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Story Publication logo July 14, 2023

Sierra Leone: Sand Mining – Who’s Benefiting and at What Cost to the Environment?

a mechanical arm shovels sand

Sand is one of the most precious and extracted natural resources with about 50 billion tones used...


Buried Under Water: a podcast on the impact of sand mining in Sierra Leone produced by Abdul Samba Brima.

Sand is one of the most precious and extracted natural resources with about 50 billion tones used per year, according to a UN report. This strategic resource drives economic development, provides livelihoods for millions and maintains biodiversity and ecosystem balances. But the mining and management of sand remain a largely contested affair with dire social and environmental consequences. 

In Sierra Leone, the resource faces a challenging future outlook despite the fact that it remains a critical source of livelihood for many young people. The sector is challenged by a lack of regulation, sustainability problems and equity concerns. 

A massive boom in the construction industry is driving the trade—most of it illegal—eroding rivers, causing flooding, polluting low-lying areas, disrupting the marine ecosystems, reducing local fish catch, and forcing the relocation of communities. 

Also, vested interests are believed to be hampering efforts to address the problem. Unemployed youths are desperate to mine, local chiefs are said to be making fortunes taxing the sand, and construction companies need a steady supply to continue with their work. So, who’s benefiting and at what cost for the environment?

Click below to listen to the podcast episode.

Audio courtesy of ManoReporters.

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