Sandstone Quarrying And Processing
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Sandstone Quarrying Operations

Extraction (more commonly referred to as quarrying) consists of removing layers or large pieces of stone from an identified and unearthed geologic deposit. Differences in the particular quarrying techniques used often stems from variations in the physical properties of the deposit itself—such as density, fracturing/bedding planes, and depth—financial considerations, and the site owner’s preference. Nevertheless, the process is relatively simple: locate or create (minimal) breaks in the stone, remove the stone using heavy machinery, secure the stone on a vehicle for transport, and move the material to storage. A flow diagram of typical quarrying operations is shown in Figure 1.

As shown in Figure 1, the first step in quarrying is to gain access to the sandstone deposit. This is achieved by removing the layer of earth, vegetation, and rock unsuitable for product—collectively referred to as overburden—with heavy equipment and transferring to onsite storage for potential use in later reclamation of the site. Additionally, a “plug” of poor-quality stone may sit atop the material that has commercial value; this plug must also be removed with the overburden. After the face of the deposit is exposed, the stone is removed from the quarry in layers or pieces. If bedding planes are visible, forklifts and/or steel wedges are driven between the strata to pry up the layers. Alternatively, loose pieces are scooped up with front-end loaders, dump trucks, or other equipment. Once the layers or pieces are secured on the heavy machinery, they are transferred to an inspection area for grading, temporary storage, and eventual shipment from the site. Sandstone of insufficient quality or size for current demand is stored on-site for future use, such as for site reclamation activities, or sent to a crushing facility to be used in other applications.

Sandstone Processing Operations

Processing operations include much more variation than extraction. Nevertheless, the general procedures begin with initial cutting, followed by application of a finish, and conclude with a second cutting or shaping step. Due to the array of stone products, the second and/or third steps may be eliminated, specifically when the product will have a “natural” appearance. Figure 2 depicts the fabrication process.

The first step in sandstone processing is a primary cutting or shaping of the material. This is often accomplished for sandstone using a circular blade saw, but a splitter or hand tools, such as axes and mauls, can also be implemented. When operating a circular saw, a continuous stream of water over the saw is required in order to dissipate heat generated by the process; sufficientlyelevated temperature can cause major machine and material damage. Natural-faced products, such as veneer or flooring, may be completed with this step, while other products require a finishing application, secondary cutting, or both.

An array of finishing applications exists, and each uses specific types of equipment to accomplish the resulting appearance. Polished or honed finishing as well as a thermal treatment are frequently given to sandstone products, but others are also possible. The former is applied manually and/or mechanically through the use of polishing pads, while thermal finishes are applied with a flame or blow torch apparatus.

A secondary shaping step may be necessary if the product includes any features or custom size or shape. For this step, a circular saw is again commonly implemented for sandstone. Cooling water is again necessary to maintain an appropriate temperature at the stone-blade interface. Once a product is completed, it is packaged and stored for shipment or direct sale. Sandstone of insufficient quality or size for current demand is stocked on-site for future use, crushed for use in paving and construction applications, or stored for site reclamation activities.

Sandstone Quarry Operations

The LCI for quarry operations includes the inputs and outputs for each of the processes depicted in Figure 1. Specifically, processes and operations represented in the inventory presented in this report include:

Removal of overburden using heavy equipment

  • • Transfer of overburden to on-site storage
  • • Quarry operations required to remove stone from deposit including drilling, prying, and use of slight explosive charges.
  • • On-site transport of stone using heavy equipment.
  • • Transport of scrap stone to on-site storage
  • • Onsite generation of energy and compressed air
  • • Capture and treatment of wastewater
  • • Upstream production of energy and fuels

Equipment and ancillary materials (e.g. drill bits, maintenance items) are listed in Tables 5 and 6 but have not been included in this inventory.

Sandstone Processing Operations

The LCI for sandstone processing operations includes the inputs and outputs for each of the processes depicted in Figure 2. Specifically, processes and operations represented in this portion of the inventory include:

  • • Primary shaping of stone into less-refined pieces, such as flagstone or veneer
  • • Application of a surface finish or texture
  • • Secondary shaping of stone into specific products
  • • Packaging of finished sandstone products for shipment
  • • On-site transport of stone using heavy equipment, such as forklifts
  • • Transport of scrap stone to on-site storage or reclamation
  • • Onsite generation of energy and compressed air
  • • Capture and treatment of wastewater and other waste materials such as dust
  • • Upstream production of energy and fuels

Equipment and ancillary materials (e.g. drill bits, maintenance items) are listed in Tables 5 and 6 but have not been included in this inventory.

Since a fabrication facility often processes more than one stone type, each facility was categorized as a “sandstone” facility if the majority of their production was indicated to be sandstone. Under this condition, all of respondents who are labeled “sandstone” processors indicate that at least 70% of their production is sandstone.