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The programmes all feature specific locations in Northern Ireland and they also provide scope for work on a variety of themes e.g. the environment, where people live, what people do. The aim is to provide material which is relevant to pupils' experiences and which is illustrative of life in Northern Ireland.
About the Programme
Programme 2 - Quarries
Monday, 18 October 1999

ARCHIVE - SELB programme code :TH 0279

This episode is now part of our archive. This programme is still available to schools to borrow or purchase from the Audio Visual Recording service at the SELB. Please quote the SELB programme code in your correspondence. See our ordering page for more information.

The programme examines aspects of quarrying in Co Antrim, illustrating how the extraction of rock can affect people and the landscape.

The quarry industry is of major importance in the modern world. Today we depend upon it to construct, improve and maintain our homes, workplaces, hospitals, schools, shops, leisure facilities, roads, railways, water and sewage systems, airports, docks and nearly all the other structures that make up our "built" environment.

Crushed rock from quarrying is also used in iron, steel and cement manufacture, to clean power station emissions, to increase the productivity of agricultural land, to reduce acidification of both land and water and to produce paints, medicines and plastics. Sand is additionally used to make glass.
In the programme Donna Traynor looks at some aspects of quarrying in County Antrim. The four main areas she covers are:
  1. the underlying geology.
  2. the business of extracting and processing rock.
  3. the products that we get from quarrying.
  4. the environmental impact of quarrying.
The Underlying Geology
The programme focuses on County Antrim, an area that has two main types of rock. These are basalt which is black and limestone which is white.

Limestone is the oldest of these two rocks and it can be seen in places such as the White Rocks near Portrush. It is a sedimentary rock that was originally formed under warm tropical seas from the remains of tiny sea creatures. You can still see the remains of some of these creatures today, preserved in outcrops of limestone. These are known as fossils and one particular fossil known as a Belemnite can be found throughout County Antrim.

Limestone was formed in layers and these stand out as layers of flint. Flints are not regarded as fossils but they represent traces of sea sponges. In prehistoric times flint was an important product that was used to make knives and arrowheads.

Basalt rock lies over the limestone which can only be seen around the edges. Basalt is a volcanic rock that was originally formed from molten lava. When the lava cooled it created many of the landforms that we can see today throughout the county. The dramatic sea cliffs and headlands of the north coast are examples of these. Slemish Mountain near Ballymena is all that remains of a basaltic plug or core of an extinct volcano.
Image of rock formations
Extracting and Processing Rock.
In the programme we look at two different working quarries. One of these is a basalt quarry on the outskirts of Ballyclare. Here a great hole in the ground has been created over the years as a volcanic plug has been gradually taken away. Lots of different products come from this quarry and these include massive stone boulders that have been used to make a new harbour wall at Ballycastle. Similar boulders have been used at Carrickfergus Marina to shelter the boats from the sea.

Small stones are used in the building industry along with a fine powder called quarry dust. Stones are used as hard-core for roads as well as for making foundations. This particular quarry also produces asphalt which, among other things, is used to surface, roads, pavements, school playgrounds and car parks. Asphalt is made up of stones and other materials coated with bitumen. It is delivered hot so it has to be laid quickly to ensure that it does not harden before it is levelled.

The other quarry that we visit is a limestone quarry at Kilwaughter. As in all quarries it contains a lot of heavy machinery, so great attention has to be paid to safety. This is especially so when it comes to blasting the rock-face to extract rock. Before blasting can begin holes have to be drilled 20 metres deep ready for the placing of explosives. The explosives are packed into the holes by a qualified shot-blaster who knows exactly how much explosive must be used to blast out the rock-face. When the explosives are ready the whole area has to be evacuated to make sure that no one is hit by a stray flying rock. Then when everything is clear the shot-blaster sets off the blast by electrical charge. Each blast brings down something in the region of 10,000 tonnes of rock.

After the blast the broken rock is taken by dumper-truck to be fed into a crushing plant where the rock is broken down into smaller pieces. All of the different parts of the crushing plant are connected by a system of conveyor belts. Much of the limestone is put through a drying machine to extract moisture to make it easier to crush down further into powder. This takes place in a pulverizer.
Image of Quarries
The Products that we get from Quarrying
Quarrying provides many valuable products that are used in all sorts of different ways.
  • Lime is spread on the land to make it more fertile.
  • Limestone contains calcium so it is used as an ingredient of toothpaste.
  • It is also added to animal feed to help strengthen the bones of chickens and cattle.
  • uarry products are widely used in the building industry.
  • Limestone chips are used to pebble-dash walls.

Image of Quarry Machinery
The Environmental Impact of Quarrying
Quarrying has a dramatic impact on the landscape and the industry has become increasingly concerned with environmental issues. In the programme we look at two particular problems associated with quarrying.

For years, a stone crushing plant has been situated beside the Antrim coast road on the outskirts of Glenarm. The plant is noisy and dusty and is not the sort of thing that tourists want to see in an area of great natural beauty. European Union money has been made available to move the entire plant away from this location to a new site in a quarry just outside the village. This will place the crushing plant right in the quarry that provides it with rock. This should also help the local tourist industry by clearing away what is widely regarded as an eyesore. The project will pave the way for the refurbishment of Glenarm harbour which has fallen into serious disrepair. The old limestone walls will be repaired and the area generally made to look much more attractive. It will also give the local salmon farming business space to expand. It is hoped that the whole project will get underway soon and the whole environmental problem should be solved within the next few years.

A different problem still has to be resolved at Magheramourne, on the shores of Larne Lough. Magheramourne used to be the largest limestone quarry in Northern Ireland but it is no longer in production. It has been proposed that, subject to planning permission, the quarry be used as a "Superdump" to dispose of rubbish from all round the Greater Belfast area. If allowed, rubbish would be transported to Magheramourne by road and rail and placed in the quarry in layers over the next thirty years. When the quarry is finally filled in it would then be landscaped. The proposal would provide jobs in the local area but there have still been many objections to the proposal. Objectors say that the transport infrastructure was not designed to take so much heavy traffic and local roads will gradually be broken up. They also say that toxic elements in the waste could percolate down into the water table and do serious long-term damage to the local environment. This could include poisoning the waters of Larne Lough.
Image of  Maghermourne Quarry
Before the Programme

  • Discuss the meaning of the following keywords:
  • Locate County Antrim on a map of Northern Ireland.
  • Mark the following places on a map of County Antrim:-
    Ballyclare, Belfast, Carrickfergus Glenarm, Kilwaughter, Larne Lough, Magheramourne, Portrush.

Map of Co. Antrim
After the Programme

  • Ask the class whether they know of any quarries near where they live.
  • Ask whether they would like to work in a quarry.
  • What would be the advantages and disadvantages of working in that sort of environment?
  • Discuss the sort of procedures that they would have to observe to make the working environment safe.
  • How many different products can they name that come from quarries?
  • Discuss what should be done with quarries when they are no longer being used.
  • What would they do with Magheramourne quarry? Should it be used as a "Superdump"? Can they think of any alternative ways of disposing of the vast amounts of rubbish that we as a society create?
Geography Programmes
Programme 1:
Programme 2:
Programme 3:
Strangford Lough
Programme 4:
Textile Industry
Programme 5:
Traffic Survey
Can't find your subject? Visit our archive section where you can find programmes supporting other curricular subjects, including: Geography, History, Citizenship and English.

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