Moving from natural to manufactured sand
Moving from natural to manufactured sand

Moving from natural to manufactured sand

Today construction industry faces shortage of aggregates and sand. In fact, the availability and cost of sand have seriously slowed the progress of couple of projects in the country. There are other options, but we as a country are yet to exploit those. One is using the over burden from mines as aggregates in construction. Considering the progress made by other countries in this area, we need to move fast, otherwise speed of high value projects will suffer. Ramesh Bhatawadekar has been advocating this idea with the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.

I ndia, the second largest global consumer of aggregates, is said to be the new landmark for the world construction industry market. The 6,000-km Golden Quadrilateral Highway Project, completed in 2013, links the key cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Belgaum and Chennai (shown below). Investment in various infrastructure projects such as railways, roads, port development and construction of new airports is identified. Building construction will accordingly post solid gains in the years ahead, boosting aggregates demand in India. There is as yet no definitive source for aggregate tonnages in India. The Freedonia Group provides the estimated data in the table.

However, in addition to the information available, aggregates are also extensively required for railways. Therefore it is estimated that the present demand for aggregates in India is around 5.5 billion tonnes. The Government has already approved the development of 18 airports, namely Mopa in Goa, Navi in Mumbai, Shirdi and Sindhudurg in Maharashtra, Bijapur, Gulbarga, Hasan and Shimoga in Karnataka, Kannur in Kerala, Pakyong in Sikkim, Karaikal in Puducherry, Dholera in Gujarat and Bhogapuram in Andhra Pradesh. India will be spending around $63 billion for 100 airports in II tier cities in the next 15 years.

The overall volume growth of aggregate market is being projected at a breathtaking 11 per cent a year. In particular, the market demand for manufactured sand is expected to grow by 70 per cent by 2020, predominantly driven by the substitution of river bed sand by manufactured sand.

Progress in the country
Telangana now and erstwhile Andhra Pradesh is utilising manufactured sand (M-sand) for more than a decade for the construction of various infrastructures. The State Government itself is encouraging use of M-Sand as an alternative to river sand. The Mining Engineers' Association of India (MEAI) has recognised the wider need to launch a strong national campaign, in conjunction with the Government and State authorities, to switch the ecologically-undesirable extraction of sand from beaches and river-beds to manufactured sand produced in responsibly-operated quarries and pits.

In different States of India, the price of sand varies from $3.3 to $33 per tonne. The newly carved out State, Telangana, has a policy document is place for sand mining. The same has been accepted by the Government of India and other States as well. The Indian aggregate Industry is currently very fragmented with 12,000 family businesses with small quarries and low capacity plants. There are a few local associations in scattered clusters for addressing local issues but there had hitherto lacked a national level aggregate association for raising the standards of the Indian aggregate industry. There is a need to have an association of aggregate producers at national and State levels.

Sanjay Nikam, an enthusiast and a professional, has taken the initial steps in forming the Aggregates Manufacturers' Association of India (AMA). Several producers have already committed to join, and from the beginning of the year 2019, member registration will start. Recently, MEAI has also applied to be a member of international body Global Aggregates Information Network (GAIN). Both initiatives are very important steps, and it is proposed to accept both AMA and MEAI as GAIN members pending the evolution of a national association which represents all aggregates interests.

Import of sand from Malaysia and Cambodia raises hope of finding new avenues to tide over the river sand crisis in Tamil Nadu. The first consignment of 55,000 tonnes of river sand from Sungai Pahang Port in Malaysia to Chennai in Tamil Nadu was received way back in September 2017.

Bhatawdekar recommends...
Indian policymakers -Ministry of mining, Indian Bureau of Mines, (Central Government officials) Department of Mines and Geology (State Government) officials to visit quarries in Southeast Asia / China
National importance to be given for aggregate sector
Mega infrastructures projects to have large quarries of a minimum 1 MTPA attached to it
Funds to be allocated for R&D on M-sand and building material (Malaysia allocates Rs 10,000 for every core spectrum on infrastructure project)
M-sand standards for different applications need to be developed
A lot of waste e.g. from mines is generated, which can be converted to aggregates and M-sand with support from R&D
Environment can be protected with larger quarries through professionals

Ramesh Bhatawdekar
is a mining engineer from IIT Kharagpur, and is currently an International Fellow at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, having experience in aggregate and limestone quarries in Southeast Asia.

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