It is increasingly difficult to find sand mining sites on dry land. Therefore, sea sand is an interesting alternative, as much in Belgium as in our neighbouring countries.
In Belgium, the percentage of sea sand production in relation to total sea sand production has continued to rise since the 1970s. Sea sand is used in the construction sector as well as to protect the Belgian coast. In Belgium, sea sand is of growing social and economic interest: in the past 30 years, it has become one of the basic raw materials for the construction sector.
To date, the yearly extraction volume of Belgian sea sand represents about 3,000,000 tonnes or 2,000,000 m³, more than 80 % of which is used in the construction sector. It is now also used to protect our coastline. Indeed, beach nourishment (filling) is currently the main measure for maintaining beaches at their optimum level along the coast. It is necessary to keep beaches wide and high enough to prevent the coast from being flooded during spring tide.
In Belgium, sand and gravel are mined in the Belgian part of the North Sea. This part of the North Sea is home to many human activities that are more or less limited in the space:
- the installation and upkeep of communication cables and pipelines,
- the dumping of sludge dredged from port areas,
- wind farms, and
- military activity zones.
Sand mining is authorised in zones defined by the law called control zones. The quality and nature of the sand vary according to the mining site. Particle-size distribution and seashell content reveal great geographic fluctuations. There are four control zones in total.
The Continental Shelf Service
The Continental Shelf Service of the FPS Economy, SMEs, Self-employed and Energy is responsible for sand and gravel mining in the Belgian part of the North Sea.
The service's main tasks are: