Assessment Of The Effects Of Sand Excavation On The Environment

Project and Seminar Material for Geology

Assessment Of The Effects Of Sand Excavation On The Environment


This study was carried out on the effect of sand excavation on the environment The study examined positive and negative environmental impacts of the continuous removal of river sand, pit sand and gravel from sampled rivers and open areas surrounding Abraka-Eku areas. Quantitative and qualitative research designs that is questionnaire survey, oral interviews, field observation and measurements were used to collect data from selected sampled points. Ethiope and Eku rivers were selected because they are nearer to Abraka-Eku and most river sand is mined from these rivers. More points were sampled from open areas in Urhuoka, Ajalomi and Abraka farms where pit sand and gravel are mined.

Convenience and purposive sampling methods were used to pick questionnaire survey respondents (175) from Urhuoka and Ethiope villages where people affected lives. Findings of the study highlighted that river sand was mined most from rivers near Abraka-Eku compared to pit sand and gravel because of its multi uses. Mining is important for economic development, to construct durable, modern structures, employment creation and revenue collection but removal of river sand leads to deepening and widening of rivers. Artificial rivulets are formed as resource is extracted uncontrollably. Pit sand and gravel are extracted from open areas creating uncovered deep pits, which caused of accidents to children and livestock.

Erosion and environmental degradation occur due to continuous mining. Miners dispose waste on open areas and riverbeds causing land pollution. Dust and noise pollution from tipper trucks ferrying sand and gravel are a cause of concern to villagers as the trucks move even at night, disturbing sleep. Solutions to uncontrolled mining include 24 hour security and regular raids on illegal miners. The author recommends that heavy penalties should be imposed to curb illegal mining. High level decision making forum involving all stakeholders is necessary to discuss problems of illegal mining and how to limit negative impacts. Department of Mines need to develop an Environmental Management Plan and a close monitoring program nationwide.

Table Of Contents

Preliminary Page(s)

  • Title page
  • Certification page
  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgement
  • Abstract
  • Table of content

Chapter One:


  • 1.1 Background of the study
  • 1.2 Statement of the problem
  • 1.3Objectives of the study
  • 1.4 Research questions
  • 1.5 Study area
  • 1.6 Location

Chapter Two:

Review Of Related Literature

  • 2.1 Introduction
  • 2.2 Sand excavation and gravel extraction in the world
  • 2.3 Sand and gravel mining in Africa
  • 2.4 Positive environmental impacts of sand and gravel mining worldwide
  • 2.5 Negative environmental impacts of sand and gravel mining worldwide
  • 2.6 Solutions and mitigation measures to sand and gravel extraction worldwide

Chapter Three:

Research Methodology

  • 3.1 Introduction
  • 3.2 Research designs
  • 3.3 Sample and sampling procedures
  • 3.4 Research instruments
  • 3.5 Reliability and validity
  • 3.6 Data presentation and analysis tools

Chapter Four:

Data Analysis, Presentation And Discussion

  • 4.1 Introduction
  • 4.2 Demographic data of questionnaire respondents
  • 4.3 Questionnaire respondents’ general views on sand and gravel extraction
  • 4.4 Interview respondents general comments on sand and gravel mining
  • 4.5 Field measurements and observations
  • 4.6 Environmental impacts of sand excavation and gravel extraction
  • 4.7 Summary

Chapter Five:

Solutions, Conclusion And Recommendations

  • 5.1 Introduction
  • 5.2 Conclusion
  • 5.4 Recommendations
  • References

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

Soil is an important resource covering the land surface. Mining is the process of getting minerals and soil components for various uses. Man depends on soil for agriculture, construction and even as a habitat for various organisms (Mwangi, 2007). People benefit from soil particularly sand and gravel but interfere and disturb the resource through excessive exploitation to fulfill their needs. There is worldwide concern about the environment which prompted the researcher to carry out this study on the environment. It seems there is excessive mining of soil components for construction in both rural and urban development. Gravel is mixed with river sand in filling and compacting foundations, river sand is a component of concrete in making slab while pit sand is required for plastering buildings. River sand is used in most mixtures because it is a strong resource which strengthens even pit sand in plastering and makes durable bricks (Morwaeng, 2013).

Sand is a valuable resource and main input in the construction industry in many parts of the world (Eiskine and Green, 2000, Gob, et al, 2005). Mining excavation involves the removal of sand from their natural configuration. Sand mining occurs both on small and large-scale in major parts of Nigeria. It has been observed that with an estimated 16 million housing deficit (Ezekiel 2010; lsah, 2011) and infrastructural development in Nigeria, there will continue to be the great demand for sand and other construction materials (Omolu and Ajakaiye, 1988). Sand mining is a practice that is used to extract sand, mainly through an open pit. Sand is also mined from beaches, inland dunes and dredged from ocean beds and river beds.

Sand is often used in manufacturing as an abrasive, for example, and it is used to make concrete. It is also used in cold regions to put on the roads by municipal trucks to help during heavy rainfall and extreme weather conditions, usually mixed with salt or another mixture to lower the freezing temperature of the road surface (have the precipitations freeze at a lower temperature). Sand dredged from the mouths of rivers can also be used to replace eroded coastline (Kadi, et al., 2012).

The increasing rate of urbanization across the globe has brought with it several challenges ranging from physical, economic, social, to environmental among other issues (Cohen, 2006; Chelala, 2010: Kadi, et al., 2012). To cater for the rapid urbanization, several sites are now being exploited for the excavation of sand. Traditionally, sites for sand mining are rivers and beaches; however, sand is mined from river months, banks and even at inland sand deposits.

Rapid urbanization is a major cause for the demand of sand mainly used for building construction and is responsible for unsustainable extraction of sand from the many illegal inland sand, mining pit, sand mining operators, citizens, and government becomes more confrontational as a result of more sand excavation sites located in urban and rural areas. Conflicts have centered on environmental and social issues such as noise, truck traffic, dust, stream water quality, reclamation, biodegradation, population and visually unpleasant landscapes (Willis and Garrod, 1999), and the citizens concern on the adequacy of regulatory efforts of the government to control these negative effects.

Environmental impacts of mining are well documented in the form of waste management, impacts of biodiversity and habitat, deforestation of land with the consequent elimination of the vegetation, pollution (water, air, land and even noise pollution, etc. (Abdus-Saleque, 2008). In Nigeria and many other tropical areas sand mining is a major cause of deforestation and forest degeneration, generating a large number of environmental impacts (World Rainforest Movement, 2004). It is noted that large-scale mining activities generally continue to reduce the vegetation of most of the mining communities to levels that are destructive to biological diversity (Akabzaa, 2000). Davis and Tilton (2005) also suggest that local communities tend to bear the negative impacts of mining be it social, economical or environmental. It is therefore important to make effort to stem these problems through informed decision-making. However, making informed decision in many areas including monitoring sand mining activities often involves complicated processes for optimal decision making, information from various sources is required such as spatial information, which is essential to address activities of sand mining and their impacts on the environment (Burrough and McDonnell, 2O02).

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Abraka and Eku are both a growing urban centers which have experienced rapid population growth and physical expansion especially since the early 1990s with the establishment of the Delta State University which is situated at Abraka main town. This has resulted to the influx of people from different parts of the state. These in turn have exerted pressure on the needs for housing provision, in addition to construction of roads (Akinbode and Ugbomeh, 2006).

Sand mining is a direct cause of erosion, and also impacts the local wildlife. For example, sea turtles depend on sandy beaches for their nesting, and sand mining has led to the near extinction of gharials (a species of crocodiles) in Nigeria. Disturbance of underwater and coastal sand causes turbidity in the water, which is harmful for such organisms as corals that need sunlight. It also destroys fisheries, causing problems for people who rely on fishing for their livelihoods. Removal of physical coastal barriers such as dunes leads to flooding of beachside communities, and the destruction of picturesque beaches causes tourism to dissipate. Sand mining is regulated by law in many places, but is still often done illegally (Kadi, et al., 2012).

Abraka and Eku are expanding at an alarming rate. Expansion means growth in infrastructure, construction of new roads, commercial malls and residential areas (Wokorach, 2002). There is need for use of various soil components such as pit sand, river sand and gravel from various sites surrounding the city. People seem to be extracting these soil components excessively without considering the impact on the environment. Most likely, there is overexploitation of soil leaving deep pits on bare ground while rivers are widening daily. Soil mining has become a daily sight with tipper trucks carrying pit sand, river sand and gravel from rivers and open fields. It seems there are no strict rules to govern soil extraction. Deep and wide pits are left when pit sand and gravel are collected, riverbeds widen and deepen after removing river sand, affecting aquatic while gravel removal destroy ecosystems, forests and agricultural land (Mbaiwa, 2008). Pit sand organisms is collected from River Ethiope, river sand is from Ovwuvwe river while gravel is extracted from River Ethiope. There seemed to be a problem of environmental alteration, ecosystem and agricultural land destruction as well as riverbed and bank degradation due to excessive removal of pit sand, river sand and gravel which prompted the researcher to investigate the depth of these environmental impacts.

Sand and gravel were continuously excavated along the beaches and valley of river Ethiope from Urhuoka to Ajalomi even up to the axis of the boundary between Abraka and Eku of the River Ethiope. Dredging equipments are seen mounted along the course of the river that excavated the sand into piles along the River Bank. Daily tonnes of sand are carried into the town with trucks loaded. Contractors who cannot afford dredging machine uses locally made canoes and shovels to scoop large amount of sand along the beds and banks of the River. The impact of this excavation apart from acting as a source of income to the residents, are usually very negative.

The major problems associated with sand excavation and mining activities in Abraka-Eku region along River Ethiope include wrong channelization of the river channel, destruction of the riparian vegetation, degradation of the natural environment, impact on biodiversity, pollution of water, deforestation, erosion along the valley side slopes and disturbance of underground water and coastal sand causing turbidity in the water, which is harmful to organisms. Sand excavation causes degradation and severe effects on fish, causing problems for people who rely on fishing for their livelihoods. Sand excavation causes removal of physical coastal barriers such as dunes thereby leading to flooding of beachside, buildings, and disrupts tourism activities in the beaches. It is against this background that this study is conducted to investigate these problems and find possible ways to address the problems.

1.3 Aim and Objectives of the Study

The aim of this study is to assess the effects of sand excavation on the environment of Abraka-Eku along Ethiope River. In order to achieve the above stated aim, the following specific objectives were considered;

  1. To identify the various sand mining/excavation sites along River Ethiope in Abraka and Eku.
  2. To investigate the effects of sand excavation on coastal areas where excavation is done in Abraka-Eku region along the River Ethiope.
  3. To proffer solutions to the sustainability of the environment where sand excavation is going on in the area studied.

1.4 Research Hypotheses

The following hypotheses guided the study;

  1. Sand excavation has no significant impact on the environment of Abraka-Eku along River Ethiope.
  2. Sand excavation has no significant impact on the coastal areas of the River Ethiope where excavation is done.

1.5 Study area

The study area (Abraka and Eku) is located in Ethiope East cal Government Area of Delta and in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria.

1.6 Location and Size

River Ethiope which cuts across the two study areas (Abraka and Eku) took its source from Umuaja in Ukwuani L.G.A Delta State. River Ethiope is located in the South-South geo-political zone of Southern Nigeria. Abraka is located geographically at latitudes 050 451 to 050 501 North of the equator and longitudes 060 001 to 060 151 East of the Greenwich Meridian. Abraka is situated at the Eastern Bank of River Ethiope in Ethiope East Local Government Area of Delta State in the Niger Delta region of Southern Nigeria. It is bounded to the North by Orhionwon Local Government Area of Edo State, and to the East and in the South and West by Ukwani Local Government Area and the Ughelli North Local Government Area respectively. Abraka has a total area of landmass of 168,43square kilometer.

Eku is located geographically at latitudes 050 451 to 050 051 North of the equator and longitudes 060 061 to 060 161 East of the Greenwich Meridian. Eku is bounded in the North by River Ethiope, in west by Okpara-waterside, in the east by Abraka and in the South by Samagidi (both in Ethiope East L.G.A of Delta State). Eku has a total landmass of 65,8km2. The entire Ethiope East region falls under Agbon and Abraka clan which is part of the Urhoboland.

Chapter Five

Conclusion And Recommendations

5.1 Introduction

The research was carried out to investigate and expose positive and negative environmental impacts of sand excavation and gravel extraction in areas surrounding Abraka-Eku where the resources are extracted for development of the city. The major objectives were to assess and find out the soil component mined most, expose positive and negative impacts of sand and gravel mining as well as recommendations to the responsible authorities at community, district and national levels.

5.2 Conclusion

The study on assessment of the effect of sand excavation on the environment revealed both positive and negative effects. It highlighted the views of affected people through questionnaires and interviews. Majority of the respondents were not happy with environmental degradation, accidents caused, waste disposed by miners, threats from illegal miners and general damage to the ecosystems.

The research justified that there are both positive and negative environmental impacts to sand and gravel mining. It revealed that river sand is the soil component mined most in construction industry because of its strength as a resource and has many uses which include building strong structures, plastering, making foundations and bricks.

The researcher discovered that pits at extraction sites were increasing on every visit while rivers at sampled areas were widening and deepening. Method of mining commonly used is open pit. There are two main methods of loading being used by miners which are the use of front end loaders by licensed miners while illegal miners mostly prefer the cheaper way of hiring manual loaders who use shovels.

Sand excavation and gravel extraction are very important activities for economic development in both developed and developing world. Generally, mining disturb land surface areas, leaving huge open pits which are difficult physically and economically to rehabilitate at the time mining cease. Excessive mining leads to depletion of resources on both riverbeds and open lands. There is need for laws across the globe by high level decision makers to enforce solutions to environmental problems and implement all the stated recommendations.

5.3 Recommendations

The author listed and included recommendations to both the decision makers who are directly involved in the review of sand excavation and gravel extraction activities to make informed decisions when issuing licences and to miners considering the rate of illegal mining in the country. More recommendations are on areas which need further research.

5.3.1 Recommendations to decision makers
  1. The Nigeria government through the Department of Mines should call for a high level decision making forum involving all stake holders to discuss the problem of illegal sand and gravel mining and come up with immediate solutions which curb environmental damage.
  2. Effective legal framework, strict laws and legislature are important as Department of Mines with help of police force and village leadership must impose heavy fines including long jail terms to miners who extract without mining rights and licences. This is possible if trucks transporting sand and gravel pass through community leaders for inspection and verifying genuine permits to reduce use of fake documents. Confiscation of tipper trucks from illegal miners is necessary as a way of banning illegal mining.
  3. It is important to have an Environmental Assessment Management and Monitoring Program. Close monitoring ensures that there is proper mining and no gravel recruitment downstream.
  4. Deployment of 24 hour security to guard mining areas and apprehend illegal miners with help of village watch groups and clusters. Only licensed miners will be allowed into extraction sites and illegal miners will not have access. All residents must be involved in apprehending and reporting illegal miners to authorities instead of befriending them.
  5. Mining operations must be conducted in a manner that minimises or eliminates adverse impacts on both in stream and riparian components of ecosystems comprising of biota and habitats.
  6. Authorities are to strengthen laws on not allowing people to enter vulnerable areas through close monitoring of the mining activities in all areas.
  7. Regular inspection and roadblocks by Nigeria Police Service officers through mounting regular roadblocks next to mining areas and along roads used by trucks, setting speed traps on speeding trucks. Inspections of trucks which are not road worthy must be part of the operations.
  8. The Department of Mines should evolve a policy compelling miners to reinvest and repair old disused mine sites to reduce occurrence of landslides.
  9. Surface rights rent should be affordable to all miners to allow them to spend part of the money on repairing environmental damage due to mining operations.
  10. Department of Mines, District Authorities and Land Boards should ensure that farmers whose land is mined, livestock drowning in open pits and cattle dying from measles after eating dumped waste are compensated directly or indirectly by illegal miners.
  11. Mining Licences issued must allow harvesting river sand on braided river systems, abandoned stream channels, terraces and inactive channels. Mining activities should never be done on straight, meandering or split rivers.
  12. There should be construction of buffers or levees to reduce long term flooding on terraces. Soil erosion can be controlled by gabions on flat land.
  13. Reuse and recycling of old building material must be encouraged by authorities as a way of reducing over extraction and dumping of waste on the environment.
  14. Restriction of mining time and days to normal working hours that is 07:30-16:30 on week days is important to reduce illegal mining when there is tight security.
  15. Department of Roads and Transport with help of Nigeria Police Service should restrict tipper trucks transporting sand and gravel from using gravel roads passing through the villages. Constructing temporary roads out of villages to reduce air and noise pollution is necessary.
  16. Authorities are to restrict heavy front end loader equipment on riverbed which compact the ground and bring water tables near surface.
  17. Department of Mines should educate the public including miners on the negative impacts of continuous mining through media such as national television, radio and national newspaper, Daily News.
  18. Regular meetings and consultations with affected communities are important to call for their involvement in mining activities. Part of royalties can be paid to Village Development Committees so that villagers can directly benefit from mining activities in their areas.
5.3.2 Recommendations to miners
  1. All miners must draft and submit an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) in advance to ensure that potential negative impacts of their mining projects are assessed and incorporated into development plan. This becomes a prerequisite to get a permit.
  2. Consultations and seeking permission from interested and affected communities before mining is important as sand miners should consult chiefs, sub chiefs and Village Development Committees so as to control the size of area mined and reduce damage to the environment. Regular meetings between Department of Mines, Land board officials and village leadership can be a good platform for consultations. The village leadership will be involved in surveying and recommending the areas to be mined far from crop fields and grazing lands.
  3. Miners must change mining areas and not extract from same area continuously but alternate sites to reduce over extraction and environmental damage beyond rehabilitation. Mining should not be done near schools, clinics, residential or any sensitive areas like destroyed rivers.
  4. Limiting amount of sand and gravel mined per day will help to control depth of mining. Miners should leave 0.5 metres sand bed in situ to reduce sand depletion. The security deployed can monitor the number of trucks loaded per day.
  5. Controlling time of mining: not to be done throughout the year but during dry season, avoiding rainy season. This is necessary to give the land time to rehabilitate and recover. Mining time must be restricted to day time only.
  6. Mining should be done approaching the floodplain from one side to minimise crossing riverbed with heavy machinery. Access to river can be determined by steepness and vegetation available to avoid damaging flora. If the channel is too deep, construct access ramps.
  7. Access roads from public roads must be parallel to the river banks to restrict water flowing along the tracks during rainy season from forming gullies.
  8. Haulage roads must be a minimum of 100 metres from the banks.
  9. Covering sand and gravel with nets: when transporting the resources to be a prerequisite to reduce damage of other motorists’ windscreens from falling stones.
  10. Miners must follow the law of mining where no sand is to be extracted within 2.5 metres to 5.0 metres from the banks mostly if the river is meandering, or split.
  11. All miners must cover and refill pits after mining as reclamation since mitigation and restoration must occur concurrently with extraction activities to conserve biotic integrity of ecosystems.
  12. Reclamation of contaminated soils around all mining areas must be done by the miners. Stockpiling to be avoided on riverbeds and open areas.
  13. Miners must plant and establish appropriate vegetation to reduce erosion on reclaimed land.
  14. Compensation of farmers: whose animals drown in pits and die from measles after eating waste should be done by the miners.
  15. All miners must use dry pit method of mining in all their extraction activities since depth of mining can be controlled. The method should not be used on one area for too long but alternate areas of mining.

Assessment Of The Effects Of Sand Excavation On The Environment

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Assessment Of The Effects Of Sand Excavation On The Environment


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