Marble Quarries and Mining Methods
History, marble areas and basic characteristics of marble quarries
Marbles are longstanding exportable products and constitute a traditionally important sector, with a substantial contribution to the development of the Greek economy. Greece exports 76% of its marble production to more than 120 countries, with most of it (56%) being exported to China. Its reserves are considered huge, with some claiming that they are inexhaustible.
In recent decades, an intensification of competition in the marble market and its derivatives has been observed. The main marble producing countries are China, India, Italy, Greece, Spain, the United States, and Iran, among others.
What is a marble quarry?
Quarry means an area where an excavation or excavation system is carried out with the aim of sorting quarry minerals (either in their natural form or in a state of dissolution). By extension, the quarry also defines the quarry areas, i.e., the geographical units in which material deposits are found. They are considered to be places of exploitation of high quality rocks, aggregates and industrial minerals, in a geographical area that is safe and does not endanger either the natural or man-made environment. Accordingly, a marble quarry describes the area from which marble is extracted through an excavation system.
The following video presentation gives a rundown of all our privately owned quarries, as well as the quarries of our affiliated companies.
The history of marble quarries
The abundance of marble in Greece is due to the geological construction of the country, which is a result of Alpine folding, but also of its metallurgical geological history. The first historical references to marble quarries date back, to the 3rd century BC in Paros and Naxos. Gradually, quarries appear in other Aegean islands, while two centuries later, Pentelic marble becomes particularly popular.
The area of Penteli, in N. Attica, Greece, has been known, since antiquity, for its strong quarrying activity. The first organized exploitation of its deposits appears to begin during the “Golden Century” of Pericles (5th century BC) with the famous Pentelic marble having been used in many well-known ancient monuments of Greece, from the Acropolis of Athens, to the statues and monuments of the classical Hellenistic and Roman times. This particular marble, from antiquity to the present day, continues to be mined and exported all over the world.
What is a marbled area?
Marble regions are defined as geographical units with extensive marble deposits located in specific geotectonic zones.
Greece is considered a marble region because of its geological history and geography. The geotectonic zones of the Greek territory have a separate stratigraphic structure but also display special tectonic behavior. There are nine (9) zones:
- Eastern Greece or Sub-Pelagic
- Parnassos – Gionas
- Olonou – Pindos
- Gavrovo – Tripoli
The bulk of quarries in Greece are located in the region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, in the areas of Kavala, Drama and Thassos, where white and off-white marbles are produced.
Marble quarries in Greece
Greece is one of the countries that supply the world community with marbles and their derivatives. The industry is export oriented and is one of the few sectors in the country’s economy with substantially competitive characteristics globally.
The total regions of Macedonia provide more than 80% of the total Greek marble exports, while the total of active quarries in Greece amounts to about 210. As previously mentioned, the main quarrying sites are located in Eastern Macedonia and are:
- Thassos (White Thassos, White Port Thassos “Prinos”, Krystallina Thassos)
- Volakas (White Volakas)
- Granite, Fortress
- Stenopos, Nestos, Limnia, Piges, Elafochori, Dysvato, Vathilakkos, Palea Kavala, Nikisiani
The rest of the Greek production is located in the areas of: Kozani-Veroia, Ioannina, Volos, Dionysos Pentelis, Livadia – Elikona, Naxos, Paros, Tinos, Evia, etc.
The figure that follows shows the number of active quarries in Greece per geographical area, according to a survey by www.oryktosploutos.net
Ways of extracting marbles
The mining phase is one of the most important phases of mining activity. The necessary technological equipment and specialized technical personnel are necessary prerequisites for safe and efficient mining.
The exploitation of marble has geographical and topological characteristics and is carried out mainly with surface miming. The most widespread method of removing marbles from the mother rock is through the use of wire cutting or other similar special equipment. In this particular technique, the mineral composition and mass of the marble, as well as its physico-mechanical properties, play an important role.
In cases where the material is quite compact, extraction is done using explosive devices. However, it must be said that this is a highly outdated and harmful method which has been replaced, by at least 90%, with the most modern and efficient wire cutting with diamond wires. This method increases the extractability of healthy bulk marbles, without damage to the rest of the deposit and the surrounding area.
On the opposite side of surface exploitation there is have underground mining. The basic factors influencing the choice between surface and underground mining are: a) how many barren rock units should be removed in order for the units to be useful and b) the final angle of the slope, which ensures safe exploitation. In Greece, there is little underground exploitation, in contrast to other countries in Southern Europe (such as Italy), that give a strong presence with many years of know-how and experience.
Quarries and environment
The mining process changes the ecosystem of the area (structurally and functionally). During the extraction, but also with its completion, environmental restoration actions are implemented. In this process, the main issue is the visual and substantial similarity of the quarry area with the undisturbed area. This is possible after all the variables of the landscape have been assessed and its biological formation examined.
The environmental footprint of a quarry can be largely controlled; this is related to the efficient design, safe operation and management of extractive waste.
Stone Group International Quarries
Stone Group International, along with our affiliated companies, currently own 9 active quarries. A large number of white, semi-white and colored marbles are mined daily from these quarries, with their annual total production exceeding 250,000 tons in blocks.
Most of the above quarries concern the white marbles, from where the world-renowned marbles Volakas Haemus, Volakas Electron, Pirgon, Elba Blue, Vox, Vermion White Vein Cut, Mistral, Ostria are mined; the colored marble Vermion White Cross Cut, Pelagonia, Veria Green are also included.
The marbles mined are cut and processed in the five factories maintained by Stone Group International and its affiliated companies, including in the factory of the company’s main facilities, located in the Prefecture of Thessaloniki.