15: Sand mining for metallic minerals: a new commodity frontier
with Arpita Bisht
Open access

Non-metallic minerals such as sand and gravel and fertilisers are very important in the world economy. This thematic chapter starts on the beaches of Senegal and The Gambia. It introduces the bulkiest of all commodities (apart from water), namely sand and gravel. Although at a much smaller scale than for the building industry, extraction of HMS (heavy mineral sands) results in large-scale local ecological degradation and negative impacts for the local communities’ livelihood. Ilmenite as an ore for titanium is used in pigments and paint industries, ceramics industry, aerospace and shipbuilding, medicine and prosthetics, and chemical processing units or factories, including nuclear energy. The growth of the industry was linked to war, given its applications in the military sector. Extraction damages coastal dune systems in Tamil Nadu, Kerala in India, South Africa. The minerals mined from sand will go to export while the social impacts are cost-shifted onto local communities of fisherfolk.

INTRODUCTION: SAND AND GRAVEL EXTRACTION AROUND THE WORLD

Not everybody is yet aware of the conflicts on the extraction of the bulkiest of all commodities (apart from water): sand and gravel. This is a thematic chapter that builds on the beaches of Senegal and the Gambia, and remembers Kwale (in Kenya) and Ranobe (in Madagascar).

Sand and gravel mining are a large part of the “non-metallic” minerals. Another bulky item is fertilizers. Figure 15.1 shows the trend in material extraction at global level (excluding water) according to the methodology of the Vienna school of social metabolism (by Fischer-Kowalski et al.) adopted by Eurostat and UNEP. At global level, about 22 Gt of sand, gravel, stone or clay were extracted in 2005 (Haas et al. 2015). The total extraction of all materials is reaching 100 billion tonnes per year, i.e. 100 Gt. Notice the little downturn of the economic crisis of 2008, as we shall notice the pandemics of 2020‒21. Less than 10 per cent of the total 100 Gt of materials are recycled. One reason for the low rate of recycling is that many of the materials are fossil fuels. They burn only once and the energy dissipates. Another main reason is that many of the materials go to stocks of infrastructure and buildings, and this needs in turn a larger and larger amount of materials for maintenance (Krausmann et al. 2017).

Trends in global extraction of materials, 1970 – 2017: biomass, non-metallic minerals, fossil fuels, metal ores (European Environment Agency 2019). A graph presenting the increasing trends in global domestic extraction in tonnes of biomass, non-metallic minerals, fossils fuels and metal ores from 1970 to 2017.
Figure 15.1

Trends in global extraction of materials, 1970–2017: biomass, non-metallic minerals, fossil fuels, metal ores

Source:  Europe Environment Agency (2019). Trends in global domestic extraction of materials, 1970–2017

Aurora Torres et al. (2017) gave a plausible estimate of 29 Gt of sand and gravel extracted, i.e. almost four tons per capita/year in the world if it would be equally shared. Much of the sand and gravel goes to the cement and building industries. Moreover, cement is energy-intensive. The degree of recycling or “circularity” is low in practice, in other words the “metabolic gap” is very large, and hence the search for fresh sources. Extraction frontiers for sand and gravel are often not far away because these are bulky commodities. Sand and gravel are taken from river beds and lakes, and also from the beaches. Clashes between extraction and local populations occur, particularly in India. According to Arpita Bisht (2021, 2022), by July 2021, of 3,500 cases registered in the EJAtlas, 107 included sand and gravel among the commodities causing the conflicts. An EJOLT fact-sheet was published in 2014 with colleagues from JNU, Delhi, on this topic that would certainly deserve a whole chapter if not a book.

Here, at a much smaller scale than for the building industry, we consider extraction of sand mining for metallic minerals, which are less bulky and travel large distances. Ilmenite as an ore for titanium is a major one. Zirconium alloys are used in the nuclear power industry. Extraction of minerals from sand such as ilmenite, rutile, zircon, garnet and magnetite for iron requires a brutish treatment ‒ a large quantity is mechanically collected and ground or milled to obtain the ores (Bisht and Martinez-Alier 2022).p. 297

Map of conflicts on nuclear energy, sandmining and LFFU (Chapters 10, 15 and 16) (A. Grimaldos).
Figure 15.2

Map of conflicts on nuclear energy, sandmining and LFFU (Chapters 10, 15 and 16)

Source:  A. Grimaldos

SAND MINING FOR METALS IN SENEGAL: TITANIUM AND ZIRCONIUM

Senegal and the Gambia have 20 conflicts entered in the EJAtlas, on phosphate exports, fisheries and biomass for biofuels for export. Here I deal only with sand mining for metallic minerals.

In the Niayes

The Niayes, in the Thiès region, is a narrow band 25 km wide stretching for 180 km from Dakar north to Saint-Louis along the Atlantic coast. It was traditionally dedicated to vegetable gardening and fruit growing. Yet today, Thiès is considered the largest mining area in the country, whose activity is concentrated in the Niayes. On land annexed without consultation of the farmers, the Grande Côte Operations (GCO) belongs to the company TiZir (and Eramet). TiZir means Titanium + Zirconium. Founded in 2011, TiZir has two sites: GCO in Senegal to exploit mineralized sand (zircon, ilmenite, rutile and leucoxene) and TiZir Titanium and Iron in Norway a joint venture with France's Eramet to work the Senegalese materials. The GCO project displaced vegetable gardeners and continued pumping the water resources at the expense of agriculture. A departmental commission was in charge of determining the amounts of compensation to the farmers. Once again, economic “commensuration” of damages and benefits sacrifices other values. Commensuration is an act of power that failed: in July 2013, villagers opposed the visit of this commission and 21 were arrested by the police and judged by the court of Thiès. Ibra Fall, Gora Wade and Djibril Bèye, vegetable producers from the Diogo village, were sentenced to three months in prison “for the offenses of illegal p. 298 p. 299assembly and plunder of machinery”. Thirteen others were condemned to three months suspended prison sentence.

GCO has compensated the farmers with amounts up to five times higher than those imposed by Senegalese law (3,750,000 CFA francs/ha). However, the compensation scale was set in 1994 and has never been updated. It was considered insufficient by many villagers. According to the sub-prefect of Méouane, a total of 644 producers were impacted and compensated. Seven hamlets of Diogo and Foth were displaced in February 2017 to a new city, Medinatoul Munawara, with way less arable lands.

The Grand Côte project for zircon and ilmenite mining in Senegal (Le Quotidien).
Figure 15.3

The Grand Côte project for zircon and ilmenite mining in Senegal

Source:  Le Quotidien

Land grabbing goes hand in hand with water grabbing. Since the beginning of GCO, the lack of water has been impacting the area, slowing down vegetable production. Underground water, previously available at 5 m deep, today requires wells of 12 m. In terms of employment, GCO did not keep the promise of granting one job per dispossessed family. They must find alternative sources of income, less sustainable than farming. Regarding health, the promised hospital at Darou Fall was not built but an ambulance in Diogo started operating by mid-May 2016. The associations of vegetable gardeners, with NGOs’ support, organized their advocacy for the protection of remaining arable lands in the Niayes. The NGO Enda Pronat has been working in the area since the Diogo farmers’ uprising in 2013, notably in Thiès, Taiba Ndaye, Darou Khoudoss and Diogo, to sensitize the populations on their land rights.

The project's own view is that:

Given the itinerant nature of GCO's operations, neighbouring communities are mainly impacted by population displacement and the loss of access to agricultural and pastoral lands. As such, the community relations team helped resettle nearly 920 people from the villages of Diogo and Foth in 2016 and 2019. The communities themselves were closely involved in deciding how the process would be carried out (selecting the site, setting up the new village, assembling the housing and shared infrastructures, etc.). Substitute agricultural land was provided to the villagers, and a cattle route was set up near the villages. 1 p. 300

Zircon Mining in Separatist Casamance 2

In Casamance, Senegalese region south of the Gambia, locals are defending their sustainable and traditional livelihoods against zirconium mining and weakening of the Niafrang dune. In this case, local populations, conservationists and some outside foreign tourists act together. There is a confluence between the environmentalism of the poor and biodiversity conservation. The case also has geopolitical implications, given the separatist movement of Casamance; the struggle against mining has attracted outside support.

The dune of Niafrang on the north coast of Casamance is coveted for the zircon of its sand. The region was weakened by a civil war which lasted many years. A ceasefire was signed between the Senegalese government and the rebel forces of the Casamance Democratic Forces Movement (MFDC) in December 2004. But the conflict has not been fully resolved and the MFDC is not entirely disarmed. In November 2004, a ministerial decision granted an exploration licence to the Australian mining company Carnegie Ltd. People were not consulted and only informed much later. The first hearing of the public inquiry took place in 2011, while the Casamance people continued to denounce the lack of information: type of mine envisaged, drilling techniques to be employed etc. The villages around the Niafrang dune depend on rice growing, market gardening, fishing, apiculture, oyster farming and tourism. The rice fields are protected from the sea and its saltwater by the dune. Casamance people know that this activity would contaminate the groundwater and eradicate the rice fields and the market gardeners, since the coast and the rice fields are below sea level.

The International Committee against the Zircon in Casamance was mobilized on social media and with protests on the ground, debates and international petitions. The EIAs were contested. The MFDC also expressed its opposition to the project. The Senegalese government, concerned by the involvement of MFDC, deployed more military forces in the area. Populations near Niafrang dune clearly expressed their preference to preserve their rice fields against the promises of employment in the mine (160 jobs promised in an area of more than 10,000 inhabitants). The dune is essential for wildlife, it is a crucial stop for migratory birds and it is where the turtles lay their eggs; moreover, the Marine Protected Area of Abene would also be contaminated by the exploitation.

SAND MINING IN THE GAMBIA

Governmental Corruption in Sand Mining for Metals in Kartung

The country, of only 1.8 million people, is partly landlocked in Senegal. In the mid-1990s, the Gambia had decided not to allow sand mining in order to protect its coasts. Yet Carnegie explored Gambian coasts and started commercially exploiting three sand mineral deposits in June 2003. The sand mining in Kartung, Batokunku and Sanyang has been the subject of a great corruption scandal involving the former government under Yahya Jammeh's presidency. Investigations show that the permit granted to Carnegie was revoked in 2008 in order to benefit Gambian companies’ ventures in relation with or under direct ownership of Yahya Jammeh himself.

By the end of 2015, the villagers of Kartung demonstrated asking for the closing down of the illegal mines. At least 45 people were arrested and sued, including young men and women. By early 2016, Kartung mining site was closed by the National Environment Agency. The company p. 301transferred its operation to the Sambouya deposit. Gamico is also involved in the exploitation of the Sambouya mine. The companies came and left one after the other without restoring the sites. They should have replaced the mined sand but left the ditches open. Flooded, the ditches attract mosquitoes all year round. The presence of crocodiles has also increased. The Inquiry Commission (set up by the new government in order to investigate the financial issues of the former government) visited the devastated sites in October 2017. The communities shared their concerns for the environment and the undermining of the agricultural activities, soil erosion and sea level rise. The sand mining ends up as exports to China and other countries.

Near Kartung there is another conflict in Sanyang and nearby villages. Women farmers lost their livelihoods, but their complaints to the government were unresolved and denied. In 2018, the Gambian government issued a mining licence to Gambia Angola China (GACH) Mining Company to mine black sand, which has high concentrations of zircon, silica and quartz, in Sanyang village, Kombo South.

Faraba Banta: Villagers Killed 3

Quite near, the Julakay Group is operating in Faraba Banta without the village's consent. Jukalay's sand mining puts in jeopardy the villagers’ rice fields as its activities might trigger the salinization of the soils. Women are particularly concerned as they are traditionally in charge of rice cultivation, guaranteeing food sovereignty. In January 2018, Faraba's Village Development Committee (VDC) made a request to the ministry of Local Government and Lands to revoke Julakay's mining licence. The VDC claims that operations harm the community and its lands. The permanent secretary at the Ministry of Lands was said to have set up a technical team to visit Julakay's mining site and verify VDC's claims. In May, the Inspector General of Police informed that Julakay's mining licence was in due order and the company was granted the permit to continue.

The villagers, especially the youth, were very unsatisfied with that decision and protested. Some villagers and VDC members decided to take the matter to the court. During the clashes on May 26th, the Gambia Police Intervention Unit (PIU), a paramilitary force, intervened and since then remained in the village surroundings and protected the mining site. The Inspector General of police argued Julakay pays a quarterly compensation equivalent to 1,789 euros to Faraba community, which denied receiving a dime.

In June 2018, the PIU killed at least two villagers during demonstrations. Others were injured and detained. “The PIU has a history of using excessive force against demonstrators, and escaped censure during former President Jammeh's abusive rule”, said Jim Wormington, researcher at Human Rights Watch. After this lethal repression, five officers were suspended and the President of Gambia set up a Commission in Faraba Banta to hear witnesses. Also, women travelled to the capital, Banjul, to meet with members of the National Assembly and confront them. During another meeting, the elders asked Julakay for help “repairing road and bridge, building a local market for the women, and to helping in the rehabilitation of the village health centre, provision of job employment for the youths”.

PUTÚ DUNES, CHILE 4

The Putú Dunes are located 22 km north of the Constitución municipality, at the mouth of the Maule River. They cover 38 km long in their entirety along the beach, and they are a natural p. 302barrier that separates the wetlands from the sea, avoiding catastrophes in case of earthquakes and tsunamis. The users are recreational visitors, some for car and motorbike racing. The area is being processed to be declared a Nature Sanctuary since 2005, as it concentrates 40 per cent of the 240 regional species of fauna in addition to housing migratory birds. This is primarily a biodiversity conservation conflict. The participants in the defence of the Dunas de Putú include local EJOs; local government and political parties; neighbours, citizens and communities; recreational users; local scientists and professionals; and conservationists – but not peasant farmers or Indigenous peoples.

In January 2010, Aconcagua S.A., a Chilean subsidiary of the Australian firm South American Iron & Steel, secured concessions to exploit the area, which houses a large source of lithium, titanium, vanadium and iron. The calculations amount to 823 million tons of iron sand. There are permits granted for exploitation in the Junquillar area, south of Putú and a request for another 1,200 ha in the North Maule. The readiness with which the State delivered concessions aroused suspicion of parliamentarians in the area and generated a broad citizen movement. In January 2011, the Commission of Natural Resources sent inspection requirements, where it was asked why the declaration process as a sanctuary was paralyzed.

In the opinion of deputy Pablo Lorenzini, the authorities granted the concession to Aconcagua S.A. because they were unconcerned about environmental and tourism interests. Until 2012, the project was still under exploration as the declaration of Sanctuary of Nature was waiting. The Court of Appeals of Talca ordered that the mining work in the area be paralyzed, following a neighbours’ and representatives’ complaint about the company's aggressive, unauthorized intervention over the dunes. In April 2013, the Parliament approved unanimously a draft agreement asking the Executive to protect Putú Wetlands. They were officially declared Sanctuary of Nature in 2017.

“KIWIS AGAINST SEABED MINING” 5

Across the Pacific from Chile, in New Zealand, we find a different coalition of protesters trying to stop a seabed mining project. The North Island's west coast is a unique marine ecosystem, with distinctive purple and black sand. The black matter is Titanomagnetite, a mix of titanium and iron. As well as being present on the shoreline, sand dunes and coastal hinterland, there is an even greater amount in the seabed. It was formed by the nearby volcanic cones Taranaki, Pirongia and Karioi. Ocean currents then moved the sand. The result is a series of deposits along 480 km of coastline from Wanganui to the Kaipara Harbour and in nearly 20,000 km2 of the adjacent seabed.

Trans-Tasman Resources Limited (TTR) holds a mining permit to undertake iron ore extraction in the South Taranaki Bight, west of Palmerston North. In October 2013, TTR applied for marine consent to undertake iron ore extraction. In June 2014, the application was refused, it was appealed to the High Court. One of the primary concerns was the effect that uplifting the sand would have on the seabed environment. Based on the evidence presented, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) thought that the sediment plume created by mining would cause shading in the water column affecting primary productivity of phytoplankton and reduce light availability at the seabed affecting benthic primary productivity.

The project would have involved the excavation of up to 50 million tonnes per year of seabed material containing iron sand. Approximately 10 per cent of the material would have p. 303been processed offshore into iron ore for export, with the remaining material returned to the seabed. One of the key reasons for the EPA to refuse was that the existing interests were not taken into account. Acknowledging the criticism, the firm TTR developed a consultation plan that provided for open and inclusive consultation with the existing interest parties, tangata whenua (people of the land in Māori) and stakeholders that addressed the identified shortcomings and would improve the overall effectiveness of the consultation process.

In March 2015, TTR facilitated a visit for interested stakeholders to De Beers Marine (Pty) Ltd (DBM) in Cape Town, to provide the opportunity to “see and feel” the proposed equipment, witness the tried and tested technology and meet the scientists and regulatory authorities involved in monitoring DBM's offshore diamond mining activities. Invitations for this visit were accepted by the EPA, TRC and representatives of the Iwi Fisheries Forum.

In August 2016, TTR lodged a revised Marine Consent application with the EPA for the proposed South Taranaki Bight iron sands mining project. But the venture was opposed by “Kiwis against Seabed Mining” (KASM), Patea-based Ngati Ruanui, environmental groups Greenpeace and Forest & Bird, and by Talley's Fisheries. KASM is a civil society organization concerned about worldwide seabed mining. In 2016, a 6,000-signature petition was presented to Parliament by KASM and Ngati Ruanui calling for a moratorium. Much of their concern focused on the sediment plume that would be generated by the mine, killing low-living organisms and possibly causing fish to avoid the area and impacting on blue whales and Maui's dolphins.

In August 2017, the application to the EPA to mine South Taranaki's iron was granted on a split decision despite acknowledgement there could be “100% loss” of marine life on the seafloor. Protesters geared up immediately to fight this decision. Indigenous leaders said that the decision felt like a repeat of history when their land was being confiscated by soldiers in 1869. “These guys are only there for the money (…) there's going to be no life in that seabed for our children for tomorrow”. Ngāti Ruanui and ten other environmental and fishing groups appealed the decision. By July 2021, there was no decision yet.

SAND MINING FOR BEACH MINERALS IN TAMIL NADU 6

The main driver of many sand mining conflicts in India is the booming building industry, but also for minerals to export. Several firms have controversially been extracting sand from the coast of Tamil Nadu for such industrial minerals for many years. In 2013, journalist Sandhya Ravishankar heard about a district collector in Tuticorin preparing to raid some illegal sand mines in the region. When she phoned collector Ashish Kumar, he confirmed. Less than eight hours later, he had been transferred to another post. She heard of the entrepreneur S. Vaikundarajan, owner of VV Mineral (VVM), one powerful and controversial beach sand mining baron.

While Ashish Kumar was still at his post, The Hindu reported in August 2013 that

Special inspection teams conducting raids at the sand quarry of VVM (…) found large-scale illegal sand mining along the stretches of beaches at Vaipar, Vembar, Periyasamipuram and its surroundings in Vilathikulam taluk. […] Mr. Ashish Kumar said that around 81,000 cubic meters of raw sand had been mined illegally on more than 30 hectares of porombooke [commons] land at Vaipar, whereas miners were legally entitled to mine only on four hectares of leased land… Based on five complaints of illegal sand mining by fishermen in June and grievances aired by them at a meeting p. 304in July, a preliminary inspection was done… ahead of the raid. The fishermen raised fears of sea erosion and environmental hazards owing to indiscriminate mining at beaches’.

A fine was imposed on the offender. In 2017, The Hindu ran another report concerning illegal beach sand mining:

As many as 30 godowns containing beach sand have been sealed in Thoothukudi district, according to Collector M. Ravikumar. […] During the search operation, the squads found a total of 455,245 tonnes of beach minerals and 312,314 tonnes of raw beach sand. The searches were initiated by the district administration in the wake of the suspension of Assistant Director of Mines Krishnamohan over allegations that he had produced fake documents (…).

Despite being threatened, Sadhya Ravishankar wrote reports in The Wire and The Economic Times that also largely raised awareness. By February 2021, VVM, which had an annual output of 700,000 tonnes of heavy sand minerals, was in deep trouble because its owner S. Vaikundarajan was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment in a case involving the bribery of a senior official in the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

In conclusion, here we see a struggle from fishermen and some upright state officers against local firms which engage in large-scale sand mining.

TITANIUM MINING IN THUAN NAM DISTRICT, NINH THUAN PROVINCE, VIETNAM 7

The EJAtlas holds 24 conflicts for Vietnam including “Exposure to Agent Orange, a case of ecocide” during the war against the USA and its long aftermath. Although environmental movements in Vietnam are somewhat curtailed by the political regime, there are well-known episodes such as the Formosa Plastics crisis (2016). There have also been movements against bauxite mining and sand mining.

One of the conflicts on titanium ores took place in the southern Thuan Nam district, where villagers in the area strongly opposed mining. In August 2012, the provincial People's Committee of Ninh Thuan province approved a titanium mining permit for the Quang Thuan company, covering 83.7 ha. Since then, the mining activities caused significant environmental pollution and led to respiratory inflammations and eye diseases. Further impacts include drastic reduction of groundwater sources and drying up of wells due to the company's tapping of water for ore processing. Consequently, it provoked an uprising of locals. Following many complaints, and in response to the company's lack of a licence to use groundwater sources for ore processing, a suspension was ordered in 2012. The provincial government asked for a new EIA as well as the establishment of clean water facilities for the locals. In 2013, the company was allowed to continue mining in a small area of 19.32 ha, since they would control environmental pollution.

However, when the company was going to fully resume its activities in March 2014, in the absence of the required clean water facilities, around 700 villagers gathered in front of the Phuoc Dinh commune's governmental building to voice their opposition. Some of them allegedly set fire to the company factory and equipment. The provincial government then decided to suspend the company's activities again, while investigating the factory burning. p. 305Six activists were arrested and charged. During the following week, thousands of people marched in Thuan Nam district to protest, demanding their release. They clashed against the anti-riot police, producing violent fights and injuries on both sides.

It was reported that the neighbouring southern district of Binh Thuan has the highest titanium reserves at an estimated 599 million tonnes, or 92 per cent of total national reserves. However, exploiting it without taking mitigating and environmental restoration measures has left the mines constantly covered with thick layers of dust that badly pollute the air and contaminate water sources.

IN JAVA, INDONESIA

Sand Iron Mining in Kulon Progo 8

In Indonesia, there are several cases of coastal sand mining for iron ore resulting in violent conflicts. The “black gold” mining in Yogyakarta to extract titanomagnetite and other minerals takes place along the Southern Java coast. A network of peasants and farmers, the PPLP, struggled successfully against sand land dispossession.

Kulon Progo's iron sand mining project was a joint venture between Australia's Indo Mines Limited and Indonesia's Jogja Magasa Mining, and it began in 2007 on a sliver of land owned by the Sultan of Yogyakarta. Many local residents opposed this first pilot phase of the project. Their concern, said Suparlan, the director of the Yogyakarta office of WALHI, was that it could weaken the barrier against salt intrusion from the ocean into coastal farms. The mining venture proposed expanding its operation to cover a 1.8 km by 22 km area, home to some 20,000 people. Residents of Kulon Progo refused to discuss the land grabbing and continued to oppose. During several years of escalation of the opposition, several community members were sent to jail.

The farmers established the Paguyuban Petani Lahan Pantai (Association of Shoreline Farmers ‒ PPLP). The careful efforts of more than 40 years had made the wasteland a fertile and productive zone: with chilli, aubergine, bitter gourd, castor bean, etc. the hands of the farmers had turned the landscape green. The key to their success was collective knowledge. The farmers’ resistance in Kulon Progo is praised as an example of a struggle against power characterized by anti-politics, autonomy and self-management.

In 2009, the mining watch organization JATAM had condemned the violence at the proposed Australian-owned iron mine. Their press release said:

police brutality towards the people of Kulon Progo of Central Java for protesting against the Australian mining company PT Jogja Magasa left 41 people injured. What happened that day is one of many examples of how the government has put foreign investor interests above the local communities’ interests (…) The extraction of iron puts the livelihoods of 123,601 local farmers and fishers at risk.

It also related that people marched against the project and refused the public consultation, but the government granted the permit anyway. JATAM added that damaged ecosystems will not be able to stop the strong currents and sea winds from eroding the coastline. The site is also prone to earthquakes and a potential tsunami. It would also move sand dunes which serve as a corridor for migratory birds.p. 306

On the cultural side, the vocabulary of resistance included a Chili Festival against sand iron mining in 2013. The crowd was invited to walk in procession to a field near the coast, where they did a symbolic “first picking”: “the most important focus for us is to maintain our livelihood – planting and harvesting. Because if we leave it, we are not farmers anymore, and we lose our identity”. Planting in Kulon Progo is an act of resistance. 9

By 2017, there was a new struggle against the construction of New Yogyakarta international airport. It is connected to the previous struggle, which was won not through legal actions but through community grassroots riots, arrests and massive international solidarity that went beyond the language of the public policies of the state.

Iron Sand Mining in Watu Pecak Beach 10

Extraction took place in Selok Awar-Awar village in the Pasirian district, about 18 km south of Lumajang. This area is used for the Hindu ritual ceremony called MELASTI (Larung Sesaji). The local residents believed a flood soaking their homes happened because of the destruction of coastal ecosystems. International, national and local activists asked for the stoppage of quarrying activities. In September 2015, the group staged a protest action against sand mining in Watu Pecak Beach. The protest halted the quarrying and blocked trucks transporting the iron sand. Three days after, the environmental activist Salim Kancil was reported to be killed by a group of more than 30 men. The environmental activist Tosan was also attacked. International and national organizations asked the government and authorities to ask police and other related institutions to investigate the case.

KERALA, INDIA: SAVE ALAPPAD BEACH FROM MINING OF ILMENITE, RUTILE, ZIRCON, MONAZITE 11

Alappad panchayat is a 16-km-long, narrow strip of land in this densely populated coastal area. It lies between the TS Canal and the Arabian Sea. The mineral-rich sand (commonly called black sand) is called Chavara Deposits. Extracted by Indian Rare Earth Limited (IREL) and Kerala Minerals and Metals Limited (KMML), the minerals find uses in the titanium dioxide pigment industries and nuclear power reactors.

Alappad beach risks being encroached on by the sea and threatens to displace over 5,000 families off their land and livelihoods. Protests against the mining companies began with a fight for labour and land issues. This changed in the 1990s. The very popular song for environmental protests in Kerala, Ini varunnoru thalamurakku, Ivide Vasam Saadhyamo (Will this land be able to support the new life?), was written by the poet Injakkadu Balachandran in 1992 for the Nature Protection March.

The tsunami of 2004 wreaked havoc and protests intensified. Roads to the site were blocked by protestors. This led to the closure of the sites for about two years. Around 2017, protests were consolidated, and the popular social media campaign “#SaveAlappad, Stop Mining” followed. Various social and cultural activists then turned out to support the locals. They also declared an indefinite relay hunger strike that lasted over 100 days. Taking cognizance of a viral video by a 17-year-old girl emotionally talking about the environmental impacts of the mining in her community, the National Green Tribunal sought a report from the district administration.p. 307

This report concluded that “it is unlikely that beach mining can be conducted without erosion”. It also points out loss of land resources, traditional fishing and habitats, as well as the deprivation of the natural coastal protection, altered coastal microclimate and the effects on the recreational and cultural aspects of the community. A comparison of satellite images from a decade ago proves that the impact of irresponsible mining is leading to the shrinking of the coast. It also affects the rituals and local practices of the community. For example, the localities are not able to practise Kambavala, a method of fishing using the coast to lay the nets.

Alappad, a campaign poster (Save Alappad campaign).
Figure 15.4

Alappad, a campaign poster

Source:  Save Alappad campaign

A lot of people who were dependent on foraging seafood have lost their source of food and income too, and the 10,000 fishermen who live in the villages risk a loss of livelihood if Alappad goes under the sea. The mining has also caused saline water incursions into the area making it unfit for cultivation of any kind. Moreover, if the sea links up with the backwaters, the rate of intrusion of the seawater will be unpredictably large. This will render the national waterway TS Canal useless and will also affect the land and people beyond Alappad.

IN SOUTH AFRICA

Stopping Sand Mining in Xolobeni on the Pondoland Coast 12

Mineral Sand Resources (MSR), a subsidiary of Australian company Mineral Commodities Ltd (MRC) applied to mine sand minerals discovered on the Xolobeni coast in 2002. Over a lifetime of 22 years, the mine would extract 9 million tons of ilmenite, titanium-iron oxide, rutile, zircon and leucoxene from sand dunes south of Port Edward in the Amadiba traditional area. Although mining rights were initially granted by the Department of Minerals and Energy in 2008, the decision was suspended after legal interventions by the Amadiba Crisis p. 308Committee and the Legal Resources Centre. This is perhaps the most famous of all conflicts on sand mining for metals around the world.

The Amadiba Crisis Committee represents community members who have been fighting the mining development for many years. They argue that tourism should be the mainstay of the economy in this “Wild Coast”, which holds remarkable biodiversity. Their spokesperson, Nonhle Mbuthuma, was threatened. She told Ground Up that Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe, their chairman, had phoned her to check on her safety. He had spoken of a hit list containing their names and others. This was just before he himself was killed in 2016.

MRC, through its subsidiary Transworld Energy and Minerals and local partner Xolco, proposed to mine old sand dunes at Xolobeni on the Pondoland Coast. Approximately 40 km long and up to 3 km wide, the area falls within the Pondoland Centre of Endemism (PCE), a botanical hotspot. If allowed, it would adversely affect the PCE as well as amaMpondo people's traditional land. They would need to leave the land that supports their agrarian livelihoods, traditions and spiritual and customary land-use practices. The Amadiba Crisis Committee accused MRC and its local partners and allies of using violence to intimidate the community into accepting the mine, with the complicity of the police: threats, armed attacks and raids. Several people have been injured, some seriously.

Members of the Pondo nation are deeply divided over the proposed mine. The murder of Rhadebe marked a crisis that has been building for over two decades around land and chiefs in rural black South Africa. A raft of laws since the advent of democracy has progressively given power over land and people to traditional leaders. Many chiefs are scrambling to push themselves to the forefront of empowerment companies for self-enrichment, which leads to confrontations with people. The government just keeps making things worse. This has become obvious with regard to landholding and decision-making about communal land. Land restitution for people who had been dispossessed of their land under apartheid began with the opening of the land claims process between 1994 and 1998. The Communal Property Association Act of 1996 created a mechanism for people who successfully submitted restitution claims to hold their restitution land communally and make decisions collectively. Traditional chiefs expressed vociferous objections to this and some simply allocated restitution land belonging to CPAs to others. The consequences have been devastating. What is alarming is that these traditional councils are undemocratic institutions in which women generally have insignificant representation.

In 2018, the community won a landmark court case. David Fig reported:

On 25 November 2018, a long-awaited high court judgment in South Africa changed the way in which mining companies must operate in relation to rural communities, the subjects of customary law. In the past, mining companies have resorted to superficial consultation with communities or their designated leaders in order to gain a mining licence. From now on, the principle under which licences must be granted has to rest on community consent that is “full and informed”. […] This judgment has led to ecstatic celebration in the Xolobeni area. The conflict goes on, however. (Healy 2022)

Richards Bay Minerals Dune Mining in South Africa

Mining of ilmenite, rutile and zircon from deposits in forested coastal sand dunes has been taking place north of Durban since the mid-1970s, by Richards Bay Minerals (RBM), a subsidiary of Rio Tinto. After destroying the biodiversity-rich coastal dune forest, dredgers in p. 309giant ponds are used to extract sand that contains the mineral ores, then separated using centrifugal and magnetic processes. Minerals are trucked to the smelter, where they are processed into raw materials such as titanium dioxide and pig-iron for export.

After mining, the remaining sand is dumped back, bulldozed to roughly resemble the original dune, and then crudely revegetated with mostly alien species not found in the original forests that were removed. The dredging and separation process uses large amounts of fresh water pumped from rivers. Together with the smelter, the mining also uses huge amounts of dirty energy generated from coal.

Local people, who have been removed from their land and endured the polluting emissions and dust from the mining, transportation and smelting on their doorsteps, remain poor despite the great wealth extracted from their land by the company.

Mtunzini ‒ Exxaro Proposed Sand Mining 13

Next to Richards Bay, people in Mtunzini and surroundings are resisting a proposal by Exxaro to establish sand mining operations in the area immediately to the south of Mtunzini. Mining will be for titanium, ilmenite and zircon. The community has formed an association to oppose the mining and employed a lawyer to assist with legal aspects.

Exxaro Sands is already mining at Hillendale, about 20 km north of Mtunzini. This mine was due to close in 2012 and its plans are to physically move the plant along the highway to mine at Fairbreeze immediately south of Mtunzini, before continuing to Port Durnford and Insese to the north. The proposed mine would degrade the soil and ruin the landscape for 60 km along the scenic N2 route.

IN MADAGASCAR: RIO TINTO / QMM ILMENITE AND ZIRCON SAND MINING 14

In Madagascar, the mining of sands containing minerals (Toliara, in Ranobe, Chapter 13) also destroys the environment and impoverishes the peoples. Since 2010, the Chinese company Mainland Mining Ltd has been exploring ilmenite and zircon in the Vatovavy-Fitovinany region, in the south-east of Madagascar. They have got 26,000 carrés miniers along the Pangalana River. The area is a property of QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM), which is a joint venture between Rio Tinto and the Malagasy government.

Before this, in the extreme south-east corner of Madagascar, QMM built a mineral sands mining operation near Taolagnaro supported by the World Bank. QMM intends to extract ilmenite and zircon from heavy mineral sands over an area of about 6,000 ha along the coast over the next 40‒50 years. This is one of the most ecologically diverse regions of Madagascar, but also one of the poorest and most isolated; 82 per cent of Anosy inhabitants live below the poverty line. The construction of the Rio Tinto QMM project started in January 2006. It displaced local people from their land and required the removal of rare fragments of coastal forest and heathland found only in Madagascar.

Among local people, differences of understanding about the project have already led to conflict and mistrust, further compounded by the lack of communication. In January 2012, local communities from Taolagnaro demonstrated in the street, carrying banners and asking for the resignation of the Chief of Anosy region.p. 310

In addition, many social conflicts were observed on the ground. Property prices have increased dramatically and inflation has severely affected the livelihoods of most Taolagnaro inhabitants. Some long-term residents left. Most of the Malagasy population hold customary land rights with lower legal status despite having been held for generations. Changes to local property ownership were extended significantly by revision of the land laws. This has affected local people's ownership of their homes.

The most important biodiversity impact is the loss of coastal forest habitat at Mandena, Petriky and Sainte Luce. By 2019, it was reported that QMM had violated national law, entering a “sensitive zone” and raising the possibility that radionuclide-enriched tailings could enter a lake that local people use for fishing and drinking. Rio Tinto acknowledged the breach for the first time in March.

DUNDAS ILMENITE PROJECT IN GREENLAND 15

Finally, we now visit Greenland, where a large project of ilmenite extraction is going ahead. This case is classified in the EJAtlas as a “latent conflict”, which means that there is some tenuous opposition and that it may grow, although in the north of Greenland there is almost no local population. Opposition might come from outside.

In April 2021, the “anti-mining” left-wing Inuit Ataqatigiit party won the elections in Greenland. The social-democratic Siumut party came second, having been in power for all but four years since 1979. They decided that the Kvanefjeld mine with major deposits of rare minerals would not go ahead (Chapter 7). However, it appears that BlueJay Mining's Dundas titanium project will go ahead in the Municipality of Avannaata. Construction was scheduled to commence in June 2020. By 2021, it was announced that the initial 30-year period exploitation licence for Dundas was granted. A financial study estimated the after-tax net present value to be $83.1 million with 67.1 million tonnes of ilmenite. The company's other assets in Greenland include the Disko-Nuussuaq project, the Kangerluarsuk project and Thunderstone. In Finland it has a joint-venture agreement with Rio Tinto.

In 2013, after the project was proposed by BlueJay Mining Plc, WWF wrote a report on titanium and several other mining projects in Greenland, raising concerns about future management of the “Last Ice Area”. WWF urged the importance of public discussion in the consultation process, especially with environmental NGOs and local groups. Mining industries have become increasingly interested in Greenland; however, the country's scarce population remains divided over its mining industry.

With the Dundas ilmenite mine, the plan is to mine the material in Greenland and then ship it to a processing plant in Canada in the six months during which shipping routes are not frozen. The north-west passage (a route to Asia) might open up throughout the year. In 2019, the Rio Tinto company received a 42,000-tonne bulk sample from the project developer to analyze climate change as an opportunity to mine Greenland's soils.

CONCLUSION: A BUSINESS BRUTAL TO HUMANS AND NATURE

Heavy metallic sand mining operations (HSM) are relatively recent, having begun on large scales around the late 1930s in Australia (Bisht and Martinez-Alier 2022). The growth of the industry was linked to war given its applications in the military sector. Since then, the p. 311industry has expanded to many other geographical locations: Sub-Saharan Africa, China and other Asian countries. Important uses of the sand mining for metals are in pigments and paint industries, ceramics industry, aerospace and shipbuilding, medicine and prosthetics, and chemical processing units or factories, including nuclear energy. Ilmenite, as we have seen, is considered the most important ore of titanium and has its commercial uses in the production of paint, adhesives and personal care products, and in various alloys.

Currently the extractive industry is largely controlled by corporations such as Rio Tinto, Mineral Commodities, BlueJay Mining, Astron Mining and Base Resources but there are also local firms. Although sand mining for metals is a small percentage of overall sand and gravel mining for the cement and building industries, it is important at new fragile commodity extraction frontiers. They are highly disruptive to local ecosystems. It is an itinerant industry along beaches. In many cases, extraction has involved the destabilization of coastal dune systems which are both rare ecosystems as well as serving important protective functions for coastal communities. In other cases, HSM has involved the destruction of coastal forest ecosystems which, apart from being rare ecosystems, are also extremely biodiverse as well as providing livelihoods to local communities. In some recent cases, extraction under the sea disrupts marine life. These minerals can possess radioactive elements. These can leach into local aquifers and result in groundwater pollution. Mining operations have also resulted in varying levels of localized conflicts which have spanned from threats to and arrests of local journalists and activists, to physical violence and murder of protesters, to the threat of war by local anti-State and anti-mining rebel groups.

Bringing together the cases on sand mining in the EJAtlas is quickly done because the number is relatively small, as it is a new and difficult commodity extraction frontier. The EJOs and other NGOs active in the resistance are sometimes conservationists but at other times they are pro-peasant organizations (such as JATAM and Walhi in Indonesia or the Amadiba Crisis Committee in the Xolobeni coast in South Africa) or defend the fisherfolk (as in Senegal and the Gambia, or in Kerala and Tamil Nadu). There is intersectionality of agrarian and environmental interests and values. In a few cases, social actors are Indigenous (like in the New Zealand case of sea-bed mining) but also scientists and professionals, or recreational users (as in the Putú Dunes in Chile).

The geological opportunity structure that allows heavy sand mining is combined as in the Gambia, for instance, with the end of a corrupt dictatorship that provided a political opportunity. Whatever the local circumstances, these local movements have much in common. Without exception, we realize that the minerals mined from sand will go to export and not to the local activities. Corruption of various kinds appears. There are alliances between the environmentalism of the poor and the conservationists (as in Alappad in Kerala, where a culturally strong movement has arisen at state level). In some cases, the governments suggest compensation to be paid to the local inhabitants, and this raises the general issue of commensuration as a social and political process imposed by force. In any case, “the poor are cheap”. They are also sometimes in danger of paying for the defence of nature and human livelihoods with their own lives, as we have seen in the Xolobeni in South Africa, in India, in the Gambia and in Indonesia in the present chapter. Similar conflicts exist in the Philippines, Kenya and other countries as described in previous chapters.

Overall, extraction of sand metallic minerals results in large-scale and serious local ecological degradation, negative environmental and social impacts which are cost-shifted onto local communities. There is an international division of nature. The beach sands are materials involved in ecologically unequal trade. These mining operations need to be understood p. 312within the framework of extractivism. The conflicts around them must also be seen as part of the world movements for environmental justice.

Notes

1

Eramet, Senegal: Managing our Impact and Giving Back.

2

Projet Grande Côte pour zircons et ilménite l’exploitation minière, Sénégal (Camila Rolando Mazzuca), EJAtlas. For a rosy picture of Eramet in Norway, https://www.eramet.com/en/eramet-titanium-iron-pioneer-metallurgy-norway.

Niafourang minière adverse de sable pour zircons, littoral Casamance, Sénégal (Camila Rolando Mazzuca), EJAtlas.

3

Governmental corruption in sand mining for metals in Kartung, Gambia (Camila Rolando Mazzuca), EJAtlas.

Julakay Ltd. sand mining in Faraba Banta, Gambia (EnvJustice Team and Camila Rolando Mazucca), EJAtlas.

GACH black sand mining in Sanyang, The Gambia (Danela Tran), EJAtlas.

4

Minería de litio y hierro en las Dunas de Putú, Chile (Patricio Chavez, Joan Martinez-Alier, Talia Waldron and Denise Sinclaire), EJAtlas.

5

South Taranaki Bight seabed iron sand extraction and processing project, New Zealand (Joan Martinez-Alier), EJAtlas.

6

Beach sand mining for ilmenite, garnet and other minerals in Tamil Nadu, India (Joan Martinez-Alier), EJAtlas.

The Hindu (2013). Raids on mining sites reveal large-scale violations, 8 August.

The Hindu (2016). V. V. Minerals operated in violation of ban: Panel, 25 November.

The Hindu (2017). 30 beach mineral godowns sealed, 28 March.

7

Titanium Mining in Thuan Nam district, Ninh Thuan province, Vietnam (Arnim Scheidel), EJAtlas.

8

Sand iron mining in Kulon Progo, Java, Indonesia (Sara Mingorria & Joan Martinez-Alier), EJAtlas.

10

Iron sand mining in Watu Pecak Beach, Indonesia (Sara Mingorria), EJAtlas.

11

Save Alappad, Stop Sand Mining, Kerala, India (Gouri Ramkumar), EJAtlas.

Haritha, J. (2018). Sand mining in coastal Kerala is swallowing villages and displacing thousands, Scoll.in, 26 October.

Sreekumar, Kiran (2019). Save Alappad Song (video), 8 June.

12

Steyn, D. and Damba-Hendrik, N. (2021). South Africa: Xolobeni ‒ where the discovery of rare minerals has led to violence, All Africa, 28 July.

Pillay, K. (2015). The Xolobeni heavy minerals sands project on the wild coast, South Africa, EJOLT Factsheet No. 27, 3 p.

Healy, H. (2022). Struggle for the sands of Xolobeni – From post-colonial environmental injustice to crisis of democracy. Geoforum, no. 133, pp. 128‒139.

Pondoland Wild Coast Xolobeni mining threat, South Africa (Val Payn – Save the Wild Coast Campaign, Joan Martinez-Alier and Hali Healy), EJAtlas.

13

Richards Bay Minerals dune mining, South Africa (Wally Menne), EJAtlas.

Mtunzini ‒ Exxaro proposed sand mining, South Africa (Patrick Burnett), EJAtlas.

14

Rio Tinto/QMM Ilmenite Mine, Madagascar (Vahinala Rahrinirina), EJAtlas.

Carver, E. (2019). Madagascar: Rio Tinto mine breaches sensitive wetland, Mongabay, 9 April.

Rahrinirina Douguet, V. (2013). Madagascar: Local protests against Rio Tinto, EJOLT, 25 January.

Mainland Mine Analanjirofo, Madagascar (Vahinala Rahrinirina), EJAtlas.

15

BlueJay Mining's ilmenite for titanium Dundas project, Greenland (Louise Mathies, Ksenija Hanaček and Joan Martinez-Alier), EJAtlas.

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