How sport and geology go together

Although one may still view Poland as a country with really bad road network, we are catching up. In 1989, at the beginning of socio-economic changes, 216 km of motorways were used in Poland, next 81,5 km were built between 1990-1999 (Koziarski 2018). As of 2019, there are over 1600 km of motorways and over 2100 km of expressways in operation (GDDKiA, 2019) and many still under construction (or contracted). The accession to the European Union, and the benefit from structural funds, have opened a chance to the road network to expand faster. But the real impulse mobilizing government institutions to accelerate work was the granting of Euro 2012 – European Football Championship to Poland and Ukraine.

Fig 1 – Photo courtesy: GDDKiA

To build a road an aggregate is needed, which constitutes as much as 95% of the volume of the road structure. In Poland, the construction of 1 km of a motorway requires 100.000 – 330.000 tonnes of aggregate (190.000 tonnes on average), of which 30.000 – 250.000 tonnes for road embankments and 80.000 tonnes for additional layers of substructure. The figures are much higher for road sections with hubs and strengthened base (PIG-PIB, 2017).

Due to the constant demand for sand and gravel aggregates, there is a need to look for new areas of occurrence of these raw materials in Poland. Despite the generally large number of documented deposits, the resources of many of them cannot be fully utilized due to conflicts with spatial development of the area, limitations resulting from protecting living nature, landscape, and cultural heritage, as well as geological and mining conditions of the occurrence of raw material series. In consequence these conditions reduce the real resource base of natural aggregates. The occurrence of the sand and gravel has been presented since the late 1990s on geoenvironmental maps created by PIG-PIB and financed by the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management.

Fig 2 – Photo courtesy: PIG-PIB

To meet an urgent need for construction materials, especially in the areas of the greatest demand, PIG-PIB verified previously designated prospects to establish areas of activities for the new mineral deposits documentation. Performed work included drilling new boreholes and laboratory analyses and the area under examination was located in a range of 20 km from the planned road axis (see figure 3). This task was a part of a general update and compilation of a serial geoenvironmental map of Poland, conducted between 2008 and 2015 (Kozłowska et al, 2016).

Fig 3: The areas along highways and motorways covered by the study

The re-evaluation was conducted, including economic factors related to costs of transport and the current economic criteria of mineral resources and reserves as well as the identification of potential conflicts with land-use plans (especially NATURA 2000 and other natural heritage conservation areas). As a result, the reserves of 9 billion tonnes of sand and gravel were documented. The study was compiled especially for business entities involved in construction projects or the exploitation of mineral resources and administrative units as a tool to support land-use planning and management at the level of individual communes, counties (poviats) and voivodeships. Re-evaluated prognostic areas data are gathered in spatial database and are available through WMS service on the Geoenvironmental Map of Poland portal (

According to last data, in 2018, the output of sands and gravel amounted to 197.01 million tonnes. The output volume is still strictly connected with the road investments sector where the demand for the raw material is significant. Therefore, the production grew in the regions in which the building process of domestic roads, expressways and highways was being carried out (The Balance…, 2018).

It was a Spanish team who lift the silverware in 2012 and Poland failed to qualify for the knockout phase. But next to great fun and fiesta, also road network is a remarkable outcome and it was possible thanks to geology as a midfielder.

Compiled by Olga Lipińska, based on Kozłowska et al, 2016
PIG-PIB, Poland


Koziarski S.M., 2018, Kierunki rozwoju sieci autostrad i dróg ekspresowych w Polsce, Prace Komisji Geografii Komunikacji PTG, 21(3), 7–30. Directions of the network of motorways and expressways in Poland (in Polish)

GDDKiA, 2019, General Directorate for National Roads and Motorways

PIG-PIB, 2017, Mineral Resources of Poland as seen by Polish Geological Survey, Natural Mineral Aggregates, ISBN 978-83-7863-764-6 (in Polish)

Kozłowska O., Sołomacha M., Walentek I., 2016, Nowe dane o zasobach kruszyw piaskowo-żwirowych dla inwestycji drogowych i kubaturowych w Polsce, Gospodarka Surowcami Mineralnymi – Mineral Resources Management, Volume 32 Issue 1 Pages 103–118 DOI 10.1515/gospo-2016-0004 (in Polish)

The balance of mineral resources deposits in Poland as of 31.12.2018, PIG-PIB, 2019 ISSN 2299-4459 (in Polish)

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