We've all seen them, sitting on the outskirts of town, surrounded by giant hills of stone, gravel and sand. They're known as gravel pits, sand pits, or quarries, which are specifically used to mine crushed stone from the earth. But once the stone has been dug up from the quarries, where does it go? Who buys that much gravel or crushed stone? How do quarries stay in business?
Below are the top 5 markets for quarries, who they sell to, and what they sell.
Government. All levels of government-city, county, state, and federal-buy crushed stone and other aggregates from quarries, making the government the single biggest customer quarries have. Over half of all quarry sales go to the government. They use this material for new roads and interstates and new government buildings.
Commercial new construction. Commercial construction companies use the aggregate bought at quarries in their construction of commercial buildings. These can be any buildings that are not residential, such as office buildings, hospitals, schools, retail centers, or even parking lots.
Residential new construction. Quarries provide the crushed stone needed for building new houses. It's used in foundations, as well as in driveways and landscaping.
Railroads. Railroads need a great deal of a material called ballast, which is the gravel and crushed stone that the railroads buy from quarries. This ballast is laid on the path where the rails will eventually be placed. Because of the characteristics of crushed stone and gravel, this keeps rails steady and supported under the heavy weight of trains, and allows for drainage so that the tracks do not get submerged.
Utility companies. Utility companies buy a great deal of crushed stone and gravel from quarries, because they need at least a little of it in every job they do. Laying or repairing pipes requires that the pipes be supported by and surrounded by gravel so that they do not shift and so that water can drain away from them. Putting up utility poles requires cement and aggregate reinforcement. Utility companies have many uses for this material, and keep quarries quite busy.
Quarries sell to other markets, as well, including plumbers, excavators, and landscapers. The aggregates they produce are even used to make glass and toothpaste! However, the above markets are five of the most lucrative customers for quarries, and demonstrate how closely the fate of our nation's quarries is tied to the rest of the country's economy.