Crackdown planned on illegal river sand mining

Updated: 2012-08-08 07:36

By Xu Jingxi in Guangzhou (China Daily)

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The Guangdong provincial government has vowed to crack down on illicit mining of river sand, a senior water official said.

"We have had achievements in regulating river sand mining in the past few years, but illicit mining continues despite harsh punishments," Huang Boqing, director of the provincial water resources department, said at a news conference on Tuesday.

"The demand for river sand in Guangdong's market still far exceeds the supply. Those engaged in illicit river sand mining can make a very good profit," Huang said.

Crackdown planned on illegal river sand mining

Wang Jiancheng, deputy director of the department, estimated that the market demand this year will be more than 100 million cubic meters while the supply will be only 15 million.

The department limits the total amount of river sand that can be mined in a year and miners in different cities have to get permission from local water resources departments before they can start mining.

They face many restrictions on which part of the river they can go to, how long they can work and how much sand they can get.

"We need strict administration because excessive mining will damage the riverbed and thus threaten the environment," said Qiu Jing, a senior researcher at Guangdong Research Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower.

"Dikes will suffer more serious erosion from the water flow in the lower reaches and may collapse when floods come," Qiu explained.

People who mine river sand without the government's permission used to be fined between 10,000 yuan ($1,570) and 100,000 yuan. New regulations adopted this year have raised the fine to between 30,000 yuan and 300,000 yuan. Those caught illegally mining twice or more can be fined as much as 1 million yuan.

Dong Zhigang, who owns a sand mining company, said he welcomes the move because he has been forced out of business because of the rampant illicit mining.

The 50-year-old from Huizhou, Guangdong province, started bidding for river sand mining permission from the government in 2002 and stopped about four years ago.

"Honestly, I had been losing money. I spent several million yuan to bid for the permission so I needed to sell a cubic meter of river sand at about 30 yuan to make ends meet. However, I was forced to dump my price to less than 10 yuan because the illegal miners were able to sell their sand at such a low price since they did not pay the fees," Dong told China Daily.

To regulate the river sand market, Guangdong government has launched a large-scale crackdown on illicit river sand mining gangs this year. As of June 6, 116 boats engaging in illicit mining have been caught.

The government has also been encouraging construction companies to use substitutes for river sand, according to Wang from the water resources department.

"It's almost impossible to supply the market with enough river sand since we have to limit the amount of river sand that can be mined to ensure waterway security," he said.

"We call on relevant departments to develop substitutes for river sand, for example artificial sand, in order to reduce demand."

Shu Meng contributed to this story.

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