Limestone, Extraction, and the Environment

Limestone, Extraction, and the Environment

Let’s talk about Limestone.  Limestone is a sedimentary rock and the leading stone extracted and processed in the United States.  Out of all stone mining in the U.S., limestone accounts for roughly 42%.  It is extremely functional, as it is primarily used in the construction industry.  However, it has many uses!

You interact with limestone on a daily basis and you may not even know it.

  • It is used to make the paper you just wasted after trying for the 100th time to operate the office copier.
  • The plastic bag you used to carry a pack of gum out of Kroger.
  • The glass jar of outdated pickles in the back of your refrigerator.
  • The paint on your wall…and, if you did the paint job, possibly on your floor too.
  • The carpet in your house that you keep forgetting to vacuum.
  • The overly priced bottle of water you purchased at Speedway.
  • The food in your 4 for 4 at Wendy’s.

Let us not forget the horses and mint juleps we like to watch/drink on Derby Day!

Have you ever wondered how we extract it? Probably not, so here we go.  The majority is mined through a process called surface mining (some extraction is done through underground methods).  Surface mining mines from the top down, not the bottom up.  In respect to limestone, the process is referred to as quarrying.  Quarrying involves the removal of earth and stone piece by piece with heavy machinery and small explosives.   The end result is a large open pit (quarry).  Once completed, the stone goes to a processing plant.

You may be thinking, “oh, yeah, that’s what those giant holes in the earth are called!”.  Have you ever thought about the environmental impacts from “those giant holes in the earth”? Again, probably not.

If not conducted properly quarrying can have negative environmental impacts.  These include:

  • The removal of trees, vegetated areas, soil, and habitat loss required for many species to live.
  • Contamination of local water sources.
  • Acid mine drainage
  • The use of large amounts of water.
  • The creation of wastewater.
  • Air and soil pollution from heavy machinery.

All pose negative health risks for humans, non-animal species, and nature.

In a previous blog I discussed the importance of conservation and preservation.  Another crucial component is sustainability.  Sustainability is a principle that seeks to maintain the balance for both future and present species/generations.  If we are unable to find and maintain this balance, future generations will feel the impacts.  Limestone extraction is not immune.  Alongside practicing conservation and preservation to our limestone reserves, we also need to make certain our extraction methods are sustainable for our present and future generations, as well as the natural environment…and for the 4 for 4 at Wendy’s!

 

Best,

 

Adam

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