Silica sand, (almost) pure quartz sand, is a valuable and scarce mineral resource within the shallow Dutch subsurface. High-grade deposits are exploited in the southeasternmost part of the country, as raw material for the glass, ceramic, chemical and other process industries. Dutch land-use policy requires that scarce mineral resources (including silica sand) are taken into consideration in spatial planning and when preparing for largescale engineering or construction works. For this purpose, and in order to review the long-term possibilities for home production of silica sand, we determined resource potential nationally.
Our approach was (1) to establish the relevant conditions and processes associated with the deposition of the currently exploited sands, (2) identify lithostratigraphic units that are genetically similar or are otherwise known to contain quartz-rich sands, and (3) query the Dutch geological survey's borehole database for potential silica sand occurrences within those units. As we have to rely on non-dedicated data, the latter step was undertaken using a largely qualitative set of lithological search parameters. Finally, a limited number of available chemical analyses was used for preliminary verification purposes.
Using this approach, we identified three prospective areas: one in the north of the province of Limburg and east of the province of Noord-Brabant(~750 km2), one in the central south of Noord-Brabant (~45 km2), and one in the east of the Gelderland and Overijssel provinces (~1,200 km2). For each area, first-order characteristics of possible silica sand resources are presented (type of deposit, depth, approximate thickness). In the terms of current reporting conventions, we resolved silica sand occurrence to the level of ‘reconnaissance mineral resource’ or ‘exploration result’, and our results do not constitute a formal resource declaration. Available chemical data suggest that the resources in the first two areas could be or become economic, although the grades are lower than those of the currently exploited resources. The third area is less promising in that respect, but available data is too limited to reject the area in this stage. Even so, we tentatively conclude that home production of silica sand can probably be maintained after the reserves in Limburg are depleted.