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What is quarrying?

Quarrying is the process of removing rock, sand, gravel or other minerals from the ground in order to use them to produce materials for construction or other uses. So, a quarry is any such working on the surface of the earth where minerals are extracted but quarries are also known by other names around the world: 'surface mine', ‘pit’, 'open pit' or 'opencast mine'.

The term 'quarrying' is often associated with a place where natural stone is extracted to produce building stone or dimension stone and the name is thought to be derived from the latin 'quadraria' which described such a place.

The term 'mining' was similarly associated with places where minerals were extracted to produce metals or coal.

Within the UK, the largest quantity of mineral extracted by quarrying is used for construction and known as "aggregates".

What is the difference between a mine and a quarry?

In the UK a 'mine' is defined legally as an underground working and a 'quarry' as a site of mineral extraction without a roof. In other parts of the world, the world, ‘mining’ is used interchangeably with ‘quarrying’.

What do quarries produce?

Quarries principally produce sand and gravel and crushed rock for construction and these materials are usually described as’ aggregates’. The principal minerals extracted by underground mining in the UK are gypsum, salt and potash.

In addition, quarries produce substantial quantities of coal, chemical grade limestone, gypsum, common clays, china clay or kaolin, ball clays and silica sand. Thus, quarries are often associated with process plants the most important of which are ready-mixed-concrete plants, coating plants to produce asphalt and bituminous road-making materials, cement and lime burning kilns, concrete block and pipe works, brick works, pottery works and plaster/plasterboard factories.

Why do we need quarries?

The materials produces by quarrying are essential to our everyday lives, providing the construction materials to build roads and buildings, delivering vital minerals to agriculture and supporting the generation of electricity – to name just a few uses.

It is tempting to see a quarry as an undesirable ‘hole in the ground’ but we need our quarrying industry to supply us with vital materials for our economy. Furthermore, we need talented, professional women and men to operate quarries in a way that is safe, productive and good for our environment.