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69Z28's Blog - A collection of train and general entries

The Quarry Story: What is a quarry? How are they built? How do they work?

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Vulcan is a Birmingham (main headquarters) based Company. I don't remember the gentleman's name but he sent me the information in a large brown envelope, via the USPO. We communicated via e-mail and I believe by phone.

Vulcan Materials Company has given permission to use their copyrighted material "The Quarry Story."
Here is a link to Vulcans Quarry Story.

This blog entry is not my original work But product from Vulcan Materials Company. I never claimed it was my Original work. What I said was "I did a bit of research on the WWW and gathered together information on quarries and wrote the following as a way to help those of us who don’t know anything about quarries, other than it's just a hole in the ground."

I did not cut and past this blog entry from their web site. I typed it, from the documents sent to me, into WordPerfect, then later transfered it to MS Word. I had to reformat the data and restructure some of it. At the time I had no way to get the pictures into my PC, else I would have also included them.

The Quarry Story ************************************************

We all wish to have large industries on our railroads. But space is sometime an issue. However one industry that can usually fit on just about any sized (except the very small) is a quarry.

Really, what is a quarry? How are they built? How do they work on a daily basis?

I did a bit of research on the WWW and gathered together information on quarries and wrote the following as a way to help those of us who don’t know anything about quarries, other than it's just a hole in the ground. The information in the Quarry Story is very detailed and will enable us to determine what elements we'll need or want to use in modeling our quarry.

At the end of the story is a definition of some quarry terms. For me knowing more about an industry helps me to understand it and be able to do a better job modeling it for my railroad. I hope this is of interest to you and also helps you model a quarry.

The Quarry Story

How a Quarry is Created & Works:

Unless you’ve visited or toured a quarry, chances are you don’t know much about what goes on inside one. In the simplest terms, a rock quarry is a place where little rocks are made from big rocks. Although the basic process is the same, each quarry is different and some of the things in Quarry Story may not apply to all operations. Geography, geology and the type of stone mined, how close a quarry is to neighbors, the size of the operation and the main transportation method used to get the stone products to customers all have an impact on how each quarry is designed and operated.

Finding, Preparing and Designing a Site:

Before quarry operations start many preparations must be made. First, geologists must find a place where there is a large supply of rocks beneath the earth’s surface. Igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks are used for construction. A quarry is frequently located near a community where the products are needed because if it isn’t, it will cost our customers too much to haul the crushed stone, which is very heavy, over long distances.

Obtaining Quarry Permits:

After a good place to put a quarry, geologists survey the land, and develop a design that will make the quarry safe and efficient. Then, a variety of operating permits from local, state and federal governments. For instance, to obtain the environmental permits, it is necessary to provide a plan that shows the quarry can and will obey all environmental rules of the state and federal governments. Once the proper permits are obtained, equipment is purchased, roads are built to the facility and the building the processing plant begins.

Being A Good Neighbor:

It is very important to be as a good neighbor in the community. Many sites create buffer zones around the quarry so noise is kept to a minimum. The entrance to the quarry is usually landscaped so that it blends with the surrounding area. Special water systems are used to recycle the water used in processing. Great care is also taken to protect the environment and the animals that live on quarry lands. A quarry site might be as big as 600 or more acres, but, only a small part of that land is actually used for the quarry and processing plant. Wildlife habitats are sometime established in the buffer zones to attract and protect animals that might live around the quarries.

Preparing the Site:

To get to the rock from beneath the surface of the earth, the land is first cleared around the the site to be mined. Once the land is prepared mining the rock begins. At many sites, the material that is removed is used to begin construction of berms and other buffer areas, or donated for landscaping or construction projects in the community.

Getting Rocks out of the Earth:

Drilling and blasting is a very important part of how rocks are gotten out of the earth. This process is designed around how much rock you want to break apart, the type of rock you are working with and the size pieces you want to break off. Experts help with drilling and blasting because they know exactly how to work with explosives to make sure this part of the process is handled safely, efficiently and as quietly as possible. First, holes are drilled in the earth and explosives are placed inside. The explosives are detonated to provide the smallest release of energy for the most efficient blast. The entire blasting process occurs in just a few seconds. Larger quarries may blast once a day and smaller quarries may blast once or twice a week. Blasting is monitored with a special machine to record sound and vibrations so that the community around the quarry remains protected and safe. The blasts that occur when the explosives are set off free the stone from the quarry wall. The big pieces are removed by pit loaders and dumped into large haul trucks.

Loading and Hauling Rocks from the Pit:

The area that begins to form out of the earth when blasting away big pieces of rock becomes the quarry or pit. We use very large haul trucks to load and move the rocks out of the pit and to the processing plant where they are crushed and divided into different sizes. Trucks move back and forth between the pit and the processing plant. Now that the rocks out of the ground, they are moved over to the processing plant, where they are turned from big rocks into little rocks.

Breaking Rocks:

When trucks deliver the big pieces of rock to the processing plant, the rocks are put into a primary crusher that will break them into smaller pieces. The primary crusher can crush between 300 and 2,000 tons per hour. Depending on what size rocks are to be made. The rocks may be put through different kinds and smaller sizes of crushers one or two more times. As the rocks pass through the crushers, they are moved around the processing plant on conveyor belts.

Separating Rocks into Different Sizes:

After crushing, comes screening. As the rocks are broken down to smaller sizes, screens are used to separate them into piles that are the same size. Some screens are larger and they allow the bigger rocks to pass through. The smaller screens let only the small rocks through. Rocks may be crushed and screened many times before they are put in a stockpile with other rocks the same size.

Moving Rocks Around the Processing Plant:

For rocks to move from one place to another at the processing plant, they travel on long, continuously moving conveyor belts. The conveyors help move rocks in an economical way, saving money and time.

Protecting the Environment:

To protect the environment, water that is used is recycled in a closed loop water system that collects rainwater and water used during processing. Water is stored in a recycling pond where the sediment is allowed to accumulate. Before water is discharged from a recycling pond, it is tested to make sure that it is safe and that it meets environmental water quality regulations.

Storing Rocks:

Stockpiles are huge piles of rock, sand, gravel and other materials, and they are really huge. Some of stockpiles are as much as 30 feet high and 800 feet around. They are so big that they are kept outside. Because they are exposed to the weather, they have to be carefully maintained so heavy rain doesn't wash them away. Also you have to be careful not to let other materials get mixed in with them. Bulldozers and front end loaders are used to keep the stockpiles in place. When customers come to our facility for a load of crushed stone, they go to the stockpile. A shipping loader is used to fill customers trucks with the rocks and other aggregates from the stockpile.

Weighing Rocks,Trains, and Trucks:

Rocks are sold by the ton. Before a customer can be billed for the materials they buy we have to know the weight of each load. When train/trucks are weighed before loading and once they are loaded they are weighed again. Then, we subtract the weight of the empty train/truck from the weight of the full train/truck and we know how much the load weighs. This is the way to calculate how much the customer has to pay for the load. Weighing is also important because it helps make sure that the trains/trucks leaving the quarry are not too heavy for the roads or lines they will travel on. Each state has laws that say how much weight a train/rtruck can legally carry. If ones weighs too much, some of the material is taken off of it and then it is weighed again before it leaves the quarry.

Delivering Rocks to Where They are Needed:

Most of the time customers come to the Quarries facilities and load the materials they need onto their trucks for transport to where they need to use them. Sometimes though, the materials have to be moved over greater distances. If materials need to be moved a long way, Unit trains or barges are used to move them.

Vocabulary of Quarry Terms:

Aggregates – Rocks, sand, gravel and other materials that are used in construction.

Berm – An earthen barrier, covered with native plants, that provides a physical and visual screen between public property and a quarry site. Berms also limit access to the site and help keep noise levels down in the community.

Blasting – The process of using explosives to break large pieces of rock out of the earth.

Buffer zone – An area surrounding a quarry that helps provide a visual and sound barrier between the quarry and the surrounding community. These buffers consist of naturally occurring plants and trees, planned habitats and other areas developed by Vulcan. Buffer zones often include berms.

Closed loop water system – A system of capturing and recycling the water we use in the processing plant.

Conveyor belt – An endless, moving, flexible belt that takes rocks from one place to another around the processing plant.
Crushers – The machines used to break big rocks down into smaller rocks. Rocks go through several different size crushers during the processing operation.

Crushed stone – Rock that is crushed to a specific size in a quarry processing plant.

Discharge – Water meeting environmental standards that is allowed to leave a settling pond and go into a stream or river. Discharges usually occur only during times of extremely heavy rainfall. Water quality regulations and a quarry’s environmental permits cover water discharges.

Drilling – The process of putting holes in the ground where explosives will be placed for blasting.

Dust suppression – The process of reducing the amount of dust that goes into the air.

Explosives – The material that is detonated during the blasting process to break big pieces of rock out of the earth. The explosive used in the stone industry is not dynamite, but a mixture of ammonium nitrate and diesel fuel called ANFO.

Geologist – Someone who studies nature and the earth. Vulcan uses geologists to help decide where we should put quarries and to determine what kind of rocks are located at each site.

Haul trucks – Trucks that haul loads of rocks from the pit to the primary crusher at the processing plant.

Igneous rocks – A type of rock that forms from hot magma or lava that comes from deep within the earth. As it slowly cools it becomes rock such as granite, basalt, or gabbro.

Metamorphic rocks - A type of rock that develops from the alteration of sedimentary, igneous, or other metamorphic rocks due to extreme heat and/or pressure. Some examples of metamoprhic rocks are granite gneiss (formed from granite), marble (formed from limestone), and quartzite (formed from sandstone).

Mining – the process of digging rocks out of the earth.

Permitting – The process of getting approval from local and state government agencies to operate a quarry.

Pit – Another name for a quarry. A place where rocks are dug or mined out of the earth.

Pit loader – An excavation tool that helps move the rocks from the earth into haul trucks.

Primary crusher – The first crusher that big rocks are crushed by. The primary crusher makes the rocks small enough to go through the secondary and tertiary crushers.

Processing plant – Where rocks from the quarry are taken to be processed into different sizes. The processing plant begins at the primary crusher.

Quarry – A place where rocks are dug or mined out of the earth.

Quarry wall – The boundary of the quarry, as viewed from inside the pit. Also, the part of a quarry where blasting takes place.

Recycling pond – A place where water is stored and recycled for use in quarry operations.

Screening – Different size screens are used to separate rocks into piles of the same size. Rocks are passed through several different size screens during processing.

Sediment – Sand and other matter that is in the water that we recycle. Sediment is heavier than water and settles to the bottom of a recycling pond.

Sedimentary rocks – A type of rock that develops from the consolidation of sediments that have been deposited by one of three methods of weathering. They are as follows: mechanical, chemical, or organically extracted. Some rocks formed from these processes are sandstones and shales (mechanical), limestone and dolomite (chemical ), and marl (organic).

Shipping loader – Shipping loaders are used to put rocks into a customer’s truck.
Stockpile – Large piles of rocks and sand where dump trucks go to pick up loads of the construction materials.

Vibrations – Movement caused by blasting.

Water quality regulations – Federal, state and local laws that must be met if water is allowed to flow from a quarry site into a stream or river.

Updated 23rd Aug 2011 at 06:43 PM by 69Z28

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  1. chrispalmberg's Avatar
    Hadn't really thought about quarry ops in a while... it strikes me as being a good industry to have fade into your background, or run "off the edge of the table." I'd love to see someone with a real love for minute detailing and geology model the face of an active quarry, showing the strata, etc.