Greenland: Melting Glaciers Open Up Vast Sand Deposits

Mining sand could deliver huge economic boost
By Richard Kemeny,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 11, 2019 6:48 PM CST
Updated Feb 16, 2019 7:30 AM CST
Icebergs float in the Nuup Kangerlua Fjord near Nuuk in southwestern Greenland, Tuesday Aug. 1, 2017. The icebergs calved off a glacier from the Greenland ice sheet, the second largest body of ice in...   (AP Photo/David Goldman)

(Newser) – In a strangely positive twist to climate change, a new study finds that Greenland could become a major exporter of sand as its glaciers disappear into the sea. As global temperatures rise, the island's vast ice sheet is rapidly melting away, and large amounts of sediments are being washed into the oceans, reports Reuters. Greenland's population of 56,000 could see significant economic boosts from mining the sand and gravel and exporting it to the rest of the world. "Greenland could benefit from the challenges brought by climate change," the team of scientists says. One described the melting ice sheet as a giant "tap that pours out sediment to the coast." The amount of sand delivered to the country's coast annually is estimated to be worth more than half Greenland's GDP, which is about $2.22 billion, and that worth is expected to double within the next quarter-century.

The global sand market was worth $99.5 billion in 2017, and that pie is likely to grow due to future shortages and rising demand. By 2100, it is projected to reach $481 billion. Sand is used in everything from concrete to computers, per Inverse, and a global black market has grown out of a surprising shortage of the stuff. Of course, mining and exporting sand can be bad for the environment, while dredging up the sediment could cause further damage to marine ecosystems. Exploiting the sand reserves could be controversial because of the impacts on the "pristine Arctic landscape," reports ScienceDaily. "When we started our research, we had no idea that our results would foster the idea of establishing a sand mining industry in Greenland," said one researcher. "It just shows how unpredictable science can be." (Read more sand stories.)

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