Have you ever wondered where your stone countertops came from? Or why they’re so expensive? This article will explain the process in which stone is quarried, and just how much goes into the extraction!
Natural Stone quarries can be found all over the world! They reach from Brazil to India, and everywhere in between. The quarries start out as huge rock mountains. Some may be marble, some granite, others could be soapstone, limestone, quartzite, etc..
The exploration starts out by hiring geologist to take core samples of the mountain. This is done by using diamond core bits that drill deep into the earths surface. The stone is formed when magma, which resides one mile into the earth core, rises up between the cracks of the earth, then hardens and solidifies.
Once they know what kind of stone lies beneath, and they’re happy with the discovery, they apply for licenses to mine. They must have approval from local, state, and federal government in order to get these licenses. This can take anywhere from months, to a few years!
If all branches of government approve the licensing, it’s time to begin mining. But it’s not as easy as bringing in a few sticks of dynamite and a bobcat. First, the movement and veining patterns of the slabs have to be taken into consideration. The way the blocks are cut out of the mountain determine how the veining will show on the finished slab. After mapping out the initial block cuts, it’s time to really start.
The miners start by placing dynamite into large holes in the side of the mountain. This loosens the stone enough that the miners can use heavy equipment to separate the blocks. Then they use a HUGE wet cutting saw that looks like an asphalt compactor is used to cut the blocks into approximately 10 foot sections. Most blocks weigh anywhere from 15,000 to 25,000 lbs.
After the blocks are cut, they’re split into slabs, this is done at a separate location. Cutting slabs out of blocks can take up to three days or more! One block can produce anywhere from 10-20 slabs depending on the size. Distributors will then work with the quarries to choose the slabs that they’d like to purchase.
After the distributors choose theirs slabs, they are sent all over the world for resale. This is where we come in! We have 5 different distributors that we have the option of ordering from. They post photos on their websites, and have hundreds of slabs to choose from at their locations. Our clients can either fly to Seattle and pick something out in person, or we can request specific pictures of a slab and order by photo. Another option is to come and look at all the slabs and remnants we have at our shop. Of course no two slabs are exactly the same, but it gives a better idea of the colors and patterns that you don’t always get from looking at a picture.