Yes, Sand is in Everything and Gets Everywhere
May 23, 2017 8:00 AM   Subscribe

There are more types of sand than most of us know, and it can come from anywhere. For instance, normal beach sand isn't exactly right for volleyball, and horse-show sand is very specific. This article also discusses the destruction of the seabed to maintain the barrier islands of the US east coast. People have become very complacent about hurricanes and their effects on the sand of the barrier islands. Only two of the top 20 storms in Wilmington NC, for instance, have occurred since 2000.
posted by MovableBookLady (13 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
On the bright side, as prices increase, sand mining in inland areas that were submerged millions of years ago should become economically viable, much like rising oil prices made fracking economical. There is a whole lot of sand buried under the American south from back when it was covered by the ocean. Unfortunately, that also means concrete will get even more expensive, though not unavailable for uses where it really is necessary.
posted by wierdo at 10:05 AM on May 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Fascinating article. Dubai golf courses building sand traps with sand from North Carolina and Ontario seems more obviously bonkers than the use of sand and other aggregates in concrete, but:

A report published in 2004 by the American Geological Institute said that a typical American house requires more than a hundred tons of sand, gravel, and crushed stone for the foundation, basement, garage, and driveway, and more than two hundred tons if you include its share of the street that runs in front of it. A mile-long section of a single lane of an American interstate highway requires thirty-eight thousand tons.

People use a lot of this stuff in less dramatic ways, and aggregate mines are by far the most common mines around. Nonmetallic mineral mining and quarrying employs almost twice as many people in the US as coal mining (more than Arby's!), with a lot more active extraction sites. Aggregate mining usually doesn't produce as many hazardous substances as coal and metal mining, but a lot of old quarries were used as dumps for all kinds of things they really shouldn't have been, and the cleanup work from that is ongoing.

Previously on sand.
posted by asperity at 10:18 AM on May 23, 2017

wait, inland mining is a good thing? inland mining has destroyed rivers and cleann water across the south...
posted by eustatic at 10:54 AM on May 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

One place that has too much sand is the Atchafalaya Basin. The Corps shunts sand from the lower Mississippi river into the last great swamp of the Mississippi flyway, because of the need to ship grain to other countries.
posted by eustatic at 10:58 AM on May 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

The environmental impact of mining is strongly correlated with the type of mining being done. Location also matters, of course. Mining for heavy metals next to a river is inevitably going to be quite the disaster. Mountaintop removal, also a disaster. Digging sand, gravel, or just plain dirt out of a pit nowhere near a watercourse and where there isn't much of anything poisonous to leach into the groundwater, much less so.

It can, in many cases, present a much smaller ecological impact than dredging does, although dredging can itself be not entirely terrible, depending on the location.

Human civilization will always have some environmental impact, but we are certainly capable of limiting that impact to a sustainable level. We should work to do so rather than complain that there is still some impact and end up doing nothing because we seem impossible to please.
posted by wierdo at 11:35 AM on May 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

yes but what kind of sand is on tatooine
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:42 AM on May 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

All I know is that if I ever find myself doing water reclamation work, I'm going to refer to myself as a "moisture farmer."
posted by asperity at 12:30 PM on May 23, 2017 [7 favorites]

Interesting note: The high purity sand that chemistry departments use has very high quality quartz crystals in it. We know as one was accidentally put on our single-crystal x-ray diffractometer and run by an undergrad some years ago.
posted by Canageek at 6:21 PM on May 23, 2017

Dubai golf courses building sand traps with sand from North Carolina and Ontario

I believe the entire gulf is a net importer of sand, which is wild. But golf course sand isn't the same type of sand as gulf sand...
posted by cell divide at 9:39 PM on May 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm surprised that there wasn't anything about preparations for sea-level rise in there. I would have thought that if you're going to raise the entire landscape by five feet on an island or in some coastal place, you'd end up using lots of sand and other aggregate.
posted by XMLicious at 2:25 AM on May 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

“The Syrian exodus was on at that time, and we saw people walking for their lives,” he said. “But these were the first-ever European Games, so everything had to be right.”
posted by hal9k at 4:14 AM on May 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

But golf course sand isn't the same type of sand as gulf sand...

It's definitely interesting that desert sand is pretty much worthless for most of the things that we want to do with sand.

We know as one was accidentally put on our single-crystal x-ray diffractometer and run by an undergrad some years ago.

I guess those cost a lot of money to run? Because if they didn't I would be doing that sort of thing all the time.
posted by asperity at 8:14 AM on May 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

this gives me an idea for a dystopian novel where they fight over sand
posted by numaner at 3:04 PM on May 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

« Older "There were conversations about his mustache."   |   The U.S. Air Force began preparing for war on May... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments