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Dimension Stone Mining

Dimension stone is defined as rock that is removed from its original site to be used with minor alteration (rough stone) and rock that is broken, sawn, and/or ground and polished (cut or dressed stone) for use as building and/or ornamental stone. While most of the high-quality dimension stone produced in Arkansas is used in state, some is shipped to markets worldwide. Limestone and sandstone are used as dimension stone in Arkansas. Historically, much nepheline syenite was used as hand-worked building stone in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the Little Rock (Pulaski County) area, but beginning in the middle 1940s, those labor-intensive activities gave way to the use of crushed stone for syenite. A small market exists, also, for the use of white massive vein quartz for decorative stone in fireplace mantles and other small interior projects. The mining of dimension stone is labor intensive, and the cost of the product delivered to an end user is tied to both labor and transportation costs.

Rough Stone
Rough stone may be subdivided into field stone and rounded river stone. Field stone typically is simply picked up from loose debris material present on hillsides. It may or may not be covered with moss and typically has minor rounding due to weathering and mass transport down slopes. Sandstone is the dominant rock type of field stone since it often is deposited as thin flaggy beds, although some weathered limestone is also recovered for decorative use. Flagstone is a variety of field stone that consists of relatively thin plates, relative to its width and breadth. Rounded river rock is typically present on gravel bars of major drainages. This rock is near equi-dimensional in form and well rounded. It is hand picked and sorted based on size. Sandstone is the most commonly utilized stone. Several of the companies involved in dressed stone production in Arkansas also produce field stone as an additional product. One company, Beauty of Stone of Crawford County, produces rounded river stone as a major product. This stone has been shipped to custom building stone markets in the eastern United States.

Field stone and rounded river stone are used in a variety of exterior building applications, including walls, walkways, decorative fountains, and patios, as well as decorative applications such as garden rock and artificial waterway fill. In Arkansas, rough stone is produced from areas dominated by sandstone within the Ozark Mountains, Arkansas Valley, and Ouachita Mountains regions.

Dressed or Cut Stone
Dimension stone differs from field stone in that it is dressed or broken to dimensions, not used as it is picked off the ground. Therefore, fieldstone is weathered on all surfaces, where quarried stone is a different color because it is relatively fresh and unweathered. Dressed stone also is produced from quarries, whereas field stone is picked from the surface. Some dressed-stone operations can produce blocks of stone weighing up to about nine tons. Such large blocks require specialized equipment for extraction and transportation. The manufacture of building stone remains a labor-intensive industry. A finished piece of building stone is an expensive product due to extra labor costs. This means that a piece of stone that has been highly worked or polished costs more than a partially finished or rough block. Dimension stone may be sold as broken rough block (ashlar), sawn slabs, or finished product.

Flaggy sandstone is mined by several companies in Arkansas, the predominance of sandstone production being from the Hartshorne and Atoka formations (Pennsylvanian) in the western Arkansas Valley in Sebastian, Franklin, Logan, and Van Buren counties. Producers include Hackett Stone Company, Bobby Byrd Dimension Stone, and Cumbie Stone Company in Sebastian County; Gaylon Bennett Stone Co., Inc., of Franklin County; and Logan County Building Stone, Inc., of Logan County. Flaggy sandstone is also produced by Caston Stone in Stone County in north-central Arkansas from the Batesville Formation.

Ordovician age limestone and dolostone and Mississippian age limestones and sandstones of Independence County are mined and processed for both interior and exterior use by Oran McBride Stone Company. Ordovician age dolostone from the Cotter Formation of Carroll County is mined and processed for exterior use by Johnson’s Landscaping & Construction LLC. Eureka Stone Company, also of Carroll County, produces exterior and interior finished stone products from stone furnished by Johnson’s quarry.

Historical and Present Production
The first export of marble from Arkansas was in 1836, the year Arkansas became a state. Early production of marble from Arkansas was important for interior usage, as both paving stone and furniture and tabletops. (The term “marble” is applied by quarry operators to any limestone that will take a high polish. This causes some confusion because geologists define the word “marble” as a metamorphosed limestone, not based on its polishing characteristics.) Local trade names of Arkansas Black and RedArk Fossil are well known in the antique furniture business and originated from small dimension stone quarries operated within the Fayetteville/Pitkin Formations and St. Joe Limestone Member of the Boone Formation. A large block, produced from a dimension stone quarry near Marble Falls in Newton County from the Early Mississippian St. Joe Limestone, was shipped in 1836 to Washington DC for incorporation into the Washington Monument, sometime from 1848 to 1854.

Production figures have been withheld by the U.S. Geological Survey since 1966 to avoid disclosing individual companies’ proprietary data. The actual tonnages and value of dimension stone products from Arkansas are tied to the national economy. During housing and commercial building booms, dimension stone is in great demand, whereas during recessionary times, the demand is significantly lower. The current total annual production of Arkansas dimension stone as of 2009 is estimated to be approximately 100,000 tons, valued at $8.5 million.

For additional information:
“Arkansas State Minerals Information.” U.S. Geological Survey. http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/state/ar.html.

Barker, J. M., and G. S. Austin. Stone, Decorative in Industrial Rocks and Minerals. 6th ed. Littleton, CO: Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration, Inc., 1994.

“Industrial Minerals.” Arkansas Geological Survey. http://www.geology.ar.gov/minerals/industrial.htm (accessed December 9, 2009).

J. Michael Howard
Mabelvale, Arkansas

Last Updated 4/28/2010

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