Housing authorities and local governments should begin to actively engage with the country’s suppliers of raw building materials in preparation of meeting the country’s massive 2.5-million house backlog,
Sand and aggregates (stone) make up by far the largest volume required to make concrete, blocks, lintels, rooftiles, as well as infrastructural requirements such as pipelines, roadways, railway lines, dams and buildings. It is therefore imperative to measure the natural occurring availability of these materials and to compile records of rights-holders and their ability to meet future demands Although seemingly counter-intuitive, sand and stone is a finite resource and is becoming increasingly scarce in built-up areas where other land-uses effectively bar access to this most important construction material.
Surface mining industry association ASPASA has useable records for all its member quarries with good background information on the type of operation, materials available and the owner’s capabilities. However, the association represents 75% of the legal quarries and estimates that hundreds of quarries and borrow pits are run illegally or “under-the-radar” to avoid taxes and compliance with Government legislation and licencing requirements.
The association’s director, Nico Pienaar, says that without these figures authorities will be hard-pressed to plan and deliver housing requirements in certain areas. “For example, in big cities like Johannesburg the trend is to build new residential estates close to the business districts in high-developed areas.
“Availability of large volumes of sand and aggregates therefore becomes an issue as city-bound quarries will not be able to keep up with demand and necessitate materials to be transported from outside the area. With a relatively low value and comparatively heavy mass the materials are expensive to transport and can drive the cost per m² through-the-roof.
“Considering that an average-sized home can easily require 150 tons of material the direct and indirect cost of the material can be considerably impacted by transport costs either in its raw form or from block makers, rooftiles or concrete suppliers situated outside of the area. In certain instances, heavy trucks may not have access to suburban roads as they may fall outside their weight-carrying ability and this may further complicate supply.”
However, none of these issues are insurmountable and with closer cooperation between building and government authorities with ASPASA, the right planning can be done to unlock the region’s sand and stone bounty. By working together, they may also prioritise sand and stone production and ensure that licencing and by-law requirements are prioritised and given due attention.
“For too long our quarries have been hamstrung through slow and tardy approval processes due to uncaring officials or bureaucrats. If inclusive planning is done with councils and developers, then we hope officialdom will be fully invested in the process and prioritise suppliers’ applications and licence requirements.
“And, although ASPASA already has a good working relationship with the Department of Mineral Resources and other regulatory bodies, we want to foster tighter relationships with Government at national, regional and municipal levels. Also, with the Department of Human Settlements, Public Works and other entities that are directly or indirectly invested in addressing the current crippling housing backlog,” concludes Nico.