UQ assembles global coalition on responsibly sourced sand and silicates

13 May 2024
Global Centre for Mineral Security Senior Research Fellow Dr Louise Gallagher.

A University of Queensland project is spearheading a global initiative towards responsible supply chains for sand and silicate with the backing of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Roca Group.

The Responsible sand and silicates initiative is driving research and collaboration to promote the adoption of new responsible sourcing practices in the industry.

It will share the initial findings of a baseline study of  social and environmental risks at the 2024 OECD Forum on Responsible Mineral Supply Chains in Paris.

International organisations including Holcim, Mercedes Benz, Inter IKEA, Cary Group, WWF, and Mota Ceramic Solutions have participated in the initiative’s multi-stakeholder dialogue to date.

Dr Louise Gallagher, a Senior Research Fellow at the Sustainable Minerals Institute’s Global Centre for Mineral Security, said the baseline study is a step towards practical action. 

“Sands and silicates are the second most widely extracted and consumed natural resource on earth, after water, and used in an extraordinary number of industries – buildings, tyres, windows, roads, household ceramics, phones, computers, solar panels, some footwear, and more,” Dr Gallagher said.

“That enormous demand requires huge volumes of sand and silicates to be extracted from terrestrial, marine, and freshwater environments all over the world, so it’s critical we properly understand the risks.

“The baseline study is global in scope, considers a variety of sand and silicate materials, and clarifies available knowledge and gaps for identifying and assessing potential and actual supply chain risks.

“We are specifically looking at how the OECD Guidance might be applied to sand and silicates, as it is the leading voluntary standard for responsible mineral sourcing and widely used in other mineral supply chains.  

 “It will be the first step towards a comprehensive factual risk mapping in this supply chain and a useful resource for companies wishing to conduct due diligence to ensure that sourcing decisions do not contribute to prevailing environmental and social risks.

“Presenting our findings at the OECD Forum will be a fantastic opportunity to increase awareness and we are looking forward to discussing how we can move forward with the initiative.”

OECD Senior Advisor Louis Maréchal said there is a need for stakeholders to understand the importance of responsible sourcing. 

“Looking at the sheer volumes of sand and silicates production, there is an urgent need for the industry and regulators to understand the importance of sourcing these materials responsibly and to start exploring the extent to which due diligence can assist them in this endeavour,” Mr Maréchal said.

“The Responsible sand and silicates initiative is making an important contribution to this process.”

Roca Group Sustainability Director Carlos Velazquez said sustainability is critical to the organisation.

“At Roca Group, sustainability is fundamental to every aspect of our operations, covering the entire product life cycle,” Mr Velazquez said.

“From ethically sourcing raw materials to thoughtfully managing products at the end of their useful life, we are committed to fostering sustainable practices.

“We take pride in leading initiatives that ensure the responsible procurement of our primary raw materials, such as sands and silicates, essential to our industry continuity.”

If you are attending the 2024 OECD Forum, you can register for the ‘Responsible sand and silicates: Implications for due diligence’ plenary session here.