Marine Aggregates and Marine Mining


The activities of the marine aggregates and marine mining sectors can be broken down by: i) the extracted materials (sand and gravel) ; ii) the location where the activity takes place (shallow mining or deep sea mining). Shipping operational and service activities to/from the delivery place (i.e. ports) are not considered in this sector fiche.

Basic facts

  • Gross value added: € 625 million in Europe (in 2015)[1]
  • State of the sector: Mature (for marine aggregates extraction)[2]; Growing (for marine mining)[3]; Emerging (for deep sea-mining)[4]
  • Presence across sea basins: Dispersed throughout all sea basins[5][6][7][8]
  • Land-sea interaction occurs through ports as materials need to be landed after extraction[9]
  • Activity happening throughout the year
  • Lifetime of installations lasts between 30 to 40 years depending on maintenance and working life of vessels[10]
  • Conflicts mostly at the extraction phase especially small-scale fisheries, tourism

Frequently asked questions [20]

Specific FAQs regarding this sector can be found at the bottom of the page. The following questions provide overall information on current spatial needs and anticipated future developments.

What are the present spatial needs of the Marine Aggregates and Marine Mining sector?

The marine aggregates and marine mining sectors are locked in physically to the specific location where geological processes lead to those materials to be extracted. Thus, the spatial aspect is of the greatest importance for these sectors, as the spatial availability of the resource cannot be altered[11]. A re-allocation of the activity would therefore not be possible.

The material transport to ports also follows a linear structure connecting the collection point to the point of delivery, which will follow the most direct route in order to minimize shipping costs.

In order to avoid potential spills, during extraction all other uses are to be spatially avoided so that focus remains on a safe exploration (especially for deep-sea mining development). 

Maritime spatial plans and mapping can identify potential geological resources allocated zones that are far bigger than the locations where eventually the actual dredging may will take place in the future (thrpugh “mineral safeguarding”)[12].

Which anticipated future developments of the industry are relevant to MSP?

Increasing demand for construction materials to maintain and develop transport, energy and water infrastructures and built environment that society relies upon[13]

The marine aggregates sector is likely to become increasingly relevant because of the need for new extraction sites to replenish beaches [14] and improve coastal defenses[15]

The availability and value of minerals such as tin and rare earth minerals are going up [16]. Increasing demand for materials by high-tech industries (high-tech metals)[17]

The increasing scarcity over the supply of raw and non-living material, tends to push some countries (i.e. UK, Belgium, Netherlands and France) out into deeper waters further offshore to look for new material´s supply zones. This pushes the technological capacity of boats that will have to operate at deeper waters (larger boats) with more powerful equipment. Important technological challenges still exist for marine mining in deeper waters.

Recommendations for MSP processes in support of the sector [18]

Align planning cycles: An effort should be made to ensure that the planning cycles of MSP are aligned with the temporal scope of the sector.

Multi-use planning: The marine aggregates sector can be included in multi-use planning, and it can be combined with marine protected areas as well as offshore renewable energy, military activities or the fisheries sector, as long as there is proper assessment and management.

Sustainable extraction: For the marine mining sector, the greater driver is to ensure that extraction is sustainably managed and minimizes potential effects on the environment and other marine uses[19].

For more information

For more information, please visit:


[1] EEA (2015). State of Europe’s Seas, Technical report No.2/2015. Copenhagen: European Environment Agency.

[2] UEPG- European Aggregates Association (2016). Annual Review 2015-2016.

[3] Ahnert, A., Borowski, C. (2000). Environmental risk assessment of anthropogenic activity in the deep-sea. Journal of Aquatic Ecosystem Stress and Recovery. 7(4): 299–315.

[4] Ibid

[5] EEA (2015). State of Europe’s Seas, Technical report No.2/2015. Copenhagen: European Environment Agency.


[6] Velegrakis, A.F., Ballay, A., Poulos, S., Radzevicius, R., Bellec.V., Manson, F. (2010) European marine aggregates resources: Origins, usage, prospecting and dredging techniques. Journal of Coastal Research. Journal of Coastal Research. 51: 1-14.

[7] The European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet): Human Activities.

[8] Otay, E. N., Work, P. A. and Börekçi, O. S. (n.d.). Effects of marine sand exploitation on coastal erosion and development of rational sand production criteria. Report in possession of authors.

[9] Klinger, D.H., Eikeset, A.M., Davíðsdóttir, B., Winter, A-M., Watson, J-R. (2018). The mechanics of blue growth: Management of oceanic natural resource use with multiple, interacting sectors. Marine Policy, 87: 356-362. ISSN 0308-597X.

[10] Interview with Blue Mining Project coordinators on 02nd August 2017. 10.1016/j.marpol.2017.09.025.

[11] Comment from M. Russell (British Marine Aggregates Producers Association)

[12] EU MSP Platform (2017). Maritime Spatial Planning for Blue Growth: How to plan for a Sustainable Blue Economy. Conference report. Insights comming from Session 3: Marine aggregates and marine mining. 11-12 October 2017. Brussels, Belgium.

[13] MPA- Mineral Products Association (2017). Long-term aggregates demand & supply scenarios, 2016-30.

[14] The Dorset Coast Strategy (n.d.). Towards policy for Dorset´s Coast: Marine Aggregates.

[15] Ibid

[16] Zhou, B., Li, Z., Chen, C. (2017). Global Potential of Rare Earth Resources and Rare Earth Demand from Clean Technologies. Minerals, 7(11): 203.

[17] European Commission (2012). Blue Growth—opportunities from the marine and maritime sustainable growth. European Commission. Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: COM(2012) 494.

[18] EU MSP Platform (2017). Maritime Spatial Planning for Blue Growth: How to plan for a Sustainable Blue Economy. Conference report. Insights comming from Session 3: Marine aggregates and marine mining. 11-12 October 2017. Brussels, Belgium.

[19] Durden, J.M., Murphy, K., Jaeckel, A., Van Dover, C.L., Christiansen, S., Gjerde, K., Ortega, A., Jones, D.O.B. (2017). A procedural framework for robust environmental management of deep-sea mining projects using a conceptual model. Marine Policy, 84: 193-201. ISSN 0308-597X. 10.1016/j.marpol.2017.07.002


Frequently Asked Questions

Marine aggregates and mining can be broadly separated into three separate groups, marine aggregates extraction, marine mining and deep-sea mining.

In 2015 the European Environment Agency published a technical report on the state of Europe’s Seas. This stated that the mining of aggregates, considered to be a mature sub-sector, has an estimated GVA of EUR 625 million and provides approximately 4,800 jobs in Europe. Due to increasing levels of erosion, morphological environmental changes coupled with the threat of sea level rises and climate change impacts, the need for land reclamation and new development sites this expected to increase.

In addition to the aggregates industry, the seabed is also a major source of a variety of minerals and metals, in particular those used in high-tech industry and other rare earth metals (e.g. iron ore, tin, copper, manganese, cobalt, beryllium, germanium, neodymium, gold, graphite, sulphides and phosphorites). This sub-sector is still undergoing a period of growth.

Deep sea mining can be considered an emerging / exploratory sub-sector according to numerous sources (e.g. Miller et al 2018). However, the industry faces numerous challenges, such as uncertainty regarding the environmental impacts in relatively unexplored marine ecosystems, the technological difficulties of mining in such remote areas and the associated high economic costs. Nonetheless, depletion of land based resources coupled with higher demand of such materials is expected to result in rapid sub-sector expansion.

Activity within Europe at present is predominantly focussed on marine aggregate extraction rather than mining activities. According to EMODnet every year, more than 50 million m3 of marine aggregates, mainly sand and gravel, are extracted from the European marine seabed, mostly for the construction industry and for sea defence construction[1]. The biggest European aggregate extractor countries at the present time are the Netherlands, the UK, Denmark, France and Belgium. The available geodatabase on EMODnet, annually updated, contains information on aggregate extraction sites in the EU. Most of the data relate to the Atlantic area; information from the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea countries is scarce at present.

[1] EMODnet Human Activities 2018 (

One of the best sources for information which can assist planners is the website for the European Aggregates Association (UEPG). The UEPG represents the industry and includes members from 26 countries. The organisation represents its National Member Associations on health and safety and environmental, economic and technical policy. It publishes information and case studies to assist them. The UEPG considers that the establishment of a sound statistical database is essential and each Member is encouraged to provide accurate and comprehensive data. Statistics available include examination of current industry trends and production data from 39 countries.

Another open source of information available is the European Atlas of the Seas which is a tool for professionals and all those interested in learning more about Europe's seas and coasts, their environment, related human activities and European policies.  In the context of the EU's maritime policy, the Atlas offers a diverse range of information on topics and sectors. For example, one of the predefined maps for the sea bottom shows the location of seabed sediments and deep sea mineral deoposits which have been identified in European seas.

The European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet) is a network of organisations supported by the EU’s integrated maritime policy across 7 disciplines including human activities in our seas and oceans. The data available on EMODnet has also been used to create a series of multi-resolution maps of all Europe’s seas and oceans. Maps showing the location of currently active and inactive extraction sites are available via the human activities central portal.

Seabed mining is a relatively new and unexplored field which is expected to expand in the coming years as resources on land become increasingly scarce. No sources of data exist yet; however there is some information available via academic literature, such as Miller et al (2018).

Last Update 25.02.2021