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A shortage of sand in Saudi Arabia

What would happen if the Sahara Desert went communist? – For fifty years nothing, then a shortage of sand. Remember that old joke? Well, have a read of this, from the BBC earlier in the week:

Saudi Arabia has reportedly imposed strict border checks to enforce a ban on the export of sand.

There are fears that the growing demands of the construction industry could lead to a shortage in the desert kingdom.

The Arab News newspaper reports that neighbouring Bahrain needs to import large quantities of sand for reclaiming land from the sea.

Demand is also expected to grow as the process of reconstruction in Iraq gathers pace.

Although sand remains plentiful in Saudi Arabia, construction experts say the high costs of bagging and transporting make exploiting it difficult.

Experts have told the newspaper that if a mechanism could be devised to move sand from the vast desert region known as the Empty Quarter, it could be a very profitable proposition.

As the paper points out, there is more sand in the kingdom than oil.

Cement is also in high demand, the report says, with many cement factories having to expand their production capabilities to meet domestic demand.

We speculated here that if the Americans went into Iraq they could then put pressure on Saudi Arabia. Now the American plan is revealing itself. “I know it sounds crazy, but guys, here’s the plan. We’re going to suck all the sand out of the place. We’ll have them over a barrel.”

To be more serious, I guess the thing about about sand, compared to oil, is that sand can’t, unlike oil, be controlled. Oil extraction requires expensive infrastructure manned by a highly skilled workforce. Once it’s out of the ground, it can still then be stolen and smuggled, but until then, it’s the possession of the resident power structure. But sand “extraction”? Anyone can do that.

5 comments to A shortage of sand in Saudi Arabia

  • Ernie G

    As we all know, Iraq was all about the OOOIIIIILLLL. Saudi Arabia is all about the SSSAAANNNNDDDD! See, we steal all the sand, leaving a great hole in the ground, and the Saudis stand too close to the edge and fall in. Problem solved. All better now.

  • Shannon Love

    Strangely enough one could use this as parable of the foibles of central planning.

    From a distance, Saudi Arabia seems to comprise nothing but sand but in truth most of it is so fine as to be a powdery dust unsuitable for most construction work. During the first Gulf War, Allied forces had to truck sand out into the desert to fill the sand bags used in entrenchments because the super fine local dust sand would filter through the fabric of the sand bags.

    A good case of local knowledge of on the ground conditions beating the view from ten thousand feet.

  • PapayaSF

    This is a funny item, but it makes sense once you know that sand comes in different types. For concrete construction you want “sharp” sand, not worn and wind-blown sand of the sort they have lots of in Saudi Arabia.

  • Attn: Brian Micklethwait
    Will you please tell me which edition of the “Arab News”
    contained the information you presented regarding Saudi Arabian sand problem. We have just started marketing a new and unique, heavy duty, portable, and automated sand bag filling machine that will greatly reduce the cost of bagged sand. My reason for asking is that I want to follow up to develop contacts in Saudi Arabia.
    Your help will be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you,
    Ernie Engle
    VP Business Development
    Emergency Preparedness Assoc., LLC