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The Limestone Industry Essay

In this essay, I will inform you of the social, economic and environmental advantages/ disadvantages that relate to the activity and outcomes of the Limestone Industry. Firstly is shall answer the ubiquitous and simple question; ‘Why bother Having this industry?’ Look around you. The house you are sitting in, warm and cozy, wouldn’t be standing if it wasn’t for the limestone industry; in fact, buildings as solid and durable as these are wouldn’t exist. Finding it hard to read this essay? A little bit short-sighted, perhaps? Then get out you reading specs that they wouldn’t exist if the limestone industry didn’t.

I like the new car you’ve got outside; I’m sure that if the limestone industry didn’t exist, neither would your car because steel manufacturing to make the car would be too expensive. Hungry? Then swipe some of the millions of fresh and delicious vegetables from the local supermarket that wouldn’t be so cheap, let alone delicious, if the limestone industry didn’t exist. In fact, without this industry, there would be no fertile farming land so that farming wouldn’t exist. Foundations and cement for buildings, statues, pavements and roads couldn’t be made to the cheapest and highest standard and strengths they are now; the sea wave barriers couldn’t be produced to prevent erosion against the coasts.

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Glass jewels, ornaments, spectacles, kitchenware and windows couldn’t be made, and hundreds of thousands of people around the entire world would be missing a job. So how exactly does farming benefit from the Limestone Industry? Limestone happens to be calcium carbonate that reacts quite quickly with acid, neutralizing it and forming salts as the product. In farming, to grow healthy crops, you need a pH level as close to neutral (pH7) as possible and nitrates, phosphates, CALCIUM, potassium and other minerals including water, light and carbon dioxide to optimize growth and nutrition. Using ammonium salts such as ammonium nitrate provides the crops with a high concentration of nitrates, but this is decomposed by the plant leaving(Depending on the reactants in the salt.)

Sulphur, Nitric and other harmful Acids building up in the soil, thus reducing the pH of the chemicals surrounding the crops below pH7, which can substantially stunt the growth and health of the crop and eventually kill it. It also contaminates and poisons animals and drinking water since the acids are washed away into the ground and Rivers and Lakes. In addition, the unused fertilizer is washed away into the rivers, which then feeds the Algae and water bacteria, which then proliferates, using up all the dissolved oxygen in the water, causing the other water plants and sea creatures to suffocate, die and decay (This process is called EUTROPHICATION.).

Since we produce a lot of sulphur and nitrogen dioxide emissions from factories and transportation, which dissolve into water to form acids, this too has the same effect on the farmland and environment. The only quick, reliable, easy and affordable way to reverse this is to add Limestone or quicklime, which reacts fast with the excess acids to produce calcium salts with a pH of 7. Without using this, it inevitably leaves the farmer with no food, fertile land, fish, and money, and we humans and animals starving to death with no food either. But this can be reversed by the application of limestone dissolved into the moisture surrounding the crops.

It reacts with the fertilizers to form a mineral salts salt, both neutral and soluble, so the crop can easily absorb the minerals safely. It also aids the rate of photosynthesis since the products of the reaction between the fertiliser(s) and the limestone include carbon dioxide and water. Since this is an exothermic reaction, it also releases energy in the form of heat. All three of these products are essential factors of optimizing the rate of photosynthesis in plants; hence, they increase the crop’s growth and save its health and allow more significant amounts of the crop to be grown, sold, and eaten in a much shorter time scale.

Any unreacted fertilizers can be neutralized by the blasting of Calcium Carbonate and Oxide powders into the rivers to prevent eutrophication; this saves the land, crop, sea creatures and us, humans, from being poisoned by contaminated drinking water, and increases the profits of the Farming company substantially and prevents the starvation of us humans who buy and eat the crop. So how does the limestone industry benefit the building of houses, buildings-foundations and concrete statues? Limestone composites of Calcium oxide and Carbon dioxide Molecules bonded together. Calcium oxide is a complex, strong material that’s also cheap and ideal for mixing with other compounds for producing statues and sturdy, long-lasting foundations for houses.

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Mixed with other chemicals, it dries as a good glue too, hence using it in cement for the ‘gluing’ together of bricks for the construction of buildings and houses is essential too. It can quickly be produced through the simple THERMAL DECOMPOSITION of Calcium Carbonate with dry powdered clay into Calcium Oxide and Carbon Dioxide. This is done in fast mass production inside huge kilns at temperatures around 2700 degrees Celsius. It is then mixed into a powder of alumina, silica, lime, iron oxide, and magnesium oxide, which is burned together in a kiln and finely pulverized and used as an ingredient of mortar and concrete, which sets dry and hard for good foundational support of large buildings.

It is essential for the production of cement because it makes up almost 40% of its total mass- so without it, cement may well not exist, and it certainly won’t be strong enough to support and hold together massive statues and buildings. Its supply wont is as large either. Also, Metamorphosed limestone (Marble) is a sturdy, solid and highly unreactive, long-lasting material used for ornamental purposes. So how¬†do the limestone industry benefit road making and production of pavements? As well as being an essential part of cement and concrete(mortar), in its rawest state(Limestone aggregate), it can be used as a base for the production of roads and pavements before the tarmac is laid on top. The same applies for the construction of houses and statues- it’s laid down as a base before the foundations and housing are put onto.

How Does the limestone industry benefit glass production and manufacturing? Calcium Oxide, a product formed from the decomposition of Calcium Carbonate) is cheap and plentiful and can be applied to sand( sodium dioxide)and heated strongly to form Calcium Silicate(Common Glass) which since Calcium is one of the highest medals in the reactivity series can be formed very fast, because of its vast quantities cheaply, and in mass production. Because it’s about the highest reactive metal that’s also in vast quantities, it forms a glass that’s a very unreactive stable bonded salt. Because it’s high in the reactivity series, it isn’t a threat by many other metals from being displaced to form other metal silicates.

Only the metals in small quantities, thus expensive and highly reactive(Sodium, Lithium, Potassium etc…), can displace the glass, and it’s doubtful anyone would put one of those metals in their drinks or use them to clean the windows. Since the use of glass is so numerous and essential to our community, so are the Calcium compounds that benefit its cheap mass production because, without it, the glass wouldn’t be so widely available. Hence its prices would be sky-high, and many of us would have to put up with medieval wooden windows instead! Glass can be used in thermos flasks to keep food/drink hot or cold, without the use of electricity.

Also, since many coloured metals(mainly oxides) can be mixed into the glass without being reactive enough to displace the silicate, coloured glass can be made for ornamental use into glass artwork and stained glass windows. This can now be cut to miniature size and complex shapes used in Jewels and is found in millions of spectacles, which people couldn’t see without many. If Calcium didn’t exist, all this glass would be too expensive even for the seriously rich and wouldn’t be as widely and easily made. Millions of people would be missing aid to their short/long-sightedness, and the thermos flask, which takes a vital role in people’s holidays, wouldn’t exist or at least be cheap enough to be worthwhile.

How does the limestone industry benefit the production of iron from iron ore? Lump limestone is the product of the reaction between Calcium Oxide and Carbon Dioxide, and as a result of the thermal decomposition of limestone in a furnace to extract iron from iron ore, the new product Calcium compound (Calcium oxide) cannot react with the CO released because it is in Liquid state compared to the Gas state. Therefore, it can only react with other chemicals in the furnace and will, with the slag in the iron ore (sands, silicates, earth, etc…). It reacts with this and produces Calcium silicates (CaSiO3) which are less dense than iron. A furnace at 2000 degrees Celsius will float on top of the molten Iron, separating the slag from the pure iron, which is then extracted for solidifying and usage via a separate pipe in the furnace.

The Calcium compounds produced themselves have transported out the furnace via a separate pipe further up and can then be used in building materials, cement manufacture and glass productions. Because limestone is so widely available and also relatively high in the reactivity series, the reaction to separate the slag from the Iron by using this chemical is fast and cheap, so producing pure iron and steel for use in piping, transportation, shelter and other resources are very cheap, and comes easily in large quantities for massive mass production which inevitably aids the employment of the population, since the more steel produced, the bigger the factories to make use of it; and the bigger the factory, the more people needed to work in it and allow it to succeed. This leads me into the next section about limestone-How it benefits employment in our society.

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So how does the Limestone Industry Benefit Employment in our society? The activity of the limestone industry involves building Machinery to quarry the stone, lorries and other vehicles to transport the stone, people to develop, expand and work for the business(Mainly those who use the machinery to extract the stone and drive its transportation units.) and people to work for the companies that use the limestone to mass-produce their specialized or anonymous goods, and aid the purpose of their business by significant amounts. This means that businesses that specialize in building lorries and digging machinery have to exist and be in production for the limestone industry itself to function and produce its desired outcomes.

Today many of these companies require the use of human abilities to allow these manufacturing companies to produce the outcomes. Hence employment becomes available, meaning people who live locally can earn a living by working for them. Furthermore, since there is so much of this limestone available to be extracted from the earth’s quarries, there are many quarries around the world that are inevitably large hence allow employment to millions of people to come and work at the quarry for a living.

Because the limestone is so widely used( for windows, farming, glass cutlery, steel production, building foundations, etc…) hundreds of other smaller businesses which specialize in these particular areas can develop, and make full use of the stone, thus producing even more employment in very large scales(hundreds of millions) because the smaller businesses themselves like, almost all businesses big or small, require the human ability to allow them to survive, function and perform its desired outcomes associated with the use of the limestone. So what are the disadvantages of the limestone industry? As well as having many advantages, the limestone also brings many environmental disadvantages, and consequences, both long term and short term;

  • Calcium Carbonate, Calcium Oxide and their compound aggregates are Sedimentary rocks compressed slightly into harder Metamorphic rocks but not quite enough to be classified as hard. Instead, they remain slightly soft, sandy and chalky, and therefore when extracted using the drilling tools and the frequent occurrences of explosions in the quarries, they break down into much smaller particles which then drift around in the air, and are transported away by the atmospheres convection currents into the quarries local towns, cities and rural countryside areas in the form of dust, settling on things and ‘hanging’ around in the air around us.
  • It’s also released by the fast swaying and shaking of ‘hurrying’ lorries that transport the stone, obviously in its finer powdered form, because they travel so fast to deliver the goods in as little time as possible, and because the quarries don’t bother to put covers on the containers of the sandstone(in the shape of large skips,) which are overfilled anyway, hence when the lorries brake heavily, the limestone is literally thrown out of the containers and into the atmosphere.
  • Because lorries drivers take shortcuts to their destinations, this means they ‘cut’ through cities and built-up areas, which because of their dangerous high-speed driving, immense size, and poor handling, claims the lives of many people, mainly children on the roads every year-Mostly being the impatient driver’s fault. Because of these crashes and the location in which they happen, lots of limestone dust is sprayed everywhere and into the atmosphere of the towns and cities, which then travel through people’s windows and settle like dust in their houses.

If this doesn’t succeed then the crushed limestone that’s left lying around on the quarry grounds will. It’s taken up by the tracks in the trucks and lorries tyres,(which are probably never cleaned!)and this is they deposited down on the roads that the lorries take,(The short cuts mainly in large towns and cities)as the tyre tracks wear down. Because the lorries travel so fast and have a Cd figure of about 0.99(not really probably nearer 0.5), this means that its wind resistance causes fast winds to circulate the truck, so any limestone that comes off its tyre is inevitably thrown up in the air, and the crushed limestone then breaks down into small grains of dust and travels via the atmospheres convection current into houses and resting on its insides, causing a dusty mess!

  • The dust, as well as being a bloody nuisance making a mess of the urban areas also strikes the rural countryside areas in the same principle. It rests on habitats and animals’ furs and skins, and because of the limestone’s colour, it destroys the animal’s chance of survival because it stunts the animal’s camouflage in its surroundings. This allows the animal’s predator(s) to seek destroy and eat a lot easier, increasing the number of predators and seriously reducing in the number of prey. This, over a long time scale, can affect the food cycles of the animals that live in those local rural areas dramatically; the prey will become extinct, leaving the predator to slowly starve to death, and become extinct itself, and so on.
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Because of this, there is an increase in the number of plants and ‘producers’ that the prey fed off. Depending on the types of animals and food chains it affects, this can affect us because the predator and/or prey might happen to be our prey too, thus we miss out on extra food and the ‘producers that the animals could feed off might be poisonous to us, so they may as well be wiped out too. This may cause changes to other animals that aren’t affected by the camouflage problem but feed off the same producer. Hence they increase in population, which in turn increase the population of their prey, which are likely to be of less use to us. That can be the case, but it is possible that the reverse effect can happen where more of the prey we need increases instead. Hence this issue can be a benefit to us as well.

  • The Calcium carbonate dust can be breathed in by humans and animals that live locally to the quarry. The dust can harm our lungs and is a big and unpleasant disadvantage since over a short time scale of being exposed to such conditions, it causes breathing difficulties, the most common being sore-throats, people develop asthma and can have serious asthma attacks, and over a long time scale it can trigger Bronchitis and other lung diseases. The dust has similar effects (but obviously not as concentrated) as tar does from cigarette smoke, hence stunting the performance of our lungs so we can’t breathe as easily.
  • One of the main disadvantages is the noise pollution caused by the rowdy transportation units during the night, and the digging, drilling and explosive machinery during the day- almost every day, all year round. As well as this there’s the air pollution of sulphur and carbon monoxides from the exhausts of the machinery, which can harm and destroy plants, water life and animals living near the quarry, and increase the likeliness and frequency of smog and global warming- this affects not only the locals and population near the quarry but the whole world!
  • As a result of the above and the fact that 9 times out of 10, quarries sacrifice beautiful countryside and destroy animals habitats to make way for the industries development, and resources, this makes whatever houses and built-up areas that are local to it very undesirable and unattractive places to be. Because of this, the locations and buildings decrease in value, and become unreasonably cheap because of their lack of desirability, meaning people who in no doubt want to move away from the area as quickly as possible, will find it really hard and end up selling their house eventually at too little a price losing loads of money in the process.

Because the quarries will only grow, so does the ugliness and pollution of the location, hence the tourists that used to visit the local places don’t bother to go anymore. Because of the reduction of the number of tourists, shop keepers, pubs, restaurants, tourists attractions and businesses that depend on tourists to make a profit, lose money and end up closing down. This inevitably affects the economy and wealth-creating opportunities in the area and turn it into a run-down immigrant and ethnic inhabited ‘ghost town’, instead.

Concluding the advantages and disadvantages of the limestone industry; Despite its major downfalls; which can be alarming, the limestone industry is an essential part of our well-being as a whole, producing many useful outcomes from the quarried limestone which without, would make life so much harder and expensive. There are so many things that the limestone industry has to offer and given to us in the past, that we simply take it for granted because we haven’t stopped to think and realize what real changes it made over the last few hundred years for us to see the true and good side of the limestone industry. It’s so important that your life and everyone else’s depends on the limestone industry- without it, probably non-of us today would exist!

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