Conflicts and synergies of sand mining on the increasingly populated African continent

Name of applicant

Mette Bendixen


Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, INSTAAR, University of Colorado, Boulder, United States


DKK 1,237,797



Type of grant

Reintegration Fellowships


Sand is the most mined material in the world and a key ingredient in modern life. Aggregates - sand and gravel - are being extracted faster than they can be replaced, yet the critical value of these natural resources have received distressingly little attention. This project aims to understand the implications sand mining has on ecosystems, human health and societies while also acknowledging the value of this critical commodity for economies and communities around the world. In particular, the project will assess the conflicts and synergies that arise from sand mining in Africa with the United Nation's 17 Sustainable Development Goals.


The global population is roughly 8 billion and the African continent is expected to increase its population from 1 billion to 2.4 billion by 2050. A key ingredient in our modern world is sand, which constitutes the foundation for modern civilization. However, various complications arise from the lack of understanding of sand's importance. We currently have little knowledge of the links between sand mining and disease prevention, nor do we have sufficient insight into the relationship between mining activities and urbanization, population growth and bio-sensitive areas. This project will gain new insights into these complex relationships that exist to sustainably manage and govern this essential natural resource while sustainably develop and improve the livelihood for people in Africa.


The project analyzes where the resources are exploited in Africa and project the spatial demand for sand on the increasingly populated continent. Using a machine learning approach, I will produce a map showing sand mining activities in Africa. Hereafter, I will assess the spatial overlap of housing improvement in Africa over the past decade and compare with sand mining "hot spots" identified in the map. Lastly, I will assess complex conflicts and synergies of sand mining with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. Ultimately, gaining a better understanding will help guide further efforts to minimize the negative effects on the environment and set the way towards creating a comprehensive assessment of the relationships between sand mining, poverty reduction and livelihood improvement.

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