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Common questions

Some common questions about quarrying are below. If you have a question that we haven’t answered, email it to us at

What is a quarry?

A quarry is a place where stone is dug from the ground. There are two types of quarries: those that produce sand and gravel; and those that produce harder rock. Rock quarries are deeper and use explosives to blast the material from the ground. Shallower deposits of sand and gravel are dug with a mechanical shovel. We can also quarry gravel from the seabed. Explore the Virtual Quarry to find out more.

Why do we need quarries?

Without quarrying, life as we know it could not exist. The products from quarrying give us our homes, roads, hospitals... even our schools! A typical family creates a need for about a lorry load of stone every year.

Watch our video clip to see how quarries are a big part of a child’s everyday life.

Modern houses are built almost entirely from materials made from rocks:

  • The bricks and roof tiles are made from clay
  • The mortar that bonds the bricks is made from sand, lime and cement
  • The foundations and blocks are made of concrete, - a mixture of cement, aggregates and water
  • The plaster is made from gypsum
  • The glass in the windows is made using sand.

What else is quarried material used for?

Limestone is one of the most useful of all rocks. It can be used as a building or ornamental stone or crushed to make concrete or roads. Finely ground limestone makes cement and iron, adds calcium to animal feeds, lime for a variety of industrial and agricultural processes... and much more.

Limestone is even used as an abrasive in your toothpaste! You might be surprised at these other unusual uses for rocks:

  • Ground chalk is added to bread to give us calcium
  • Pills often contain white clay
  • Salt is added to our food during cooking
  • Clay is used in face creams.

What happens to quarries when all the stone has been removed?

Quarrying is a temporary rather than permanent use of the land. Sand and gravel quarries are often restored in stages, perhaps to farm land. Some quarries become nature reserves or sports pitches. Visit the Virtual Quarry website to restore your own quarry or watch a film about amazing uses for old quarries.

Can I visit a quarry?

Quarries are fascinating places to visit, but only if you’re with people who are trained to keep you safe. Never go to a quarry on your own. Many of the quarries across the UK host school visits - ask your teacher to contact us at to find out more.


Without quarrying, life as we know it could not exist. The products from quarrying give us our homes, roads, hospitals... even our schools!

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