Posted by: r.m. | February 28, 2017

Sand Mining, Mafias and Cities

…Creating buildings to house all the people and the roads to knit them together requires prodigious quantities of sand. Worldwide, more than 48bn tonnes of “aggregate” – the industry term for sand and gravel, which tend to be found together – are used for construction every year. That number is double what is was in 2004. It’s an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

Every year criminal gangs across the world dig up countless tonnes of sand to sell on the black market. One of Israel’s notorious gangsters started by stealing sand from public beaches.In Morocco, half of the sand used for construction comes from illegal mining. And in Malaysia, dozens of officials were charged for accepting bribes and sexual favours in exchange for allowing illegally mined sand to be smuggled out of the country.

Like any big-money black market, the sand trade is inciting violence. In Cambodia, environmental activists have been imprisoned for trying to stop illegal mining. In China, a dozen members of rival sand-mining gangs were sent to prison in 2015 after battling with knives in front of a police station. In that same year in East Java, Indonesia, two farmers – Salim Kancil, 52, and Tosan, 51 – led a series of protests against an illegal beach sand-mining operation. The mine operators threatened to kill them if they kept interfering; the farmers reported the threats to the police and asked for protection. Soon after, at least a dozen men attacked Tosan, ran him over with a motorcycle and left him for dead in the middle of the road. Salim was battered and stabbed to death. His body was left on the street with his hands tied behind his back.

In India, “sand mafias” have injured hundreds and killed dozens of people in recent years. The victims include an 81-year-old teacher and a 22-year-old activist who were separately hacked to death, a journalist who was burned to death, and at least three police officers who were run over by sand trucks.

Of course, Lebanon is no exception to the sand mining or the mafias.  From Sour to Beirut…


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