The Rock and Mineral Industries in Vermont
Words to Know
Vermont's most famous stone industry is the quarrying of granite, a hard, igneous rock. Granite is quarried in the Vermont Piedmont and was once an important industry in towns like Hardwick and Woodbury. The center of the granite industry in Vermont is Barre. Barre is known as the "granite city" of Vermont. The deepest granite quarries in the world are found there, including the Rock of Ages quarries. Several other large quarries also produce this hard, heavy stone. The blocks of granite are hauled out of the quarry by huge derricks. It is split into smaller pieces and then transported to a finishing plant. The granite is washed, cut, polished, and carved into cemetery monuments and statues. Because granite is so hard, it is also used in the construction industry for building fronts and foundations.
Another important stone industry in Vermont is the quarrying of marble, a metamorphic rock. The center of the marble industry is Proctor in the Taconic Mountains. It is also quarried in Danby. Marble comes in many different colors and patterns. It is used in buildings, floor tiles, fireplaces, and tabletops. Marble is also ground up into a fine powder that is used in paints, plastics, vinyl compounds, rubber, and even in food, such as chewing gum. The calcite in the marble powder acts as a filler and mixed with the other ingredients in these products. The filler extends the mix so that the products are less expensive to produce.
Limestone was also quarried in Vermont, especially in Grand Isle County. Limestone is a sedimentary rock and much softer than marble, which is metamorphosed limestone. Limestone is used in fertilizer. Buildings made of limestone may still be seen in Grand Isle County towns like Isle La Motte.
Slate quarrying is another stone industry that is active in the Taconics. Slate is a metamorphic rock that is formed from shale by extreme heat and pressure. The slate quarries are on the western side of the mountains in the towns of Poultney, Pawlet, and Wells. These slate quarrying areas extend into eastern New York State. Slate comes in different shades like green, gray, and red. It is used for roof shingles, floor tiles, and flagstones. Big slate sheets were once used to make pool tables and for school chalkboards.
Talc has been mined for many years in the Green Mountains near Johnson. Talc is a soft, slippery feeling mineral that is used in paints, papermaking, soap, baby powder, and crayons. In its massive form it is called soapstone. Soapstone is used for tabletops, wood stoves, and electrical insulators.
Asbestos is another mineral that has been mined in the northern Green Mountains near Eden and Lowell. The big mine can be easily seen on the side of Belvidere Mountain. Asbestos is used in brake linings, fireproof materials for buildings or clothes, and in insulation. Asbestos is no longer as important as it once was. Recently much attention has been given to the health hazards of asbestos, as it is believed to cause severe types of cancer.
Copper ore was mined in the eastern part of Orange County for many years. Smith Ely of New York City operated large mines in Vershire during the 1800's. Mr. Ely was so important the residents even named the town after him for four years (1878 to 1882). The most successful copper mining was done during World War II when the ore was taken from the Elizabeth Mine in Strafford by the Vermont Copper Company. This highly pure copper ore, also found in Corinth, is no longer mined in Vermont.
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