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26 Apr 2022

‘Supply cannot be assumed’ – MPA welcomes UN sand study

A UN study recognising the strategic importance of sand resources to global economic development has been welcomed by the UK’s Mineral Products Association (MPA).

The MPA, which represents the vast majority of the UK’s aggregate producers, has endorsed the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Sand and Sustainability report. In it UNEP acknowledges that sand resources – encompassing all primary aggregates including sand, gravel and crushed rock – are essential for built development and infrastructure, and that their supply cannot be assumed.

The report cites the UK as a model of good practice where aggregate extraction is tightly regulated and well managed, with restoration schemes that deliver biodiversity improvement once quarrying is complete. That’s in stark contrast to the way sand resources are extracted in many developing countries where sand in particular is removed from active geological systems like rivers and beaches.

The report also calls for greater use of secondary aggregates which are by-products other industrial processes, and recycled aggregates made from construction, demolition and excavation waste. That’s another area in which the UK is a global leader with almost 30 per cent of UK aggregates demand being met from secondary or recycled sources.

Mark Russell, the MPA’s Executive Director for Planning & Mineral Resources said: “In this report UNEP recognises sand resources – including sand, gravel and crushed rock – as a strategic mineral that’s absolutely essential for economic development. We’ve been saying for years that the supply of essential minerals like sand and gravel is simply assumed, it’s taken for granted.

“One of the key recommendations of particular relevance to the UK is the need for major infrastructure schemes to factor-in the sourcing of raw materials before construction begins – developers need to carry out a resources and materials supply audit, rather than assuming the materials will turn up when they are needed. The supply of essential mineral resources like sand and gravel must be planned for, monitored and managed to ensure needs can be met.

“MPA appreciated the opportunity to contribute to the preparation of this UNEP study, reflecting the UK’s strong track record in operating to the highest standards and delivering outstanding quarry restoration schemes that are proven to significantly increase biodiversity.

“The UNEP report identifies ten key recommendations which provide practical solutions to support the sustainable supply of this strategic resource. Taken collectively, the measures identified can help to ensure sand, gravel and crushed rock is planned, managed and extracted responsibly with a net benefit to the natural environment as well as the built environment.”


About the Mineral Products Association:

The Mineral Products Association (MPA) is the trade association for the aggregates, asphalt, cement, concrete, dimension stone, lime, mortar and silica sand industries. With the merger of British Precast, and affiliation of the British Association of Reinforcement (BAR), Eurobitume, MPA Northern Ireland, MPA Scotland and the British Calcium Carbonate Federation, it has a growing membership of 520 companies and is the sectoral voice for mineral products. MPA membership is made up of the vast majority of independent SME quarrying companies throughout the UK, as well as the 9 major international and global companies. It covers 100% of UK cement and lime production, 90% of GB aggregates production, 95% of asphalt and over 70% of ready-mixed concrete and precast concrete production. In 2018, the industry supplied £16 billion worth of materials and services to the Economy. It is also the largest supplier to the construction industry, which had annual output valued at £172 billion in 2018. Industry production represents the largest materials flow in the UK economy and is also one of the country’s largest manufacturing sectors.

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