The Deadly Global War for Sand | WIRED:
Apart from water and air, humble sand is the natural resource most
consumed by human beings. People use more than 40 billion tons of sand
and gravel every year. There’s so much demand that riverbeds and beaches
around the world are being stripped bare. (Desert sand generally
doesn’t work for construction; shaped by wind rather than water, desert
grains are too round to bind together well.) And the amount of sand
being mined is increasing exponentially.
Though the supply might seem endless, sand is a finite resource like
any other. The worldwide construction boom of recent years—all those
mushrooming megacities, from Lagos to Beijing—is devouring unprecedented
quantities; extracting it is a $70 billion industry. In Dubai enormous
land-reclamation projects and breakneck skyscraper-building have
exhausted all the nearby sources. Exporters in Australia are literally
selling sand to Arabs.