Resource scarcity

A homemade problem

In terms of geology there exists in Germany no shortage of sand, gravel and natural stone deposits. Quartz and building sands are available in Germany in sufficient quantities to cover domestic requirements. But there currently exist nevertheless considerable supply shortages in various regions of Germany, especially for important construction raw materials. The reason for this is an artificial scarcity caused by the fact that a large portion of the sand deposits is located in nature preserves below residential and industrial estates. In addition, potential raw materials resources of similar size have already been assigned to other preferred uses. Considerable difficulties for extraction of our domestic resources are therefore preprogrammed.

A current issue of the Commodity TopNews published by Germany’s Federal Institute for Geosciences (BGR) focuses on the topic of the domestic rock raw materials gravel and natural stone of significance to the production of construction materials and the construction industry as well quartz sands, which are in strong demand by other industrial sectors. The authors, among others, conclude that an increasing number of real property owners are no longer prepared to make their land available for raw material extraction. In times of low interest rates and at the same time rising prices for arable land, selling or letting is not worth their while – notwithstanding tempting offers extended by the raw materials industry. Farmers, moreover, increasingly no longer want to have quarry ponds, since these cannot be backfilled and cannot be reutilized for agricultural purposes following extraction of the gravel.

Recycling, as part of the solution, according to the national resources efficiency program “ProgRess,” covers only about 12 % of the requirements of primary raw materials. In view of the shortage of construction rubble, which is already in short supply, significant increase is not possible. The annual requirement of 550 million tons of primary raw materials will remain unchanged, at least until 2030.

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