Industry News

Global aggregates industry under the spotlight

The Global Aggregates Information Network (GAIN) is a coalition of the major international aggregates associations across the world.

The purpose of GAIN is to openly share experiences and industry best practice in the interests of promoting the greater good of the aggregates industry globally. Interestingly, on a global scale, GAIN members represent 60 per cent of the global aggregates production of 40 billion tonnes, from around 400,000 quarries and pits worldwide, estimated to employ in the region of three million people.

Founded in 2010, the organisation held its first meeting in Brussels, Belgium. GAIN has subsequently met on a biennial basis, with meetings in Charlotte, Northern Carolina, USA in 2012 and Brussels again in 2014. This year’s meeting was hosted by the Aggregate and Sand Producers Association of South Africa (Aspasa) in Somerset West, South Africa.

Attended by representatives from Australia, China, the United States, Latin America, Europe and South Africa, with input from Canada and New Zealand, the global aggregates industry was under the spotlight at the South African meeting. Many issues common to the various global regions were identified – with some regions having different approaches and solutions – making the exchange of experience and best practices extremely valuable.

Several areas were identified for follow-up, all of which will assist in strengthening the industry globally. In all the countries represented, aggregate production tonnages are now either stable or increasing, which bodes well for the industry as a whole. Each of the industry representatives reported on the state of play in their respective territories.


Ken Slattery, the chief executive of Cement, Concrete & Aggregates Australia (CCAA), reported that the CCAA, which notably represents 90 per cent of the combined cement, concrete and aggregates industries, aligns itself with the Australian construction industry. CCAA’s strategic priorities include the industry licence to operate, market development, technical leadership and member engagement.

Uniquely, Australia has enjoyed 23 years of continuous growth and now utilises an average of seven tonnes of aggregate per capita, despite recent setbacks in the mining sector. The CCAA sets out to differentiate itself from the mining sector, using extensive communication media to emphasise the aggregates industry’s strong environmental stewardship. It is notable that in Australia, the aggregates sector now has a strong position in the marketplace due to growing off-shoring of activities in the cement sector.



According to Aspasa director Nico Pienaar, following the decline in construction activity after the Rugby World Cup in 2010, the South African aggregates sector is now growing, with production of some 130 million tonnes, equivalent to 2.5 tonnes per capita, driven by the ongoing needs for housing, road, rail, electricity and water infrastructure development.

The quarrying industry falls under mining legislation in South Africa 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 in spite of a 30 per cent national unemployment rate. Nevertheless, the future prospects for the economy and the aggregate industry in South Africa look bright, and Aspasa is optimistic for the future.


Mike Johnson, the president and chief executive officer of the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA), said that his organisation represents 90 per cent of crushed stone and 70 per cent of sand and gravel producers in the US. The US market declined from 3.1 billion tonnes in 2006 to 1.96 billion tonnes in 2010. In 2015, the market had risen again to 2.28 billion tonnes, equivalent to 6.7 tonnes per capita, driven mainly by private construction.

The NSSGA is focused on advocacy through communications with all stakeholders, particularly politicians. The recent success in promoting the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, should provide a further industry boost up to 2020.

The 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.


Jixian Han, the secretary-general of the China Sand and Stone Association (CAA), said that due to the “new normal” of only seven per cent per annum economic growth in China, aggregates output in 2016 remains at the 2015 level of about 15 billion tonnes, even though cement and concrete levels had declined about five per cent and 12 per cent respectively, compared to 2014. Driven by the  Chinese Government’s 13th five-year economic development programme requiring major further investment in infrastructure, the outlook for the aggregates sector looks bright for the next 15 to 20 years. The Silk Road project, which will link China to Europe, will encompass 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 standards. In parallel, older smaller operators are being closed down, despite constituting 63 per cent of the market.


There is an increased focus on higher quality aggregates for use in high strength concretes, as well as in manufactured sand replacing natural sand. The recycling of demolition materials is also being strongly promoted, with the objective of recycling 30 per cent of those materials in urban areas by 2020.


Jaume Puig i Canal, the treasurer of Federacion Iberoamericana de Productores de Aridos (FIPA), described the strong bonds that exist between Spain, Portugal, Mexico, and Central and South America. There are full member aggregates associations in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama and in the Dominican Republic, with other countries in the region represented by companies or observers.

The total regional market is estimated at 1.9 billion tonnes, equivalent to 2.9 tonnes per 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, this leads to unfair competition in the aggregates industry. On the positive side, responsible operators can obtain permits within two years for durations of up to 30 years.


Describing the challenges faced in Europe, the secretary-general of the European Aggregates Association (UEPG) Dirk Fincke explained that the organisation represents the aggregates industry across 29 countries (including most of the European Union’s 28 members – including the UK pre-Brexit – plus the European Free Trade Association). It 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, with most now utilising the Euro currency. Europe has suffered a long recession, with aggregates production declining 30 per cent from 2008 to 2.6 billion tonnes in 2015, equivalent to five tonnes per capita, now with a slight recovery.

UEPG actively lobbies and works with the European institutions as well as other representative bodies and non-government organisations (NGOs). Its top priorities include better access to resources as part of its 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.



Apologies were received from the Ontario Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (OSSGA), which represents the industry in Ontario. However, the aggregates industry continues to prosper there as the greater Toronto area continues to develop, albeit with increasing difficulties in getting access to resources in the surrounding Greater Golden Horseshoe area.

The OSSGA actively participated in Ontario’s recent Provincial Plan Review, the results of which recognised the importance of aggregates, yet gave little consolation in the better facilitation of permits. The association is campaigning for a more positive industry image, counteracting a recent negative social media campaign. Athough there is not a national Canadian association, there are also aggregates associations in the Alberta and British Colombia provinces.

The average aggregates consumption in Canada is around 13 tonnes per capita which, like Scandinavia, is typical for a developed, rugged, sparsely-populated country with a severe climate.


Apologies were also received from Roger Parton, the executive director of the Aggregates and Quarry Association of New Zealand (AQA). The output of the aggregates industry there suffered a major decline from 2006 to 2011 but now is in a very positive growth phase, driven by new housing around Auckland, the development of highways between the major cities and 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 the Pike River coal mine tragedy of November 2010, health and safety is now being strongly regulated, with the aggregates industry regarded as part of the mining sector.

The AQA is proactive in developing safety best practice guidelines for the aggregates industry.


Presenting an overview of his best data for global aggregates production, UEPG honorary president and GAIN co-ordinator Jim O’Brien said best estimates indicate a global production of 40 billion tonnes, of which 60 per cent is covered by China, India and the rest of Asia. This represents about 5.3 tonnes per capita for a global population of 7.5 billion.

At a global level, the industry still remains fragmented. The top 20 global aggregates producers comprise only five per cent of production, with the remaining 95 per cent being produced by small and medium enterprises. Empirical data has indicated that tonnes per capita increases as GDP per capita increases – in other words, more aggregates are needed as an economy develops. Anticipated growth in global population and GDP per capita would indicate that by 2030, global aggregates production will increase to 55 billion tonnes, a very positive message for the industry.

The next GAIN meeting in 2018 is proposed for Spain. Visit

Report by Jim O’Brien and summarised by Dale Kelly. This story originally appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of Modern Quarrying (South Africa) and is reproduced in Quarry with kind permission.

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