Michelle and I and some friends took a tour of the Fantiscritti marble quarry east of Carrara, Italy. We calculated a morning with good weather, as the clouds and accompanying storms can swoop in very quickly in the afternoons. We chose a Sunday, so the quarrymen, marble hauling trucks and equipment would not be working.
After checking in to the Carrara Marble Tour Company office, we had half an hour to explore the operations centre of the quarry. We found a very sweet chunk of statuario marble that had a really beautiful rough skin. Michelle took the photo (above) of me lying on it. I really coveted the block, as I could see an interesting sculpture incorporating that skin, but it was earmarked for someone else.
Our tour was made up of 14, and we piled into two Land Rovers and drove up the switchback road from the base at 400M to the summit at 1000M. Although sunny and warm at the base, it was markedly cooler at the summit. Our guide, Giada (Italian for jade), told us about the quarry and the Apuane Alps and we had a few moments for photos before heading back down.
Here’s a little video of our adventure:
This was an example of open pit quarrying. Using giant wire saws, they cut vertically on each side of a section of a “bench” that look like horizontal shelves or huge steps. Then they cut the horizontal bottom and finally the back side. Wire saws are long lines of steel cable that have knotted diamond teeth. 90º vertical and horizontal holes are drilled so the wire can be fed through to begin the cut. Just like a spinning clothesline, the wire is rotated and the motor is backed away until the cable wire saws through the marble. Then huge excavators push the wall of cut marble over onto pillows of crushed marble gravel. The large section is then cut again into quarry blocks and loaded and hauled down the mountain on flat bed trucks.
In our video, we pass several of these pits of benches and you get a glimpse of the scale next to the huge machinery. It was a Sunday, so all was quiet.
They also use giant chainsaws with up to 25 foot long bars to make the cuts, but these are usually used in the cave type of quarrying.
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