Shrinking Availability of Sand Shifts Consumer Preference to Substitutes

Global demand for sand is expected to grow only 1.2% per year through 2023 to just under 10 billion metric tons. Growth will be well below the global average and will track demand for gravel. The shrinking availability of sand will be the primary factor restraining global demand growth. A number of countries (e.g., India, Thailand, South Korea, Saudi Arabia) are dealing with rapidly depleting sand reserves, which will limit long-term supply and will continue to increase consumer prices in regional markets.

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In developed regions with strong mining regulation, such as North America and Western Europe, demand for sand will continue to stagnate or decline through 2023. In the wake of higher material prices, sand will continue to be replaced by crushed stone and widely available secondary and recycled aggregates.

In developing regions of the world, especially in the Asia/Pacific and Africa/Mideast regions, demand for sand will be supported in the near term by:

  • high incidences of illegal mining, as fine aggregates will still be required in a number of applications, particularly for hydraulic concrete
  • the lower availability of secondary aggregates in these regions, which limit the degree of substitution

Despite this dichotomy, supply constraints and higher material prices for virgin sand will continue to shift consumer preference toward crushed stone and secondary substitutes globally. The global product mix will continue shifting, and demand for sand and gravel will remain the slowest growing products.

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