Sources of Stone
The Dimensional of Canada
- Published: 21 February 2009 21 February 2009
It’s extremely big, cold in the winter, has six time zones, the maple leaf is the national symbol, and it’s a member of the G8. And, on top of that, Canada has great dimensional stone.
The U.S.’s northern neighbor is a growing producer and consumer of all types of natural stone. Production increased from approximately 559,000 tons in 1999 to 769,000 tons in 2003 (the last year for which official statistics are available).
The majority of quarries are located in southern Quebec, eastern Ontario and British Columbia. Most dimension-stone processing facilities are located in the same three provinces.
Canada is both an exporter and importer of raw and processed dimensional stone. In 2003, 52 percent of Canadian dimensional-stone exports went to China, while the United States received 45 percent. The country imports stone principally from the United States, South Africa and Brazil.
Demand for dimension stone is expected to remain firm, as commercial construction levels in North America maintain moderate growth. The economies of Canada and the United States are closely interlinked, and this is mirrored by the activities of the leading dimensional-stone companies on both sides of the border.
Let’s take a look at dimensional-stone production in each Canadian province or territory, in order of quarried tons.
In terms of volume, this province was Canada´s top producer of dimension stone, according to the latest data available (2003). Ontario’s Ministry of Northern Development & Mines (MNDM), notes that granite, limestone, marble, sandstone, soapstone and flagstone are extracted from more than 80 quarries in the province.
According to another official source, however, there were only 32 quarries active in 2003.(Contact details for Ontario stone producers can be seen at www.mndm.gov.on.ca/mndm/mines/mg/dimstone/alphprod_e.asp.)
The largest concentration of dimension-, building- and landscape-stone quarries in the province is at Wiarton. Granite occurs in northern, northwestern and southeastern Ontario.
Leading companies in the sector include Nelson Granite Ltd. and Manex Granit Inc. Arriscraft Corp. quarries a blue-grey to buff dolomitic limestone (dolostone) near Wiarton. Sold under the trade name Adair Marble, this stone has been widely used in prestigous construction projects including the Canadian Chancery in Washington.
Said to be Ontario´s most recognized building stone, Eramosa Marble was being extracted from at least six quarries by Owen Sound Ledgerock Ltd. Rough blocks of multi-coloured marble are also quarried about 35 km north of Sudbury.
Sandstone quarried near Toronto, Ottawa and Kingston has been widely used in Ontario for building. The Ontario Parliament Building is a vast pink sandstone edifice opened in 1893, and built with Credit Valley sandstone.
Quebec is Canada´s largest province geographically – with an area of 594,860 square miles, it’s slightly smaller than Alaska and could fit Texas twice within its borders.
In 2004, according to Quebec’s Ministry of Natural Resources & Fauna (MRNF), there were 106 active architectural-stone quarries active. Most are located in southern Quebec. About 20 companies quarry granite, mainly in the Riviere-a-Pierre region (17 quarries) and the Lac St Jean, St Lawrence North Shore, the Eastern Townships and Appalachian regions. Notable producers include Polycor, Granicor Inc. and A. Lacroix & Fils Ltée,
In addition to granite, Quebec has important sources of limestone, marble, dolomite, sandstone, gneiss, schist and quartzite.
The Website www.mrnfp.gouv.qc.ca/english/mines/architectural/architectural-quarrying.jsp includes a location map of active quarries in Quebec.
Newfoundland & Labrador
Dimensional stone has an uneven history here: in 1994, there were six active dimension-stone quarries in Newfoundland & Labrador. Ten years later, the number appeared to be at five – but only one of the original six remained on the list.
A slate quarry/processing plant in eastern Newfoundland, providing slabs and tiles of green and purple slate, closed for a short time in the early 2000s and now concentrates on roofing slate. And, a company that operated several granite quarries in central Newfoundland is now selling from its quarried stock, according to the province’s Department of Mines and Energy.
One success story is o, the northern Labrador coast, near Nain, where labradorite is quarried and shipped to Italy in 10- to 30-ton blocks through Torngait Ujaganniavingit Corp. (TUC), a dimension-stone quarrying and processing company owned by the Labrador Inuit Development Corp. (LIDC).
Quarrying commenced at Ten Mile Bay in 1992. A processing plant opened nearby in 2001. In 2001 a second quarry was opened at Iggiak Bay, about 40 km from Nain.
The Iggiak stone is a brownish granite, while at Ten Mile Bay the stone is grey with dark blue crystals.
A new plant to manufacture monuments and custom products was opened in Hopedale, Labrador, in 2002.
There are believed to be three companies currently quarrying granite in Manitoba. Cold Spring Granite (Canada) Ltd. operates a quarry and processing plant 14 km southeast of Lac du Bonnet in southeastern Manitoba. CanAmerican Granite Corp. operates three quarries 80 km east of Winnipeg and a processing plant in the provincial capital. And, Polycor operates a granite quarry 90 km east of Winnipeg.
Tyndall Stone, a mottled dolomitic limestone, is quarried by Gillis Quarries Ltd. at Garson, northeast of Winnipeg. The Legislative Building in Winnipeg is built of Tyndall Stone, and the stone can be found in other buildings in Canada and the United States. Manitoba Marble Inc. quarries a reddish dolomitic limestone called Manitoba Prairie Rose Marble in The Pas area, 35 km southeast of Snow Lake.
There are reported to be at least 114 known dimensional-stone occurences in British Columbia, including granite, gneiss, marble and quartzite. In 27 of these occurences, dimensional stone is a primary commodity.
Margranite Industry Ltd. and a related group of companies operate a well-equipped processing plant in Surrey, B.C., including a SIMEC line for resin-treatment of slabs installed last year; the product line includes several exclusive B.C. granites.
While not a quarrier itself, Westcoast Granite Mfg. of Delta, B.C., operates slabbing gang saws, cutting locally mined blocks as well as imported stone.
Matrix Marble & Stone Co. operates quarries on Southern Vancouver Island which yield Black Carmanah, Tlupana Blue and Island White marble. A block-cutting and slabbing factory is at Duncan, B.C.
There are also several nephrite jade deposits in the province, including two mines operated by Jade West 110 miles east of Juneau, Alaska.
Given the favourable location of many sources at or near tidewater, there is a distinct competitive advantage in transportation costs, particularly in servicing Pacific Rim markets. California, however, remains the largest single market for BC stone.
There is a surfeit of limestone in Alberta, but it is not used as dimensional stone. There appears to be no granite. Banff Springs Hotel was built in 1888 using Rundle Rock, described as a shale or sandstone by different sources. Thunderstone Quarries Ltd., founded in 1960, call it “a black or brown sedimentary shale,” which is quarried near Canmore outside of Banff National Park.
Granite is quarried intermittently for building and monumental purposes at a number of sites in New Brunswick. A red granite is available near St. Stephen, and pink, grey and blue-grey granites in the Hampstead (Spoon Island) district.
The exploitation and use of Nova Scotia sandstone and granite for building and monuments began in the mid-1700s. By the mid-1800s the province had become a major exporter, with some 75 quarries actively involved. Today just four quarries, albeit modern and well-equipped, are active.
There are Devonian granites on the southern mainland, Carboniferous sandstones in the northern mainland and Precambrian marbles on Cape Breton Island.
Also on Cape Breton, MacLeod Resources Ltd. quarries a range of their branded “Canada´s Marble.” The company exports blocks, through its agent in Carrara, Italy, for final processing as finished slabs and cut-to-size products.
Northwest Territories, Yukon & Nunavut
A decade or so ago, a Whitehorse-based processor of architectural stone evaluated several prospective granite sources in the Yukon. Grey-white and beige coloured granites were thought to have development potential. However, the current position on commercial exploitation is unclear.
A large, unique occurrence of limestone has been recognized in the Arctic at Bear Island, about 20 km from Coral Harbour. The fine-grained, attractively veined stone was judged to be excellent for sculptural and architectural uses.
On April 1, 1999, Canada gained its newest territory, with the Inuit homeland of Nunavut north of Manitoba. No decorative-stone sources have been reported there.
Prince Edward Island
This is the smallest of Canada´s provinces and it has no active dimension-stone quarries.
This central Canadian province does not appear to have any dimensional-stone quarries currently active.
This article first appeared in the November 2005 print edition of Stone Business. ©2005 Western Business Media Inc.