Quarries are a type of mine extracting dimensional stone for commercial and residential building purposes. There are hundreds of thousands of quarries around the world, and each of them produces a specific type of natural stone – from quartz to slate to Limestone.
Companies spend billions in site analysis before breaking ground on a quarry. The site engineers and geologists drill core samples to determine the rock deposit’s quality and size before setting up operations.
After the prospecting company decides the stone meets quality standards and the suite is sustainable to mine, they break ground and start operations. All quarries require specialized licenses to operate, and the requirements for a license vary from state-to-state, and town-to-town.
This post looks at how countertop stone is mined and delivered to your home for installation.
How Do Miners Quarry Natural Stone?
There are two types of quarries – open-pit and underground. More than 90% of the world’s quarries are all open-pit varieties with above-ground operations. Miners use several methods to remove the stone from the quarry. Extracting the stone requires a delicate process and several tools to do the job. The same rock takes on various appearances and visual characteristics, depending on how it’s cut.
When miners cut the stone with the source flow, it’s called a “vein cut.” When they cut against the source flow, it’s called a “cross-cut.” The cross-cut method provides a more visually-appealing aesthetic to the rock and a more uniform look for kitchen countertops and commercial applications.
Here are some of the more popular methods used in mining natural stone deposits.
Blasting is the best way to separate large qualities of rock for further refinement. Specialists prepare blasting charges in holes around the rock face. The blast occurs in a sequence that’s too fast for the eye to see. However, it creates a shockwave across the rock, creating cracks that separate the stone.
The sequencing of the explosions permits a fraction of the total explosive load used at any time. The firing sequence occurs so that each blast hole moves the rock towards another blast hole.
During the blast, the stone block may jump up to 18-inches due to the explosions’ impact.
Rocket power helps miners channel stone. The miners use a mini-rocket motor around 4-inches in diameter. The rocket sits at the end of a steel pipe, burning a mixture of pressurized air and fuel. Rocket fuel burns at up to 2,800F, with forces of up to 4,000 fps, slicing through the rock with ease.
This tool burns a hole into the stone at a rate of 14 square-feet p/hour, creating channels up to 15-feet in depth. The miners bore the channels adjacent to the face until they separate the rock from the stone base.
The Diamond Wire Saw
This saw uses synthetic industrial diamonds (not the expensive jewelry kind) to cut through any stone. The miners feed the wire through the previously burned channels, creating a loop around the pierce of rock.
A machine spins the wire at high revolutions while wetting the cutting surface the reduce friction. The result is the diamond saw cuts through the rock like butter. In most quarries, diamond saws are beneficial for cutting soft stones like travertine, marble, onyx, and Limestone.
The diamond-wire saw cuts at speeds of up to 35 to 40 square-feet p/hour. That’s around five times faster than the jet-burner tool.
The Wedge and Feather
Also know by the moniker “the wedge and shim,” this tool is the oldest and most labor-intensive method of shearing rock.
However, the method’s cost-effective nature, along with its simplicity, makes it one of the most popular ways of quarrying stone. It’s still in use in quarries worldwide, and miners use it every day to achieve their quota.
With the wedge and feather method, the miner places feathers in predrilled holes in the rock face. The oner then hammers wedges into the holes, causing the feathers to split the stone. Miners use different size feathers and wedges to create different split lengths.
Transporting the Stone from the Quarry to Your Home for Install
After removing the stone and polishing it, the quarry sends it to manufacturers for polishing and finishing. Natural stone blocks used in countertops vary in size. However, the average countertop block measures 7-feet high by 7-feet wide by 10 feet deep (490 cubic-feet of volume).
This granite block could weigh more than 40-tons, and the quarries drill hooks into the stone to help the trucks transport it to factories for finishing.
After finishing, the manufacture loads the countertops onto a delivery truck. The counter company installs it in your home using specialized tools to prevent scratching of the counter surface.
Natural stone is brittle, and it cracks or breaks easily. Always use a professional fitment service when installing your new countertop.