Unearthing tension: Sand runs the world, but most don’t realize the conflict it generates – by Matthew Rozsa (Salon.com – February 25, 2024)


Sand is the second-most commonly used resource on Earth and its environmental and social impacts are massive

As William Blake famously wrote, “To see a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower” is to “Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an hour.” But as innocuous, ubiquitous and just plain mundane sand can be, it can also be the source of significant conflict and violence while often being extracted to the detriment of our planet.

When the term “conflict mineral” is used, people often think of precious stones like rubies or valuable fuels like coal. Certainly the industry of mining those rocks is fraught with controversy and peril, yet even the most seemingly ubiquitous minerals can serve as the source of conflict. But is sand really in the same category as cobalt and blood diamonds?

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Quarries must be close to Toronto’s development – by Norman Cheesman (Toronto Star – January 16, 2023)


Proximity of aggregate to job sites is key. Pits can take up to 10 years to approve and are required to meet needs of Ontarians, says Norman Cheesman.

If you build it they will come … and if you don’t build it, they will come anyway. That’s the reality we face in Ontario.

After years of infrastructure neglect and increasing levels of immigration, will we be ready to welcome an additional four million people in this province by 2043? Will we be ready with the schools, hospitals, housing and other infrastructure we need to maintain vibrant communities?

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‘It’s like David and Goliath’: Doug Ford’s new highways will fuel demand for gravel from GTA quarries. Local residents are fighting the spread of the mines – by Noor Javed (Toronto Star – March 22, 2022)


Every day for the past 35 years, Sue Godfrey has tried to forget that she lives a stone’s throw from an open-pit mine. But on most days, she’s reminded by the thundering of hundreds of trucks that go in and out of the 218-hectare Burlington Nelson Quarry atop the Mount Nemo plateau, taking out limestone and bringing in fill.

Occasionally, it’s from the blasts that put cracks in the walls and cause her pictures to fall when the machines go deeper into the ground to extract stone a few hundred metres from her home — followed by the constant worry that the mine may one day affect her drinking water.

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Sudbury: Coalition calling for moratorium on Ontario’s gravel quarries (CBC News Sudbury – January 31, 2022)


A new coalition is calling for a moratorium on all new gravel quarries in Ontario. Organizers of the Reform Gravel Mining Coalition say the industry has enough sites to meet demand, and further expansion of quarries damages ecosystems and threatens endangered species.

Graham Flint, co-chair of the group, said the coalition formed after decades of “chronic” quarry development in the province.

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Talk of proposed gravel pit divides quiet village outside London – by Colin Butler (CBC News London – April 14, 2021)


A fight over a sand and gravel pit in the village of Thorndale, Ont., puts one of the village’s wealthiest families against a neighbourhood group that says the mining operation would create noise, dust, traffic and would undermine the quiet community’s bucolic way of life.

The proposed site is only a few hundred metres away from the village’s main intersection of King St. and Nissouri Rd. and directly upwind from a neighbourhood of single family homes with walking trails, playgrounds and a public school.

“It just seems very odd to be placing it that close to town, subdivisions, schools. The dust is going to go in that direction for sure,” said Rae Tamowski, the spokesman for the neighbourhood group opposed to the gravel pit.

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Melting Greenland Is Awash in Sand – by Henry Fountain (New York Times – July 1, 2019)


A few miles up the Sermilik Fjord in southwestern Greenland, the water has abruptly turned milky, a sign that it is loaded with suspended silt, sand and other sediment.

It is this material — carried here in a constant plume of meltwater from the Sermeq glacier at the head of the fjord — that Mette Bendixen, a Danish scientist at the University of Colorado, has come to see. As their research boat moves farther into the murky water, she and several colleagues climb into a rubber dinghy to take samples.

Dr. Bendixen, a geomorphologist, is here to investigate an idea, one that she initially ran by colleagues to make sure it wasn’t crazy: Could this island, population 57,000, become a provider of sand to billions of people?

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Sand mining ‘mafias’ destroying environment, livelihoods: U.N. – by Rina Chandran (Reuters U.S. – May 7, 2019)


BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Sand mining is eroding the world’s river deltas and coastlines, damaging the environment and hurting livelihoods from Cambodia to Colombia, as government regulation fails to keep pace with rising demand, the United Nations warned on Tuesday.

Global demand for sand and gravel, used extensively in construction, is about 50 billion tonnes or an average of 18 kg (40 lb) per person per day, according to a report published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Extraction in rivers and beaches has increased pollution and flooding, lowered groundwater levels, hurt marine life, and exacerbated the occurrence and severity of landslides and drought, it said.

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Why something as seemingly minute as sand is as critical to modern life as cells are to the human body – by Vince Beiser (National Post – August 11, 2018)


Sand has been used for construction since at least the time of the ancient Egyptians. In the 15th century, an Italian artisan figured out how to turn sand into fully transparent glass, which made possible the microscopes, telescopes, and other technologies that helped drive the Renaissance’s scientific revolution.

But at the dawn of the 20th century, almost all of the world’s large structures — apartment blocks, office buildings, churches, palaces, fortresses — were still made with stone, brick, clay, or wood. The tallest buildings stood fewer than ten stories high. Roads were mostly paved with broken stone, IF at all. Glass in the form of windows or tableware was a relatively rare and expensive luxury.

The mass manufacture and deployment of concrete and glass changed all that, reshaping how and where people lived in the industrialized world. Decades later, digital technology, powered by silicon chips and other sophisticated hardware made with sand, began reshaping the global economy in ways gargantuan and quotidian.

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Residents, cottagers in Ontario’s Muskoka region fight quarry proposal near unique Skeleton Lake – by John Lorinc (Globe and Mail – April 2, 2018)


When Jessica Dixon first heard about a 58-hectare quarry proposed for a patch of bush near Skeleton Lake and her farm, west of Huntsville, Ont., she began worrying about the sound of blasting and the dust kicked up by the operation.

But her main concern was the steady stream of heavy gravel trucks that would rumble by the home she shares with her husband and four young children. “It’s a busy and difficult road,” the 37-year-old Ms. Dixon said.

Last year, Ms. Dixon joined several hundred local residents and Skeleton Lake cottagers in what’s become a fierce local campaign to halt the quarry − a medium-sized independent operation owned by investor Frank Lippa, based in Woodbridge, Ont.

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THE DEADLY GLOBAL WAR FOR SAND – by Vince Beiser (Wired.com – March 26, 2015)


THE KILLERS ROLLED slowly down the narrow alley, three men jammed onto a single motorcycle. It was a little after 11 am on July 31, 2013, the sun beating down on the low, modest residential buildings lining a back street in the Indian farming village of Raipur. Faint smells of cooking spices, dust, and sewage seasoned the air. The men stopped the bike in front of the orange door of a two-story brick-and-plaster house. Two of them dismounted, eased open the unlocked door, and slipped into the darkened bedroom on the other side. White kerchiefs covered their lower faces. One of them carried a pistol.

Inside the bedroom Paleram Chauhan, a 52-year-old farmer, was napping after an early lunch. In the next room, his wife and daughter-in-law were cleaning up while Paleram’s son played with his own 3-year-old boy.

Gunshots thundered through the house. Preeti Chauhan, Paleram’s daughter-in-law, rushed into Paleram’s room, her husband, Ravindra, right behind her. Through the open door, they saw the killers jump back on their bike and roar away.

Paleram lay on his bed, blood bubbling out of his stomach, neck, and head. “He was trying to speak, but he couldn’t,” Preeti says, her voice breaking with tears. Ravindra borrowed a neighbor’s car and rushed his father to a hospital, but it was too late. Paleram was dead on arrival.

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Holcim-Lafarge cement mega-merger to be felt in Canada – by Nicolas Van Praet (National Post – April 8, 2014)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

MONTREAL – Holcim Ltd. and Lafarge SA confirmed they will merge to form the world’s biggest cement maker in a deal with significant market concentration implications in Canada and other countries.

The two companies are already among the world’s largest suppliers of cement, crushed stone and sand and gravel. In combining into a new producer with annual revenue of US$40-billion, management of the two companies believe they will be required to sell assets representing about 18% of that revenue to satisfy competition regulators.

In Canada, Lafarge and Holcim together employ about 9,000 people and hold about half of the cement market, according to a 2008 estimate published by the Cement Association of Canada. The industry is centered in Ontario and Quebec.

Rivals such as Bolton, Ont.-based James Dick Construction Ltd. said they were surprised by the announcement, but added it could create an opportunity to grow their own businesses by buying what Lafarge and Holcim are forced to discard. Dick specializes in so-called aggregates, which are granular construction materials such as gravel and sand.

“I don’t think it’s bad news. It’ll open it up a bit for us,” company president Jim Dick said Monday. “We would expand if it makes sense.”

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Rock hard opposition to quarry – by Mary Katherine Keown (Sudbury Star – October 18, 2013)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

David Villard, a consultant with Bruce Tait Construction Ltd., was in the proverbial hot seat on Thursday night. The Wanup Community Hall played host to a packed house of more than 100 concerned citizens at an open house Tait’s firm organized to present plans for a proposed quarry, which will sit adjacent to Rock Lake, a picturesque recreational spot along Highway 69 surrounded by about 70 seasonal and permanent homes.

Thursday’s open house was an acrimonious affair and attendees expressed their opposition to the proposed quarry on a number of points. James Gomm, president of the Rock Lake Property Owners’ Association, and his wife, Catherine, are spearheading the opposition movement.

Of particular concern was the lack of information circulated to area residents, water quality and possible noise disruptions. Gillian Groves, a seasonal cottager, pointed out the industrial noise could disturb the lake’s residents, many of whom are retirees.

“These people worked for their lives to get these places and what you’re proposing is taking away time from what they’ve worked their lives to enjoy,” she said.

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The Ontario Stone Sand & Gravel Association Members Learn the Benefits of Rail-Veyor® for the Aggregate Industry.

Sudbury, ON, Canada – Oct 7, 2013 One hundred members of the Ontario Stone Sand & Gravel Association toured the Rail-Veyor® facility in Sudbury just recently. Rail-Veyor Technologies Global Inc. manufactures and installs RailVeyor®, a bulk material handling system for surface and underground applications for the mining and aggregate industries.

The Ontario Stone Sand & Gravel Association educates its members on the proven technologies that will help their companies maximize productivity, profitability and safety. “We’re pleased to have included the Rail-Veyor® bulk material handling system on our OSSGA Operations Tour. The technology and engineering behind the system is impressive. Based on the number of questions and time spent seeing it in action, it’s clear that our aggregate members had a lot of interest in the system and the productivity it offers to operations,” comments Dan Muys, Director of Communications and Marketing, Ontario Stone, Sand & Gravel Association.

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Mega quarry land north of Toronto bought by burgeoning farm fund Bonnefield – by John Greenwood (National Post – July 18, 2013)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

A controversial plan to build a massive quarry in rolling farmland north of Toronto appears officially dead in the water after a US$20-billion hedge fund in Boston agreed to sell the land on which the project was to be located.

Bonnefield Financial, a farmland investment company based in Ottawa, announced this week that it has acquired about 6,500 acres of lush Dufferin County potato fields in what it called one of the largest farmland transactions in Canadian history.

Financial details were not disclosed however Tom Eisenhauer, the president, acknowledged the price was “more than $50-million, a lot of money.” Speaking in a phone interview, Mr. Eisenhauer insisted Bonnefield is only interested in agriculture. “Our investors want exposure to farming,” he said. “They don’t want exposure to oil and gas, or quarries for that matter.”

Formed in 2010, Bonnefield calls itself Canada’s only national farmland investment management company. Typically that involves buying up farms and leasing them back to farmers. So far it’s raised about $150-million from accredited investors, acquiring about 35,000 acres in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick.

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Rural folks triumph over mega-quarry – by Jim Merriam (London Free Press – November 23, 2012)


Rural Ontario can be forgiven for its celebratory mood this week. After all, The Man blinked and the grassroots movement finally won one.

The issue was the mega-quarry in Melancthon Township near Shelburne. The Highland Companies announced Thursday the application to extract aggregate from the quarry is being withdrawn and Highland president John Lowndes has stepped down.

A company spokesperson said the application “does not have sufficient support from the community and government to justify proceeding.” A classic understatement if ever there was one, with anti-quarry signs appearing as far away as Toronto lawns.

The proposed quarry was “mega” in every sense of the word. It would have covered 2,313 acres, or 93.7 hectares, of what is arguably some of the best farmland in the province. The area’s Honeywood silt loam is as good as it gets for any number of crops, especially potatoes.

In fact, Highland Companies has become a major potato producer since it started acquiring land for the quarry in 2006.

The numbers from In The Hills magazine tell the “mega” story. The five-kilometre wide quarry contained an estimated one billion tonnes of rock reserve, enough to build a two-lane highway 55,555 kilometres long (the circumference of the Earth is 40,075 km).

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