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Silica Sand

Silicon and oxygen are the earth's two most abundant elements and together they make silica, one of the earth's three most common rock forming minerals.

Silica occurs in three main crystalline forms.  The principal occurrence is as the mineral quartz but it also occurs in other rarer mineral forms known as tridymite and cristobalite.  It is a very durable mineral resistant to heat and chemical attack and it is these properties that have made it an essential raw material for many industrial and societal applications.

The first industrial uses of crystalline silica were probably related to metallurgical and glass making activities a few thousand years BC.  It has continued to support human development throughout history, being a key raw material in the industrial revolution especially in the glass, foundry and ceramics industries and is imperative for the development of the green revolution, notably renewable energy.  Silica contributes to today's Information Technology revolution and is a primary component of mobile phones and tablets.

Silica (industrial) sands contain a high proportion of silica (normally, but not exclusively, more than 95% SiO2).  It is recognised by government as an essential raw material of national importance and as such there is a requirement to provide an adequate and steady supply, through maintaining stocks of permitted reserves and safeguarding silica sand resources.

The main end uses of silica sand are:

Production of silica sand

High grade silica sand is usually found as unconsolidated deposits below thin layers of soil and overburden.  After quarrying, the sand routinely undergoes processing before sale.  The processing may include washing and cleaning of the grains, sizing to remove coarse and very fine fractions, and physical and chemical processes to remove iron, chromium and other deleterious minerals, such as through magnetic separation. After processing, the sand may be dried and some applications require it to be ground in ball mills to produce very fine material.

Producer Representation

A constituent body of MPA, the Silica and Moulding Sands Association (SAMSA) was established in 1941 and has represented the interests of MPA's silica sand producers for 80 years.  In 2019, SAMSA commissioned the British Geological Survey to review and update the Government commissioned Mineral Planning Factsheet on Silica Sand. The most downloaded factsheet in the suite, the new factsheet was published in January 2020 and is available from

Silica Sand Mineral Planning Factsheet

This factsheet provides an overview of silica sand supply in the UK. It is one of a series on economically important minerals that are extracted in Britain and is primarily intended to inform the land-use planning process. It is not a statement of planning policy or guidance; nor does it imply Government approval of any existing or potential planning application in the UK administration.


Please contact SAMSA for further information.