The Villeveyrac bauxite mine (S France, 1997). © BRGM - François Michel

Quarry materials and minerals: addressing needs in civil engineering and industry

Unlike metals extraction, which ceased in mainland France many years ago, quarrying for materials and minerals is still a major sector of activity in France.

In a context of growing concern for the environment and increasingly stringent conditions for access to resources, nearly 4700 quarries, mainly open-cast, are still operating in France.

These are extraction sites for aggregate, ornamental stone and building stone for the construction and civil engineering sector, as well as some high added-value minerals essential to French industries.

BRGM is involved in various programmes for research and public policy-making support in the field of quarried materials and minerals.

Aggregate: the No° 1 raw material for civil engineering works

The need for building materials for housing and infrastructure is pushing up demand for aggregate - currently estimated at 400 million tonnes per year - which must be addressed by French industry.

“Natural” aggregate extracted from the subsoil in France accounts for nearly 95% of annual consumption in France. The remaining 5% is supplied by recycled aggregate (source: UNPG).

About 42% of natural aggregate is made up of loose rock material extracted from surface geological formations (river and glacial alluvium, marine sand) and 58% of crushed igneous or metamorphic rock (31%) or limestone (27%).

Ornamental and building stone: traditional materials to meet tomorrow’s needs

In the past, France’s highly diverse geological formations were the source of a wide variety of stone that has greatly contributed to the wealth and repute of France’s historic monuments.

Depending on their technical characteristics, different types of rock were extracted from quarries to supply dressed stone for building work, while others with more aesthetic qualities were used for decorative purposes.

In France today, the ornamental and building stone sector continues to thrive. Each year, some 400 quarries supply more than 400 000 m3 of stone blocks, mainly limestone and granite, which account for about 95% of all stone blocks produced (source: SNROC).

Industrial minerals: important deposits and leading players

Thanks to the activities of leading French industrial groups and the existence of a number of important deposits, France has remained a significant player in world production of industrial minerals.

These minerals are used for their specific properties in manufacturing processes or in composite products, and are essential to a great many industrial sectors such as plastics, papers, paints, ceramics, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, metallurgy, agri-foods or environmental technologies.

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