M ANUFACTURING N EWS SOUTHEAST Serving Since 1997 Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee & Virginia Feature Editorial Automation/Robotics Multilevel Rotary Pallet System The RPS holds up to 21 pallets vertically, saving floor space. See Pg. 10 Vol. 25 No. 7 July 2021 See Online DIGITAL EDITIONS at www.mfgnewsweb.com Flexibility is Critical to Reduce Non-cutting Times Matsuura Launches Metal AM Production Services Matsuura, a provider of high-speed milling and metal 3D printing solutions, has announced that its Metal Additive Manufacturing (AM) Service Bureau is now offering quick-turn prototyping, producing a wide range of 3D metal printed and machined parts, including unique functional prototypes and low-to mid-volume production runs. With Matsuuras metal 3D printing, the production of high-volume mold components with conformal cooling and integrated porous venting mini-mizes the need for traditional EDM pro-cesses and provides significant savings in the production of molded plastic Continued on Page 54 HAINBUCH America will showcase its workholding solutions at Precision Machining Technology Show (PMTS), Aug. 10-12 in Cleveland, OH. EDM Machinery & Consumables Next-Generation EDM Redesigned series offers increased speed and precision. See Page 24 Applying Technology Defense Contractor Improves Manufacturing Process New 5-axis capabilities streamline production and bring in new work. See Page 28 HAINBUCH America will show-case workholding solutions at PMTS. There are over 60 combinations to be had with our quick-change modu-lar system, said a company spokes-person. The basic clamping device re-mains mounted on the machine and si-multaneously serves as an interface for other clamping devices. Whether for I.D. or O.D. clamping, saw cuts or bar work, the pull-back ef-fect of the mounted add-on clamping el-ements enables solid clamping with op-timum characteristics, such as high rigidity, vibration reduction and maxi-mum metal removal rates, said the spokesperson. Therefore, the innovation is not only in the individual clamping devices themselves, but rather in the Continued on Page 53 Mastercam Makes Channel Changes to Better Serve Educational Clients CNC Software, Inc., developer of Mastercam, has announced that its U.S. industrial channel will now also serve its educational customers throughout the country. This move brings the com-panys global distribution channel into alignment and supports efforts to bring educational customers and industrial manufacturers closer together. Continued on Page 54 Complete 3D Scanning and Reverse Engineering Solution Verisurf Software, Inc. is offer-ing a 3D scanning and reverse en-gineering solution bundle. The bundled offer follows the announce-ment of a distribution agreement between Verisurf and peel 3d, which names Verisurf as world-wide distributor for the complete line of peel 3D products. The turn-key scanning and reverse engineering solution in-cludes everything needed to Verisurf 3D Scanning and Reverse Engineering quickly deploy the system. Addi-Solution was used to reverse engineer the fender and flare on this highly customized tionally, the peel 3D capture Ford Bronco. Continued on Page 53 Micro Manufacturing Nondestructive Diffraction Contrast Tomography Solutions System enables 3D crystallographic imaging of polycrystalline materials for wide range of samples. See Page 34 Collaboration Agreement for New Coil Fed Laser Danobatgroups Sheet Metal Divi-sion has reached a collaboration agree-ment with Carlsen Precision Manufac-turing for the supply of a fully auto-mated DANOBAT LB coil-fed laser sys-tem with integrated X-GAP system, as well as for a joint promotion in the American market through the fostering of precision laser blanking solutions to be developed at Carlsen Precision Manu-facturings new center of excellence in Rome, GA. Carlsen is an expansion of the 98-year-old family business Continued on Page 53 Plant Safety Safety Management Software Cloud-based software offers safety management and training benefits. See Page 46 Subscription Changes: To make name, address subscription changes contact: Phone: 800-375-8488 Fax: 817-488-7813 E-mail: [email protected] www.mfgnewsweb.com CHANGE SERVICE REQUESTED Gross Publications, Inc. SOUTHEAST MANUFACTURING NEWS P.O. Box 847 Grapevine, Texas 76099-0847 U.S.A. PRSRT STD U.S. POSTAGE DALLAS, TX PERMIT 4245 People in the News Page 42 Advertiser Index Page 41 PAID
Everyday operations in a modern mining setup consists of drilling, controlled detonation, excavation, loading, haulage, crushing and mineral processing whilst manufacturing in South Africa is dominated by industries such as textiles, agro-processing, automotive, chemicals, information and communication technology, electronics, metals, clothing and footwear.
Termed Smart Manufacturing/Smart Mining, South African based industry leaders recognise that the terms encompass everything from Artificial Intelligence (AI) to robotics and cybersecurity. A multination PwC survey on 4IR adoption found that:
Though there are obvious benefits in the convergence of these advanced systems and the Operational Technology (OT) that makes up the backbone of the sectors, it is also important to highlight that the reliance on such inter-connected and internet-dependent systems is not without its own risks.
The technologies most targeted by attackers within the sectors are Industrial Control Systems (ICS). ICS are embedded computer devices that are responsible for a myriad of automated process controls in industries (e.g., measuring instruments, packaging machinery and all other components of an assembly line that make parts of any production process).
ICS devices are generally lesser known than enterprise information technology (IT) devices such as laptops, desktops and smartphones as they are typically unique to industries and utilised for specialised systems or operations.
The mining sector has been quick to adopt autonomous vehicles, remotely controlled excavators, Wi-Fi based site location tracking and smart adaptive ventilation systems whilst the manufacturing sector uses smart technologies for optimisation, quality checks and widespread systems controls.
The COVID-19 pandemic served to exacerbate the problem; in the first six months of 2020 the manufacturing industry had seen a dramatic increase in intrusion activity with at least an 11% increase in network attacks compared to the same period in 2019.
In FY20 alone an estimated 70 cybersecurity incidents targeted the Australian mining and resources sector. This escalation was not only in terms of sophistication but also in terms of the types of threat actors entering the space of attacking the sectors. In the rest of this document, we will examine and highlight the different threats to ICS technologies and the profiles of the actors perpetrating these attacks.
Depending on the motivation there are a range of different tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) used by each attacker. This not only determines the impact of each attack but also the means by which organisations get targeted and subsequently compromised. Generally, we note that insiders can be part of any threat group.
Organisations who are mindful that a security breach in the sectors can take several different forms and originate from several different places are in a better position to imagine ways of implementing the correct defences. To begin with, we highlight notable breaches within the sector that PwC has responded to.
This is commonly referred to as a zero-day exploit by security practitioners. The ransomware affected some of the foreign operations of the organisation and then promulgated across the network affecting at least three countries.
This resulted in key corporate and financial systems being offline for over a week until the network had been rebuilt and cleaned of the malware. However, in the initial stages of the attack, PwC was able to separate the OT networks and corporate networks which allowed manufacturing operations to continue.
The attack could have had a far more devastating effect on the organisation had this not been done. At the tail end of 2019, a joint response was launched by PwCs German, Belgian, UK, Canada and US incident response teams. A manufacturer in the aerospace sector had experienced an incident that disrupted operations across regions. In this instance, IT systems which were within the OT/ICS networks were freely allowed to access the internet and email. Further to this, in order to accommodate the needs of different partners, the organisation had provided data to them using outdated communications protocols that were retrofitted to use TCP/IP networks.
PwC South Africa responded to attacks on two major mining companies in 2019. In both cases, the attacker had exploited weak security measures on both the organisations networks following a migration of their email systems to cloud-based mailing platforms. Once on the network, the attacker was able to alter legitimate invoices and impersonate individuals involved in the settlement of payments in an attempt to get funds transferred from the business to an account they controlled. PwC was able to determine the list of compromised accounts and assist both businesses in implementing stronger security on their newly implemented cloud-hosted platforms.
In July 2018 Level One Robotics and Controls Inc, a vendor specialising in automation solutions for several companies, suffered an attack where sensitive data of over 100 companies in the manufacturing industry was stolen from its servers. Notable from this incident is how a single supply chain breach resulted in the loss of critical business data and intellectual property of over 100 companies, the consequences of which cannot be easily quantified.
In 2019, the MIT Technology Review published an alert on a new piece of malware called Triton. This malware was designed to disable safety systems which are built to prevent catastrophic industrial accidents.
Industroyer is a modularised piece of malware that is designed to disrupt various types of critical ICS infrastructure and processes. In 2016 it was used to launch an attack against the Ukrainian power grid that cut energy supplies to much of the city of Kiev. This was an important reminder that while the target may be businesses in the sector, the consequences can potentially affect entire populations.
Espionage has been growing as one of the driving forces behind cyberattacks in the manufacturing industry. Cybercriminals gain access to the networks of businesses in the sectors with the aim of stealing trade secrets and intellectual property. However, our research revealed that although in 2020 there was a notable uptick of espionage-motivated incidents as compared to the same period last year, the majority of the attacks have predominantly been financially motivated (63-95%).
The sophistication of attacks varies widely depending mostly on existing security controls. Attackers elect to exploit common and publicly accessible technologies then propagate across the network once an initial foothold has been gained.
We have also drawn on our experience conducting cybersecurity assessments and penetration tests from across our global network to identify the ten most common security vulnerabilities in OT/ICS networks. Generally, the most common attacks noted by PwCs incident response teams over 2019 and 2020 were:
Once attackers have a foothold in an organisation, the tools and tactics used by them are usually designed to monetise their attacks by the simplest means possible. Currently, the most common tool in the hackers arsenal is ransomware. Ransomware is a type of malicious software (malware) that holds your systems or data to ransom.
Of these, 17% affected the manufacturing sector but no data appears to have been advertised from the mining sector. Based on our experience, the nature of attacks in the mining sector have largely been focused on electronic payment fraud, industrial espionage and sabotage. Given the nature of ransomware attacks, organisations in the mining sector should not ignore the threat posed by these attacks.
Data available for the African continent is limited, however we believe this to be a representation of how susceptible African organisations in the sectors are to these types of attacks. The Verizon 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report notes that attacks on the sectors made up 11% of the cases they investigated globally in 2019, whilst Kivu noted that 18% of the cases, they investigated globally were in the manufacturing sector. Kivu further notes that despite this rather modest percentage, businesses in the manufacturing industry represented 62% of the ransoms that were paid in 2019 with over $6.9M paid to attackers.
There are several different types of ransomware, each controlled by different hacker groups and built to propagate across networks and exploit targets in various ways. Some of the variants commonly known to have affected businesses in the sectors in 2020 include, but are not limited to:
A common misconception is that cyberattacks are exclusively an IT problem. However, the reality is that the problem is becoming more pronounced as technology is being embedded in operational processes. Apart from the loss of data and intellectual property, the risk to the core business operations becomes heightened and could lead to severe disruption through cyberattacks. In addition, safety, health, environment and quality (SHEQ) systems could also be impacted as there is a growing dependence on smart devices to support these processes and functions.
In all, the combination of emerging technologies, immature understanding of the risks these present to organisations, high dependence for operations and, in many organisations among the sectors, insufficient spending on cybersecurity, present a fertile ground for threat actors to launch attacks.
Another key area which is often overlooked by clients we have dealt with is incident response processes and the ability to deal with a large-scale cyberattack. PwC has dealt with at least three large clients who had to completely disconnect from the Internet for extended periods while crisis and remediation efforts were underway.
In one instance, a significant portion of the clients server estate was damaged during a cyberattack. The recovery efforts had to be carried out over two months with systems being gradually phased into operation over this time.
Recent experiences with clients in these sectors lead us to believe that organisations in this space have not been paying enough attention to these threats. They are also not prioritising the implementation of the appropriate mitigation strategies, whilst threat actors are starting to take an interest in organisations operating in this space.
Due to the increasing level of technology adoption, the consequences of attacks on organisations in the sectors can be widespread and potentially devastating. It is therefore important for businesses to understand key risk areas, attack vectors and vulnerabilities to ensure that they employ the correct controls to improve security and protect their assets.
The MINING.COM Top 50* most valuable mining companies added a combined $50 billion in market capitalization over the three months to end March, a sharp slowdown compared to previous quarters, as the commodities rally cools and gold suffers its worst first quarter in decades.
Measured from the height of the pandemic in March-April last year the index has now recovered by an astonishing $636 billion thanks to a boom in spending on green infrastructure not only in China, but across Europe and the US.
An indication of how widespread the rally in mining stocks was the past year is the fact that a year ago a valuation of just over $4 billion secured a company a spot in the Top 50 while today, number 50 on the list, Tianqi Lithium, is valued at more than $8.5 billion. Companies around the $4 billion market cap mark now sit in the mid-60s.
Iron ore prices back above $170 a tonne lit a fire under the top producers, boosting BHP, Rio Tinto, and Fortescues value this year and (with help of roaring platinum group metals) lifted Anglo American to position number four, the highest rank in years for the company with roots stretching back more than a century to Johannesburg.
One of the biggest mining IPOs since Glencore in 2011 came on the back of the steelmaking raw materials performance with Brazils CSN Minerao debuting at 47 with a market value of over $9 billion as at 31 March. The mining unit of steel giant Companhia Siderrgica Nacional currently produces about 33 million tonnes of ore per year, but has ambitious plans to triple that over the next decade.
The combined value of gold, silver and streaming companies in the ranking now make up 16% of the index, down from 26% when gold prices were peaking in the third quarter of last year. The sector has lost over $50 billion in value since its peak, led by Barrick Gold, which bled more than $14 billion since end-September 2020.
Thats in stark contrast to platinum group metal producers which have jumped in the ranking Impala is up 27 spots after a 360% jump and Anglo American Platinum has added 250% in value in US terms and now sits just outside the top 10. The Johannesburg-listed counters not only benefited from soaring PGM prices, but also a strengthening rand.
Freeport McMoRan is up nearly 400% from its covid-lows last March, joined by other base metal miners in the top performers list. KGHM briefly dropped out of the Top 50 at the end of the first quarter but is now back at no 42 and Vedanta returns to the ranking at 34 from 53 a year ago.
Another indication of how broad-based the rally from pandemic lows a year ago is that among the worst performers only two companies Shandong Gold and Coal India actually showed a decline in value in US dollar terms over the past year.
As with any ranking, criteria for inclusion are contentious issues. We decided to exclude unlisted and state-owned enterprises at the outset due to a lack of information. That, of course, excludes giants like Chiles Codelco, Uzbekistans Navoi Mining, which owns the worlds largest gold mine, Eurochem, a major potash firm, Singapore-based trader Trafigura, and a number of entities in China and developing countries around the world.
For instance, should smelter companies or commodity traders that own mostly minority stakes in mining assets be included, especially if these investments have no operational component or warrant a seat on the board?
Levels of operational or strategic involvement and size of shareholding was another central consideration. Do streaming and royalty companies that receive metals from mining operations without shareholding qualify or are they just specialized financing vehicles? We included Franco Nevada, Royal Gold and Wheaton Precious Metals.
Vertically integrated concerns like Alcoa and energy companies such as Shenhua Energy where power, ports and railways make up a large portion of revenues pose a problem as do diversified companies such as Anglo American with separately listed majority-owned subsidiaries. Weve included Angloplat in the ranking as well as Kumba Iron Ore.
Many steelmakers own and often operate iron ore and other metal mines, but in the interest of balance and diversity we excluded the steel industry, and with that many companies that have substantial mining assets including giants like ArcelorMittal, Magnitogorsk, Ternium, Baosteel and many others.
Head office refers to operational headquarters wherever applicable, for example BHP and Rio Tinto are shown as Melbourne, Australia but Antofagasta is the exception that proves the rule. We consider the companys HQ to be in London, where it has been listed since the late 1800s.
Interesting, is it not that the top 50 mining stocks capitalisation only amounts to 1/4 of the $USD created from thin air in one year.(or for that matter, that none of the men toiling to dig it from the bowels of the art demand to be paid in specie, as was the norm, for example as recently as during the excavation of the Panama Canal)
The Industry 4.0 concept assumes that modern manufacturing systems generate huge amounts of data that must be collected, stored, managed and analysed. The case study is focused on predicting the manufacturing process behaviour according to production data. The paper presents the way of gaining knowledge about the future behaviour of manufacturing system by data mining predictive tasks. The proposed simulation model of the real manufacturing process was designed to obtain the data necessary for the control process. The predictions of the manufacturing process behaviour were implemented varying the input parameters using selected methods and techniques of data mining. The predicted process behaviour was verified using the simulation model.
The authors analysed different methods. The neural network method was selected for deploying new data by PMML files in the final phases. The objectives of the research are to design and verify the data mining tools in order to support the manufacturing system control by aiming at improving the decisionmaking process. Based on the prediction of the goal production outcomes, the actual control strategies can be precisely modified. Then they can be used in real manufacturing system without risks.
Brazil, officially Federative Republic of Brazil, Portuguese Repblica Federativa do Brasil, country of South America that occupies half the continents landmass. It is the fifth largest country in the world, exceeded in size only by Russia, Canada, China, and the United States, though its area is greater than that of the 48 conterminous U.S. states. Brazil faces the Atlantic Ocean along 4,600 miles (7,400 km) of coastline and shares more than 9,750 miles (15,700 km) of inland borders with every South American country except Chile and Ecuadorspecifically, Uruguay to the south; Argentina, Paraguay, and Bolivia to the southwest; Peru to the west; Colombia to the northwest; and Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana to the north. Brazil stretches roughly 2,700 miles (4,350 km) from north to south and from east to west to form a vast irregular triangle that encompasses a wide range of tropical and subtropical landscapes, including wetlands, savannas, plateaus, and low mountains. Brazil contains most of the Amazon River basin, which has the worlds largest river system and the worlds most-extensive virgin rainforest. The country contains no desert, high-mountain, or arctic environments.
Brazil is the fifth most-populous country on Earth and accounts for one-third of Latin Americas population. Most of the inhabitants of Brazil are concentrated along the eastern seaboard, although its capital, Braslia, is located far inland and increasing numbers of migrants are moving to the interior. Rio de Janeiro, in the eyes of many of the world, continues to be the preeminent icon of Brazil. The nations burgeoning cities, huge hydroelectric and industrial complexes, mines, and fertile farmlands make it one of the worlds major economies. However, Brazil struggles with extreme social inequalities, environmental degradation, intermittent financial crises, and a sometimes deadlocked political system.
Brazil is unique in the Americas because, following independence from Portugal, it did not fragment into separate countries as did British and Spanish possessions in the region; rather, it retained its identity through the intervening centuries and a variety of forms of government. Because of that hegemony, the Portuguese language is universal except among Brazils native Indians, especially those in the more-remote reaches of the Amazon basin. At the turn of the 21st century, Brazilians marked the 500th anniversary of Portuguese contact with a mixture of public celebration and deprecation.
The Brazilian government has grouped the countrys states into five large geographic and statistical units called the Major Regions (Grandes Regies): North (Norte), Northeast (Nordeste), Central-West (Centro-Oeste), Southeast (Sudeste), and South (Sul). The tropical Northcomprising the states of Acre, Rondnia, Amazonas, Par, Tocantins, Roraima, and Amapcovers more than two-fifths of Brazilian territory and includes the largest portion of Amazon rainforest and parts of the Guiana and Brazilian highlands; however, the region accounts for a limited proportion of the nations population and economic output.
The Northeast, which experiences some of the nations driest and hottest conditions, has nearly one-fifth of Brazils land area and more than one-fourth of the population. It contains the states of Maranho, Piau, Cear, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraba, Alagoas, Sergipe, Bahia, and Pernambuco, the latter including the island of Fernando de Noronha, some 225 miles (360 km) off the Atlantic coast. The regions oldest cities date from the 16th century, when the Portuguese first established sugarcane plantations there. The Northeast accounts for one-fifth of the nations agricultural production, but the industrial and service sectors lag far behind those of the Southeast and South, and the unemployment rate remains high.
The Southeast covers only one-tenth of Brazils territory but has two-fifths of its population and the greatest concentration of industrial and agricultural production in the nation. The region includes So Paulo state, which is the nations economic and demographic heartland, landlocked Minas Gerais, whose very name (meaning Extensive Mines) testifies to great mineral wealth, and the populous coastal states of Esprito Santo and Rio de Janeiro. The city of Rio de Janeiro, the national capital from 1763 to 1960, remains Brazils main cultural and tourist centre.
The South, which stretches below the Tropic of Capricorn, includes the states of Paran, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul. It occupies an area nearly as large as the isle of Britain but is the smallest of Brazils regions. Its diversified economy includes strong manufacturing, agriculture, and service sectors. The South has about one-seventh of the nations population, including many people of European ancestry, particularly from Germany and Italy. The Souths tourist trade partly depends on the spectacular Iguau Falls, at the Argentine border.
The Central-West consists of the states of Gois, Mato Grosso, and Mato Grosso do Sul, as well as the Federal District, in which Braslia is located. The region covers roughly one-fourth of Brazil, including forested valleys, semiarid highlands, and vast wetlands. A small proportion of the nations population lives there, but an increasing number of settlers have been moving into the region and extending its agricultural frontiers.
Brazil is a predominantly tropical country famous for its extensive Amazon lowlands; however, highlands cover most of the national territory. Brazils physical features can be grouped into five main physiographic divisions: the Guiana Highlands in the North, the Amazon lowlands, the Pantanal in the Central-West, the Brazilian Highlands (including the extensive coastal ranges), and the coastal lowlands.
Brazil shares the rugged Guiana Highlands with Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. Forested mesas and mountain ranges, scenic waterfalls, and white-water rivers characterize the area. The highest point in Brazil is Neblina Peak, which reaches 9,888 feet (3,014 metres) along the Venezuelan border in the Serra do Imeri. The Serra da Pacaraima, farther east, rises to 9,094 feet (2,772 metres) at Mount Roraima, where the borders of Venezuela, Guyana, and Brazil meet. The less rugged Acara and Tumuc-Humac (Tumucumaque) ranges border on the Guianas.
The Amazon lowlands are widest along the eastern base of the Andes. They narrow toward the east until, downstream of Manaus, only a narrow ribbon of annually flooded plains (vrzeas) separates the Guiana Highlands to the north from the Brazilian Highlands to the south. The vrzeas fan out again as the watercourse approaches the Atlantic, but no delta extends into the ocean. The basins most widespread topographical features are gently undulating hills called terra firme (solid ground), composed of layers of alluvial soil that were deposited as much as 2.5 million years ago and subsequently uplifted to positions above flood level. Shallow oxbow lakes and wetlands are found throughout the region.
The immense Pantanal, an extension of the Gran Chaco plain, is a region of swamps and marshes in northwestern Mato Grosso do Sul and southern Mato Grosso states and, to a lesser extent, in northern Paraguay and eastern Bolivia; it is one of the largest freshwater wetlands in the world, covering some 54,000 square miles (140,000 square km). The Pantanal is dissected by the effluents of the upper Paraguay River, which overflows its banks during the rainy season, inundating all but the tops of scattered levees and low hills. (See also Drainage.)
One afternoon last year, Ha Thi Be, 67, was sitting with her son in her tiny coffee shop in the town of Hong Ngu, looking out on the lazy Tien River, the main branch of the Mekong in Vietnam. Suddenly, the ground beneath them gave way. The river bank was crumbling into the water. We shouted out loud and ran, she says. It crashed with a huge sound, boom, boom, boom.
Be and her son escaped unharmed, but the coffee shop and her nearby house were destroyed. It took all of what we owned to build the house, and now it's all gone, she sighs. Still, Be counts herself lucky. If it had happened at night, I and my grandsons would have died. We used to sleep in that house, she says.
The main causes of the collapse can be seen floating in many places on the Tiens murky waters: dredging boats, using rackety pumps to raise from the river bed enormous quantities of sand. In recent years, that humble substance has become an astonishingly hot commodity. Sand is a key ingredient in concrete, the essential building material of Vietnams fast-growing cities. Demand for it is surgingand that is wreaking havoc not only on Vietnams rivers, but also on the all-important Mekong Delta. (Read about the damming of the Mekong in the magazine.)
A barge loaded with freshly dredged sand passes by an abandoned house on the Tien River, as the northern branch of the Mekong is called in Vietnam. Along with sand mining, climate change and the building of dams threaten fishing and other uses of the river.
In towns and villages all along the Mekong River and many other rivers around the country, banks undermined by dredging are collapsing into the water, taking with them farm fields, fish ponds, shops, and homes. In recent years, thousands of acres of rice farms have been lost, and at least 1,200 families have had to be relocated. Hundreds more have evacuated in-stream islands that were literally disappearing beneath their feet. Government officials estimate some 500,000 people in the Mekong Delta area alone need to be moved out of such landslide zones.
River sand mining isnt only a problem for people: It also muddies waters and scours riverbeds, killing the fish, plants, and other organisms that live there. When I was a child, we'd catch fish and snails to eat, recalls Ha Thi Be. Since the sand dredges came, the fish and snails are no more.
Vietnam is far from the only place where sand mining is inflicting such damage. All over the developing world, cities are growing at a furious pace, devouring sand in unprecedented quantities. The number of Vietnamese living in cities has doubled in the last twenty years, to some 32 million. Worldwide, the urban population is rising by about 65 million people annually; thats the equivalent of adding eight New York Cities to the planet every single year. Nearly 50 billion tons of sand and gravel is extracted annually to create all the concrete office towers, apartment blocks, highways, and airports those people need. (Some Vietnamese sand is also sold to nearby Singapore, which uses gargantuan amounts to build artificial land.)
Why, you might ask, dont we simply mine sand from the Sahara and other deserts? The answer is desert sand doesnt work in concretethe wind-eroded grains are too smooth and rounded. As a result, from China to Jamaica, from Liberia to India, sand miners are plundering riverbeds, floodplains, and beaches for the precious grains.
In Vietnam, sand mining poses an additional danger: Its contributing to the slow-motion disappearance of the Mekong Delta, home to 20 million people and source of half of all the countrys food and much of the rice that feeds the rest of southeast Asia.
Climate change-induced sea level rise is one reason the delta is losing the equivalent of one and a half football fields of land every day. But another, researchers believe, is that people are robbing the delta of its sand.
For centuries, the delta has been replenished by sediment carried down from the mountains of central Asia by the Mekong River. But in recent years, in each of the several countries along its course, miners have begun pulling huge quantities of sand from the riverbed. According to a 2013 study by three French researchers, some 50 million tons of sand were extracted in 2011 aloneenough to cover the city of Denver two inches deep. Meanwhile, five major dams have been built in recent years on the Mekong and another 12 are slated for construction on the Mekong in China, Laos, and Cambodia. The dams further diminish the flow of sediment to the delta.
In other words, while natural erosion of the delta continues, its natural replenishment does not. The sediment flow has been halved, says Marc Goichot, a researcher with the World Wildlife Federations Greater Mekong Programme. At this rate, he says, nearly half the delta will be wiped out by the end of this century.
The problem is made more complicated by the fact that much of Vietnams sand mining is completely unregulated and illegal. The sand trade is so lucrative that it has spawned a thriving black market, with hundreds of unlicensed boats plying the rivers. In 2016 alone, Vietnamese police caught nearly 3,000 people dredging without permits or in protected areas around the country.
Nguyen Van Tu, 39, used to mine sand from the Tien near Ha Thi Bes home town, until police cracked down. The business was so good, he says. At times he pulled in as much as $13,000 US per month. Such easy money. Think, you just suck sand out, and you got money. Simple.
Vietnamese officials regularly declare their determination to end illegal sand miningbut as in many other countries, some of them prefer taking a cut of the action to shutting it down. In 2013, three local government officials in the Hong Ngu area were charged with taking bribes in exchange for ignoring illegal sand mining on the Tien River. Last March, Deputy Prime Minister Trng Ha Bnh acknowledged that large-scale illegal sand mining continues partly because local administrations have loosened their management, covered up and offered protection to the miners.
In some cases, illegal miners have resorted to violence to keep their businesses going. In India and other countries, sand mafias have assaulted and even murdered police officers, environmentalists, journalists and others who got in their way. During a crackdown in Vietnam last spring, according to local media, illegal miners tried to sink a police boat by dumping sand onto it.
Fed up with official inaction, dozens of Vietnamese fishers took matters into their own hands last year, attacking sand miners they blamed for destroying their livelihoods. Last June, scuffles between miners and villagers put two people in the hospital.