Quarried natural resources
Quarried natural resources
Interesting facts about quarried natural resources
Every year, the building materials and quarrying industry extracts roughly 550 million tons of primary raw materials or uses these materials in production. In addition, almost 100 million tons of secondary raw materials are used every year in the production of building materials to conserve resources.
Quarried natural resources include a variety of mineral deposits; gravel, sand and natural stone account for the largest proportion of the extracted materials in terms of volume.
Around 80% of the quarried natural resources is supplied to the building industry and around 20% is used in the chemical, steel or glass industries.
Quarried natural resources are needed for the manufacture of many products that we use in our daily lives. Stone powder, for example, is the basic ingredient of toothpaste.
Statistically, each one of us needs 1 kg of plaster, stone dust, sand, gravel or natural stones per hour.
Quarried natural resources comprise a great number of mineral deposits, in particular gravel and sands, broken natural stone, lime, marl and dolomite stones and gypsum and anhydrite stones, as well as clays and loams. Quarried natural resources are bulk raw materials; due to geological conditions, they are site-bound and not distributed evenly across the country.
Quarrying has been handed down since the beginning of human history. According to scientific findings, the oldest known ‘stones from human hands’, found in ground fortifications in the Near East date back to between the 9th and 8th centuries B.C. Germany also has a very long quarrying tradition. In the past, these raw materials were mainly extracted by hand, but companies today use modern technology. Geophysics, GPS, intelligent machine and plant control and largely automated processes control the extraction of these natural resources.
Every year, the building materials and quarrying industry extracts roughly 550 million tons of primary raw materials or uses these materials in production. Gravel and sands, with around 240 million tons, and broken natural stone with some 210 million tons are among the most important raw materials in the extraction natural sources in Germany. The building materials and quarrying industry (earth and stone) in Germany comprises some 1,600 companies operating approximately 3,100 extraction facilities.
Around 80% of the earth and stone is supplied to the building industry and around 20% is used in the chemical, steel or glass industries. In addition to the extracted primary earth and stone, almost 100 million tons of secondary raw materials (mineral construction waste and by-products from industrial processes) are used in the building industry every year. These result from e.g. the demolition of buildings, the production of pig iron (blast furnace slag) or from electricity generation in conventional power stations (FGD gypsum, fly ash). The use of secondary raw materials contributes to the substitution of primary natural sources. The substitution rate is around 15%.
Industrial minerals are mineral rocks that can be immediately used in industry due to their special chemical and physical properties, i.e. without any substance conversion. This group includes kaolin (also called porcelain earth), quartz sand, quartzite, feldspar, sticky sand, bentonite, special clay, silicas, fluorite, barite and potash.
Industrial minerals have been extracted in Germany for hundreds of years in very diverse quantities. Volume-wise, the industrial minerals extracted most in Germany are quartz/quartz sands and special clays with 30.9 million tons and 6.4 million tons produced respectively.
The extraction of industrial minerals in Germany is extremely regional in structure, due to natural conditions. While, for example, kaolin and silica are mainly extracted in Bavaria, the extraction of special clay is mainly concentrated in Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse.
Industrial minerals are usually extracted in open pit mines by small and medium-sized companied, but a few industrial minerals such as fluorite und barite are mined underground.
Due to their chemical and physical properties, industrial minerals are used primarily in the paper, chemical, glass, ceramics, refractory, and foundry and steel industries; but the pharmaceutical industry, environmental management (waste gas purification, wastewater treatment plants, solar panels and wind power plants) and the automotive industry also exploit the properties of industrial minerals.
In Germany, iron ore is mined in North Rhine-Westphalia and Saxony. The iron ore extracted here is not smelted into iron, however, it is used mostly in the form of crushed stone, chippings and brittle sands as a coloured and iron-rich aggregate for the concrete or cement industry.