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Sand and the Sandbank: is sand extraction a sustainable business?

30 January 2019
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Organised by:
Geological Society Events, Royal Geographical Society
The Geological Society, Burlington House
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Recent lurid headlines have suggested that across the planet we are running out of sand.  This echoes similar contemporary concerns regarding the physical exhaustion of other natural resources which have in the past been assumed to be essentially infinite.  Sand has been an essential raw material from the beginning of urbanisation – a mineral that has formed the foundations of civilisation through construction of our buildings and infrastructure. 

Within the last decade or two, in some parts of the world supply of sand has become constrained.  In a very few places, sand has arguably become a conflict mineral.  As a result, some commentators now suggest we are threatened by the unmanaged and rapid depletion in global stocks of this essential mineral. 

Sand is now used to create places on a larger scale than ever before, especially through land reclamation from the sea. Sand is also used in concrete and a wide range of industrial uses including the manufacture of glass & steel, cement production and water purification. Driven by population growth, higher standards of living and increasing urbanisation, global demand for sand has grown rapidly.  

As a consequence, tensions have risen in some parts of the world where demand for sand for new development highlights an imbalance in value, sand stocks and/or the capacity to supply.  Where the understanding of sand resources is poor and regulation is weak, these tensions can result in serious impacts on the environment and communities.

The presumption of sand supply continuity requires re-evaluation.  With contributions from key experts, this meeting will consider sand as a commodity, assessing the benefits and disbenefits of its extraction and use against the backdrop of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.  

The meeting aims to explore sand supply and markets; resource management policies and regulation; and the environmental, social and economic risks associated with extraction - all at a range of scales from local to international.  In addressing concerns, the meeting will be focussed on sharing knowledge and science, culminating in the identification of best practices and ways forward.

The meeting will feature break-out sessions and a final discussion, with the aim of defining priorities for the research agenda as well as creating a common purpose document and policy briefing note. 



  • Ian Selby, Director of Sustainable Geoscience, Sustainable Earth Institute, University of Plymouth
  • Andrew Bloodworth, Science Director, Minerals & Waste, British Geological Survey
  • Mark Russell, Executive Director, Planning & Mineral Resources, Mineral Products Association


Confirmed speakers currently include:

  • Dr Pascal Peduzzi of UNEP/GRID-Geneva
  • Professor Iain Stewart of the University of Plymouth (UNESCO Chair in Geoscience and Society) 
  • Jaap Flikweert from RHDHV
  • Dr Vera Van Lancker from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
  • Andrew Bloodworth of the British Geological Survey
  • Dr Ian Selby of the Sustainable Earth Institute, University of Plymouth

Registration rates

£ 100.00
£ 150.00
£ 100.00
£ 35.00
£ 50.00