there ‘Sand Mining Mafia’?

Indians are now the third-largest migrant­ group in Australia and are on track to overtake Britons and Chinese


The world is ‘running out of sand’, and it’s fuelling murders, mafias and ecological devastation

ABC Radio National By Anna Kelsey-Sugg and Taryn Priadko for Saturday Extra

Updated 11 JANUARY 2020

Under a colourful, cloudy sky, a large yellow digger digs at a huge pile of sand. Flattened dirt road is in the background.

PHOTO: We use sand in a lot of construction. But its scarcity in some areas is fuelling a dangerous trade. (Getty: Avalon_Studio)

RELATED STORY: ‘Mafias’ terrorising Indians, pillaging environment

RELATED STORY: The ‘sand mafia’ fuelling India’s $120 billion building boom

It’s difficult to believe that sand — that seemingly innocuous little granule — could cause any trouble, let alone lead to murder.

And that’s probably because we tend to take it for granted.

“Even though most people never even think about it, sand is all around you pretty much all the time,” says US journalist Vince Beiser, who has written a book on sand and civilisation.

“No sand, no modern civilisation.”

According to Beiser, the demand for sand is fuelling a sinister and dangerous black market organisation: a “sand mafia”.

A shortage of sand

A desert-scape of close-ups of rippling sand and mountains of sand behind that, under a clear blue sky.

PHOTO: Desert sand is “pretty much useless” for construction, says Beiser, as the grains are too smooth to lock together. (Getty: Matteo Colombo)

Sand has been used for construction since 7000 BCE, but its use ramped up at the turn of the 20th century.

“Once it was perfected — wham — it just took over the entire planet,” Beiser tells RN’s Saturday Extra.

Concrete, which is made out of sand and gravel, is now used to make our buildings, shopping malls and roads.Running out of sand
Great Moments in Science looks at how many products and industries have sand as an ingredient, and why it’s one that’s running low.

Sand from the desert is unsuitable for construction, so instead we mostly use sand found at the bottom of rivers, lakes, oceans and on beaches.

CAAN: HENCE the destruction of our Heritage Windsor Bridge and Thompson Square Windsor for sand mining in the Hawkesbury River *

Beiser says the world uses 50 billion tonnes of this kind of sand every year — more than any other natural resource, “except for water”.

“When you are talking about quantities that large, sooner or later you’re going to run into shortages, and that is in fact what is happening in a growing number of places around the world,” he says.

“We are running out, believe it or not.”YOUTUBE: Vince Beiser talks about the shortage of sand

University of Adelaide earth sciences professor Alan Collins is somewhat more cautious in his assessment.

We are running out of sand “in a way”, he says, “and in particular, in certain places”.

“It’s more about the right quality of sand and where it’s found. For various uses we need quite pure sand … and getting sand that’s that pure can be quite tricky,” he says.

*Professor Collins says the problem of diminishing sand supplies is particularly significant in developing countries.

*”There’s certainly a lot of over-exploitation of sand, particularly in developing economies that are … digging it up very quickly,” he says.

“I think it’s something that we’re just becoming aware of.”

‘They call them the sand mafia’

A middle-aged man in a suit poses for a portrait.

PHOTO: Vince Beiser is the author of The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How it Transformed Civilisation. (Supplied:

Beiser argues that in parts of the world, sand is becoming a very dangerous business.

He says a scarcity of sand, and efforts to regulate the sand mining industry, have spawned an illegal trade.

“The demand for sand is so intense in some places that organised criminal gangs have taken over the trade,” he says.

“And they do what criminal gangs do everywhere to people who try to stop them.

“They have murdered hundreds of people in the last few years over sand.”

In India, Beiser says, “they call them the sand mafia”.

“They have literally murdered hundreds of people, including many journalistsincluding one that was burned to death recently. Another one was hacked to death with machetes,” he says.

“But it’s not only journalists. It’s also environmental activists, police officers, government officials — and that’s not counting all the ones who have been threatened, who’ve been beaten up, who’ve been chased off their land.

“It’s astonishing when you start looking into it.”

In 2017 the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent travelled to India to chase the sand mafia, revealing that despite a near-blanket ban on unlicensed sand mining across India, it operates with near impunity.

Two young men in wet shorts and shirt stand at the tip of a boat just visible, with tall city buildings far in the background.

PHOTO: In Mumbai, where these fishermen now collect sand, mining for sand is almost as valuable as mining for gold. (ABC Foreign Correspondent)

Beiser says India is not alone. He cites a recent murder in South Africa related to rival gangs of sand miners fighting over sand, the murder of a Mexican environmental activist trying to stop sand mining in his village, and other sand-related killings in Kenya, Gambia and Indonesia.

“It’s a worldwide phenomenon,” Beiser says.

AUDIO: Hear more from Vince Beiser on the consequences of a sand shortage (Saturday Extra)

The environmental cost

Professor Collins also raises concerns about the significant ecological impact of sand trade and sand dredging.

*Taking sand from local river systems and transporting it far distances has “lots of implications for energy use”, he says, “and also just ecological devastation”.

Aerial view of a large brown body of water, upon which sits a long pipe, with small machines connected to it at even intervals.

PHOTO: A sand sucker removes sand from the Mekong River, Thailand. (Getty: anucha sirivisansuwan)

“In places such as Singapore or Bangkok where there’s very little sand locally around, the sand’s got to come from elsewhere, internationally,” he says.

“So you then get quite a lot of issues around importing sand across borders, and really devastating ecosystems.

“To get sand out of the rivers you just completely dredge the river and everything in it.” *

*That includes sediment. And when a river is depleted of that, there can be dire consequences.

“Water then goes much faster, you can get much more flooding, and downstream effects can really be quite extreme,” Professor Collins says.

Cutting consumption

Beiser advocates tighter international laws on sand mining to curtail environmental damage.

“First of all, we need better rules and regulations around the world on sand mining,” he says.

He argues that in many Western countries those rules are largely in place, but are “totally missing in a lot of Asia and Africa and the developing world”.

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He says we also need to find alternatives to sand.

“We have to simply use not only less sand but less everything,” he says.

“We know that we are using too much fresh water, we’re cutting down too many trees, we’re taking too many fish out of the oceans, and now we’ve come to find out we’re using too much sand.

“These are not separate problems. They are all symptoms of the same problem, which is that we are just consuming too much.

“We’ve just got to find ways to build our cities and live our lives in ways that consume less, that are more sustainable.”