GAIN (the Global Aggregates Information Network) is a coalition of the major international aggregates associations across the world. Founded in 2010, the organisation held its first meeting in Brussels; the second took place in Charlotte, NC in 2012; the third in Brussels in 2014; with the last meeting hosted by Aspasa in Somerset West in April this year. Dale Kelly reports:
Attended by representatives from Austria, China, the United States, Latin America and Europe, with input from Canada and New Zealand, the aggregates industry was under the spotlight. Many issues common to various global regions were identified – with some regions having different approaches and solutions – making the exchange of experience and best practices extremely valuable.
International and local delegates photographed at the GAIN conference in Somerset West (photograph courtesy Aspasa).
Several areas were identified for follow-up, all of which will assist in strengthening the industry globally. In all countries represented, aggregate production tonnages are now either stable or increasing, which bodes well for the industry as a whole.
The purpose of GAIN is to openly share experienced and industry best in the interests of promoting the greater good of the aggregates industry globally. Interestingly, on a global scale, GAIN members represent 60% of the global aggregates production of 40-billion t, from around 400 000 quarries and pits worldwide, estimated to employ in the region of 3-million people.
South Africa: According to Aspasa director Nico Pienaar, post the decline after the Rugby World Cup in 2010, the SA aggregates sector is now growing with a production of some 130-million t, equivalent to 2,5 t/capita, driven by ongoing needs for housing, road, rail, electricity and water infrastructural development.
The quarrying industry falls under mining legislation and is heavily regulated. A large issue is illegal mining and quarrying, which negatively affects both industries. Other challenges include electricity, water and skills shortages, the latter despite 30% unemployment. Despite these challenges, the future prospects for the economy and the aggregate industry in SA look bright, and Aspasa is optimistic for the future.
United States: Mike Johnson, president and CEO of the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA), says his organisation represents 90% of crushed stone and 70% of sand and gravel produced in the US. The US market declined from 3,1-billion t in 2006 to 1,96-billion t in 2010, and in 2015 had risen again to 2,28-billion t, equivalent to 6,7 t/capita, driven mainly by private construction.
NSSGA is focused on advocacy through communications with all stakeholders, particularly the politicians. The recent success in promoting the FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act, should provide a further industry boost up to 2020.
NSSGA’s top priorities are advocacy, both legislative and regulatory; communications with all stakeholders; and membership education and events. Its core message is to highlight what the industry does and its importance. Johnson says America’s future is tied directly to the success of the aggregates industry.
Australia: Ken Slattery, CE of Cement, Concrete & Aggregates Australia (CCAA), says the CCAA, which notably represents 90% of the combined cement, concrete and aggregates industries, aligns itself with the construction industry in Australia. CCAA’s strategic priorities include the industry licence to operate; market development; technical leadership; and member engagement.
Uniquely, the country has enjoyed 23 years of continuous growth, now using some 7,0 t/capita, despite recent setbacks in the mining sector. CCAA sets out to differentiate itself from the mining sector, using extensive communication media emphasising the strong environmental stewardship of the aggregates industry. It is notable that in Australia, the aggregates sector now has a strong position in the marketplace due to growing off-shoring of the cement sector due to carbon taxes.
China: Jixian Han, secretary-general of the China Sand and Stone Association (CAA), says the ‘new normal’ of only 7,0% pa economic growth in China, the level of 2015 output of aggregates remaining at about 15-billion t, even though those of cement and concrete had declined about 5,0% and 12%, compared to 2014. Driven by the 13th five-year economic development programme requiring major further investment in infrastructure, the outlook for the aggregates sector looks bright for the next 15-20 years. The Silk Road project, linking China to Europe, will link 4,4-billion people on its route.
The continued growth of the aggregates industry has driven huge technical innovation in machinery suppliers and increases in the output of the 100 major national producers, who are now required to meet world-class operational standard. In parallel, older smaller operators were being closed down, despite the fact that they comprise 63% of the market.
There is increased focus on higher-quality aggregates for use in high-strength concretes, as well as in manufactured sand replacing natural sand. Recycling of demolition materials is also being strongly promoted with the objective of recycling 30% of those materials in urban areas by 2020.
The CCA is confident of a good future for aggregates in China.
Latin America: Jaume Puig i Canal, treasurer of FIPA (Federacion Iberoamericana de Productores de Aridos) outlines the strong bonds that exist between Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Central and South America. There are full member aggregates associations in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama and in the Dominion Republic, with other countries in the region represented by companies or observers.
The total regional market is estimated at 1,9-billion t, equivalent to 2,9 t/capita, the biggest components being Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Mexico. Overall, the region has exciting growth prospects driven by a growing population particularly in the major cities, with huge demand for better housing, better transport infrastructure and healthcare.
The region has challenges in precarious political systems, which can have negative impacts on stability and economic growth, together with poor regulation which leads to unfair competition in the aggregates industry. On the positive side, responsible operators can obtain permits within two years for durations up to 30 years.
FIPA is a positive force in improving the industry in the region.
Europe: Describing the challenges faced in Europe, secretary-general of UEPG (European Aggregates Association), Dirk Fincke, explains that UEPG represents the aggregates industry across 29 countries (most of the EU 28 plus EFTA) and has a highly-efficient small office with three staff in Brussels, where the key European institutions are located.
Europe has 24 working languages with a wide variety of cultures, most now using Euro currency. Europe has suffered a long recession, with aggregates production declining 30% from 2008 to 2,6-billion t in 2015, equivalent to 5,0 t/capita, now with a slight recovery.
UEPG actively lobbies and works with the European institutions as well as other representative bodies and NGOs. Its top priorities include better access to resources as part of the Raw Materials Strategy; green and blue growth in fostering biodiversity; the upcoming regulation of Respirable Crystalline Silica; and campaigning against illegal operators – more prevalent in some central and southern European countries.
Canada: Apologies were received from the Ontario Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (OSSGA), which represents the industry in Ontario. However, the aggregates industry continues to prosper there as the greater Toronto areas continues to develop; though with increasing difficulties in getting access to resources in the surrounding Greater Golden Horseshoe area.
OSSGA actively participated in the recent Provincial Plan Review, the results of which recognised the importance of aggregates, yet gave little consolation in better facilitating permitting. The Association is campaigning for a more positive industry image, counteracting a recent negative social media campaign. There are also aggregates associations in the Alberta and British Colombia provinces, though there is as yet no national Canadian association.
Average aggregates consumption in Canada is around 13 t/capita which, like Scandinavia, is typical for a developed, rugged, sparsely-populated country with a severe climate.
New Zealand: Apologies were also received from Roger Parton, executive director of AQA (Aggregates & Quarry Association of New Zealand). The output of the aggregates industry there suffered a major decline from 2006 to 2011 but now is in a very positive growth, driven by new housing around Auckland, the development of highways between the major cities and the post-earthquake rebuilding in Christchurch. Access to resources is a challenge around the major cities, though even NGOs now recognise the need for aggregates, and recycling is being pushed very actively.
Due to a coal mine tragedy, health and safety is now being strongly regulated with the aggregates industry regarded as part of the mining sector.
AQA is proactive in developing safety best practice guidelines for the aggregates industry.
Global aggregates estimate: Presenting an overview of his best data for global aggregates production, honorary president UPEG and GAIN coordinator Jim O’Brien says best estimates indicate a global production of 40-billion t, of which 60% of covered by China, India and the rest of Asia. This represents about 5,3 t/capita for a population of 7,5-billion.
At a global level, the industry still remains fragmented. The top 20 global aggregates producers comprise only 5,0% of production, with the remaining 95% being produced by SMEs. Empirical data indicated that t/capita increases as GDP/capita increases; in other words, more aggregates are needed as an economy develops. Anticipated growth in global population and GDP/capita would indicate that by 2030, global aggregates production will increase to 55-billion t, a very positive message for the industry.
The next GAIN meeting in 2018 has been proposed for Spain.