Illegal sand mining and dredging

It is reported that illegal sand mining and dredging is the third largest global criminal enterprise behind counterfeiting and drug trafficking.  Illegal sand mining and dredging is ranked higher as a global criminal activity than human trafficking and illegal logging, ranked fourth and fifth respectively.  Air, water and sand are the most consumed natural resources in the world and we are running out of sand because organized criminal syndicates motivated by greed and business profit are illegally harvesting sand all over the world.  Sand is used extensively in construction and is the principal component of concrete, glass, mortar, and brick manufacture.  Sand is used throughout the world to make landfills and construct artificial reefs and has many industrial uses such as in hydraulic fracturing to harvest underground natural gas and in the manufacture of chemicals and plastics.

Sand is not a sustainable resource.  It takes millions of years to make a bed of sand and indiscriminate extraction of the resource has severe environmental and social consequences.  Uncontrolled mining of sand causes erosion, flooding and loss of shorelines.  It is reported that 75% to 80% of the world’s beaches are retreating, in part caused by harvesting sand.  When a large volume of sand is sucked up from the ocean floor waves and currents are impacted and gravity gradually fills in the hole impacting the coast line of adjacent shores.  It is reported that 25 islands in Indonesia have disappeared in part because of illegal sand mining.  Sand is essential to maintain our source of food and its uncontrolled harvest can result in loss of habitat for marine life, loss of biodiversity, and in the long term, impaired food security.

The Pohnpei Legislature amended Chapter 9 of Title 42 of the Pohnpei Code to regulate and control mining and dredging.  The Legislature established a statutory regime to regulate and control all mining and dredging for materials, including coral and sand, on public trust lands and designated the Board of Trustees of the Pohnpei Public Lands Trust as the sole entity to authorize issuance of permits to mine or dredge.  The Board of Trustees and Pohnpei State Government, with a view toward protecting our shorelines from erosion and limiting damage to marine habitat, must serve as stewards of this limited natural resource and be the guardians of our future wellbeing by regulating the mining of sand and dredging of coral, determining the appropriate locations of mining and dredging and restricting the amount of material which can be taken from any one location.

Dana W. Smith 

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