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Gypsum mineral quarry

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Quarrying Gypsum in Line with Nature

The mineral Gypsum precipitated some 10-400 million years ago when sea water evaporated. From a chemical point of view, it is Calcium Sulphate Dihydrate (CaSO4.2H2O) deposited in sedimentary layers on the sea bed. Under high pressure and temperature or under high salinity Gypsum turns into Anhydrite (CaSO4).



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In nature, Gypsum and Anhydrite occur as beds or nodular masses up to a few metres thick. Gypsum is mostly formed by the hydration of Anhydrite. The depth of hydration can range from the surface of the deposit down to three hundred metres, depending on temperature and pressure, topography and the structure of the deposit. Anhydrite is often mined in conjunction with Gypsum, but is comparatively limited in its technical applications. The content of calcium sulphate in a sedimentary rock varies from 70% to 100%, the rest being clay and limestone.


Gypsum is extracted from open-cast mines or underground mines using room and pillars mining methods. Gypsum is normally only screened to remove “fine particles” (mainly mudstones), then crushed and finely ground. The extraction process implies an unavoidable impact on the landscape and the natural environment. However, human activity does not necessarily mean loss of biodiversity and danger for eco-systems.


Indeed, without human economic activity, Central Europe would nowadays almost be exclusively covered with forests. This type of habitat is not particularly favouring the uptake of many species as many herbaceous plants cannot live under the leafy canopy of the trees due to the lack of light. Those conditions would also have prevailed at gypsum locations with relatively shallow soils. But as small-scale farming emerged, numerous plant species were able to migrate to the open habitats and the number of species steadily increased. Human activity resulted in a richer biodiversity. No mineral fertilizers and agrochemicals such as pesticides were available at that time. With the uptake of large scale farming and the intensive use of those chemical products, we observed a dramatic decrease in species and biodiversity. As a result of the large supply of nutrients, tall-growing species displaced low growing plants, and common species, also known as ubiquists, displaced rare plants. Human activity in that case meant a loss of biodiversity.


The development of a gypsum quarry creates the favorable conditions that provide habitats for photophilic and thermophilic (light and heat demanding) species, orchids, gentians and carnation because “disturbance ecology” can take place in and under: 1. Areas which are exposed to light thanks to the removal of tall-growing vegetation; 2. Oligotrophic soil conditions which are created thanks to the removal of the eutrophicated topsoil; 3. A wide variety of habitats which is obtained as a result of the different shapes of quarries.