Limestone is a very valuable natural resource. It is a sedimentary rock that is typically composed of marine organisms. If you’ve found a deposit of limestone, then what you’re really seeing are the skeletal fragments of forams, coral, and molluscs. It is about 10% of the total amount of sedimentary rock found on our planet.
Quarrying limestone is the process of removing this material from the ground. As with any quarrying process, there are certain pros and cons that must be evaluated.
List of the Pros of Quarrying Limestone
1. It can be an economic engine.
Quarries can provide numerous jobs at the local level. People can work at the quarry to extract the limestone that is needed. Drivers are needed to transport the limestone to where it will be processed or used. Processing facilities hire handlers to create usable products from the delivered materials. Local service industries are needed to support these workers.
2. It is often in high demand.
The market for limestone is remarkably consistent. Quarried limestone can be used to neutralize acidity, so it can be added to soils or lakes. Limestone is used in the iron manufacturing industry, is required for cement, concrete, and mortar mixes, and is heated with sand and sodium carbonate to create glass.
3. It is extremely affordable.
Compared to other building materials, the cost of quarried limestone is much lower than most options. A 50-pound bag of limestone chips, for example, can be purchased for around $30. Limestone pavers are about $300 per every 100 square feet of coverage. Although costs are dependent upon the amount of refinement and the final purpose of it, there are few other materials that can match the cost profile of quarried limestone.
4. It is durable.
Quarried limestone is a durable building material. The Great Pyramids were built using limestone. Modern buildings have stood for centuries with this material. It is also easily accessible near the surface, which makes it possible for most quarries to have a minimal impact on the surrounding environment. At the same time, it also handles exposure relatively well.
5. It can restore historical landmarks.
Most of today’s landmarks are built with limestone. Quarried limestone is the only option available to us that will allows us to maintain or restore these heritage items to a state that was similar to their original construction.
6. Quarried limestone has unique filtering properties.
The alkaline properties of limestone, along with its unique composition, make it an effective filter for numerous applications. It is the foundation of air purification and water treatment systems of almost any size.
List of the Cons of Quarrying Limestone
1. They can permanently disfigure the environment.
Many limestone quarries can be seen from a great distance away. In many cases, the quarrying work creates changes to the natural landscape that cannot be repaired. That means once the quarry has been established, it often becomes a permanent part of that community, even if it is not being used. Quarries are known to cause sinkholes, damage groundwater tables, and increase the risks of experiencing soil erosion, even when managed properly.
2. Quarries create difficult traffic patterns.
Limestone quarries may create jobs, but they also create costs. Traffic can be a major problem for small communities near a quarry. There may be infrastructure costs required to support the quarry before it can begin operations. Noise pollution, traffic exhaust, and other related traffic problems become part of the experience as well.
3. They can have a negative impact on wildlife habitats.
Indigenous animals, insects, and tress all struggle to survive when a limestone quarry is established. Digging into the ground to remove this natural resource skews the balance of the ecosystem in a way that can make it difficult for many local species to survive.
4. Quarries may have a negative health impact.
Stringent health and safety regulations can offset some of the negative health impacts that quarrying limestone may cause, but not all of them. Inhaling the dust from a limestone quarry is known to cause silicosis and pneumoconiosis. Local populations may suffer from changes to sleep patterns and the increased stress from the quarry can cause unique and unpredictable health concerns.
These quarrying limestone pros and cons show us that we can experience many benefits from this natural resource, but there are several important negatives that must be managed as well. If we take care of the environment, we can benefit from what it provides. If we do not, then the benefits from limestone – or any other resource – will be fleeting at best.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.