The dredging of sand at sea in the Belgian part of the North Sea is strictly controlled by the public authorities and is governed by the Law of 13 June 1969. This Law and the Royal Decrees that follow on from it aim to govern research and sea mining of sand and gravel in the Belgian part of the North Sea in the long term. The concessions are subject to strict regulations and an Advisory Commission meets at least once a year. This Commission coordinates the administrations concerned by sea sand and gravel mining.
The main rules are:
the exploitation can only take place in the open parts of the control zones. Sand extraction is prohibited in the subareas of the control zones which are closed based on the reference level;
- in the control zones, mining companies may mine a maximum combined volume of 3 million m³ each year. Every year, on the basis of the Advisory Commission's proposal, the Minister defines the maximum mining volume authorised per concession holder. A minimum of 30,000 m³/year per concession is allocated to all concessions;
- sand and gravel mining may only be performed by trailing suction hopper dredger. In control area 3, the use of stationary suction type dredgers is also authorised;
- mining must be performed in a continuous area in a maximum of 0.5 m layers;
- during mining, the mining boat maintains an average speed in relation to the seabed of more than 0.5 knots;
- if several boats work very close to each other, a minimum distance of 500 metres should be maintained between them during mining.