Sand Mining, Quarrying and Salt Production

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Introduction

Salt Production

Sand Mining

Introduction

The activity of mining and quarrying covers salt production and sand quarrying . The share of theses two industries to the Gross Domestic Product is quite negligible (less than 0.1%)

Salt production

salt pans

This activity is mainly carried out in the west of the island in the Black River district. Sea water is pumped into large, shallow pans and the water is left to evaporate leaving the salt behind. It is then harvested manually and stored away to be sent to a refining plant later on.

This activity is only carried out in the west as it is the hottest and driest part of the island.

Sand Mining is carried out at selected places in the lagoon. It is mined manually from depths less than 1.5 metres on the reef flat. Two or three workmen stand up in the water and load their wooden boats 6 to 8 metres long that can carry up to 2.5 tonnes of sand.

The boats are then unloaded with spades at authorised locations on the coast. The sand is washed and then sold for construction purposes and the filtering of water mainly.

Presently there does not seem to exist reliable estimates of the quantity of sand available in Mauritius.

Though this activity is regulated by law ( Sand Mining Act of 1975) there does not appear to be reliable statistics on the quantities of lagoonal sand extracted yearly. But Government places that figure around 800,000 tons of sand per year.

Extraction from sand quarries along the coast has been banned since 1991. As sand is a very slowly renewable resource, the government has decided to ban sand mining by the year 2001.

Currently sand mining in the lagoon has been limited by government to four designated sites which are:

LocationArea MinedTonnes extracted
Mahebourg0.9 Km2200,000
Grand Gaube0.4 Km2100,000
Grande Riviere Sud Est1.2 Km2 250,000
Poudre D'Or/ Roches Noires0.5 Km2 250,000

Source: Ministry of Housing

The sites will, this year, be demarcated by buoys.

The local environmental impact of sand extraction is significant,

In the immediate vicinity of extraction, there is an increase in turbidity which is very hazardous to corals growing in the area. The local flora is killed and the fauna either suffers the same fate or deserts the place.

The extraction of such a vast amount of sand is thought to have an impact on the littoral drift of sediments and so hinders the replenishment of beaches. That contributes to the erosion of beaches that is occurring at a number of locations round the island.

The University of Mauritius estimated in 1991 that the rate of replenishment was of the order of 1.2 to 1.5 tonnes per year. Australian consultants put it at 110 to 120 tonnes per year. In either case, sand is a non renewable resource in vies of the massive quantities extracted yearly.

As said earlier on, the sand extracted is mainly used for construction purposes. Local alternatives exist in the form of rock sand produced by stone crushing plants.

Live coral quarrying has been banned in 1991 for the obvious damage it inflicted on the ecosystem.

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Date on the web: Thursday, January 22, 1998

Last update: 10 February, 1999