Shifting sands: Concrete-hungry Singapore orders a million tonnes of aggregate from Australia

Ever busy with new infrastructure but facing constraints in sourcing sand for aggregate, Singapore for the first time has turned to Western Australia.

The Port of Geraldton, some 400km north of Perth, and company Australian Sands International (ASI), are celebrating a contract to supply 1.1 million tonnes to the Asian city state over the next 12 months – enough to fill 30 or 40 ships, according to ASI.

Geraldton Port is glad to add a new export line to the staples of wheat, iron ore and livestock, while ASI hopes this order is just the beginning.

Buying the sand is Singapore’s CRG Contractors Pte, which in May this year won a tender to supply a large batch of aggregate to Singapore’s Housing and Development Board, which builds public housing and related infrastructure.

ASI established a new quarry at the nearby town of Walkaway within five weeks of receiving the order from CRG, and the first shipload left Geraldton Port on Saturday, 18 July, broadcaster ABC reports.

In the past, Singapore has sourced sand from Southeast Asian countries, but a UN report last year warned that unregulated sand mining in the Mekong basin was hurting habitats in Laos, Thailand and Cambodia.

The UN report, which singled Singapore out for criticism, noted that global demand for sand has increased three-fold in 20 years.

"We can provide a sustainable supply to Singapore, and we can supply it in a socially and environmentally responsible way," ASI managing director Simon Rushton told ABC.

"It ticks all the boxes."

Construction-grade sand is getting harder to source, but ASI director director Steve Dellabona told newspaper The Western Australian that Walkaway sand, with its "cubic" granules and low clay content, was a perfect aggregate.

Image: Walkaway sand is good for aggregate (Photograph supplied by ASI managing director Simon Rushton)

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  1. How can that possibly be sustainable. What you take you must put back

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