Etna Basalt Quarry Visit
December 4th, 2014 in Case Studies, Factory Visits, General, Quarry Visit
This months we visited our suppliers quarry and factory near Catania in Sicily. We have an order for 200sqm 600x600x10mm honed tiles and thought it a good time to pop over to see the production.
I always worry a bit when we are ordering large format (ish) tiles in 10mm in a product that may not normally be associated with that particular thickness/format. In this instance the tiles were prepared by firstly trimming the block to a handleable shape and size using a wire saw. Then a large disk was used to cut the strips (not much wider than the 600mm width we needed) that were subsequently honed on a polishing line and finally cut to size on a bridge saw.
The production in the factory was efficient and they knew what they were doing as they dealt solely dealt with their local basalt. A basalt that can be seen everywhere. Buildings, pavements, airport walls and floors.
This particular basalt is extremely consistent in its background colour as are regular black flecks on the surface. The slabs and blocks with the darker patches and more porous open areas are selected out at block stage so what we saw at every stage was very good. The tolerances of the cutting were +/- 0.5mm or less on the length and width +/- 1mm on the square so good, the square on the limit.
The quarry was a new experience for me. The quarry is in fact at the end of a massive lava flow, so they are not eating away at the famous Etna volcano but working miles from its base. It has an almost prehistoric, Flintstone ‘esque’ feeling. The technique employed to extract blocks was also something Barney Rubble would be a dab hand at but clearly it was the only way to do it. And the guy doing it was good (see our video below)… The quarry face is really random. Shards, folds and crevices, completely irregular and must be hard to know where to start.
Whilst there we were lucky to witness the picker type implement on the back of a JCB working away on a particular section that resulted in over 300 tonnes of basalt block crashing to the ground narrowly missing the guy operating the machine. incredible sight that shook the earth we were standing on. He was very pleased with his achievement as he should be. no doubt hours of work to get to that point.