The End of the CEMEX Sand Mine in Monterey Bay

The CEMEX sand mine located in Marina, CA, is the last coastal sand mine in the United States.   It opened in 1906 in response to construction needs after the great San Francisco earthquake.  When all other sand mines located in the Monterey Bay were closed in the 1990s (there had been a total of 6 operating in the bay), the CEMEX site eluded closure with a grandfather clause, and on the condition that their production level stay at the same historic levels.   However, their sand production increased to eclipse the total of all five former mines, roughly 200-250,000 cubic yards of sand annually.  That is a block of sand 10 feet high, 100 feet wide, and over 1 mile long annually.    The beaches to the south, an economic generator and tourist draw for Monterey,  are losing sand faster than anywhere else in the state, at exactly the same rate of the sand extraction by CEMEX. 

In April of this year, the Center for the Blue Economy wrote a letter to the California Coastal Commission and to each member of the State Lands Board, outlining the negative economic impacts of the mine.   The letter writing campaign was part of a larger effort organized by Save Our Shores, a local environmental group that coordinated sending those same groups 3400 postcards from the public.   This followed many years of activism and efforts from the community to bring this issue to the attention of the relevant agencies (2009 plea to CA Coastal Commission by scientist Ed Thornton to halt sand mine, 2010 NOAA study on sand loss, 2012 economic impact study by two Center for the Blue Economy Fellows, etc).    On May 16th, 2017, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newson, Chair of the State Lands Board,  issued a cease and desist order against the mine.  The State Lands Board has reached out to the Center for the Blue Economy to help outline the negative economic impacts of sand loss in their case against the mine.    The economic argument is a key piece of their case, however, the anticipated long legal battle will not be needed.   

As of Monday, June 26, the California Coastal Commission announced a tentative agreement with the CEMEX mines to end operations in the Monterey Bay.   This was cause for celebration for all those who have long opposed the mine!  

As of Thursday, July 13, the California Coastal Commission unanimously agreed to the settlement terms!  CEMEX will end all sand extraction by Dec. 2020, and will have three more years to breakdown land operations.   In addition, CEMEX will have the right to sell the land, but only to public or non-profit organizations with deed restrictions that will include public use and environmental restoration.     

In making public comment at the Coastal Commission meeting, scientist Ed Thornton, a long-time advocate of Coastal Commission action on the plant, estimated that beaches to the south should start to replenish at the rate of 1-1.5 feet per year.  There was truly an atmosphere of celebration and cooperation in the July 13th meeting hall at the campus of California State University Monterey Bay.   Without the cooperation of the CEMEX sand mine, the actions by the Coastal Commission and State Lands Commission could have drug on for 10 or more years, without any certainty of the outcome.   Although the state of California has received little to no compensation for the public good taken from Monterey Bay shores for over a century, a three-year time frame to end this era is a fair compromise. 

Thank you Ed Thornton, Gary Griggs, Phil King, Surfriders, Save Our Shores, City of Marina, City of Monterey, CA Coastal Commission, State Lands Commission, the activist public & Cemex for making this happen!



Coastal Commission Poised to Settle with CEMEX, article by David Schmalz, Monterey County Weekly, Monday, June 26, 2017

Center for the Blue Economy letter written to the State Lands Board and California Coastal Commission

Press release by Lieutenant Governor, Gavin Newsom, Chair of the State Lands Board

State Lands Board Letter to Cemex Mine

This news article by David Schmalz, published on Jan. 16, 2016 in the Monterey County Weekly gives a nice overview of the history of the Cemex sand mine:  Cemex Mine Reflects Human Hunger for Sand

This article, also by David Schmalz, published on May 18, 2017 will catch you up to speed on developments:  A state agency flexes its muscle against Cemex. This time, it’s not a threat. It’s an order.

Here is a nice overview page from Save Our Shores:

Watch the film Sand Wars for an understanding of how sand is consumed globally


This issue will be heard at the California Coastal Commission on July 13,  at their 9:00am meeting in Marina at California State University Monterey Bay, World Theater. Please consider attending and adding your support to close the CEMEX mine. For an update on the Agenda (see item #22 under "Enforcement"), go to: