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Coastal sand mining of heavy mineral sands: Contestations, resistance, and ecological distribution conflicts at HMS extraction frontiers across the world

By Arpita Bisht and Joan Martinez-Alier

First published: 27 December 2022


Coastal sand mining for metals involves extraction of heavy mineral sands (HMS), which are sedimentary deposits of dense minerals that accumulate in coastal environments. HMS are localized concentrations of ores such as ilmenite, rutile, leucoxene, and iron, which are sources of metals such as titanium, zircon, iron, sillimanite/kyanite, staurolite, monazite, and garnet. The applications of these metals range from everyday products such as ceramics, paint, and pigments, as well as technologically advanced applications in the airline, shipbuilding, medicine, and defense industries. HMS extraction implies strip mining of coastal areas, which are often unique biodiversity ecosystems, or fragile ecosystems built up on sandy soils or dunes. The loss of such spaces has impacts such as loss of biodiversity and habitats, salt-water intrusion into agricultural lands and increased exposure to sea level rise. As a result of the serious ecological and socioeconomic transformations at such extraction frontiers, these operations cause resistance movements across the world. This article identifies and documents 24 cases of resistance against such operations. It presents the first comprehensive database and analysis of HMS related ecological distribution conflicts.

Open access to the article now at the Wiley Online Library.

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