In this Essay I will inform you of the social, economic and environmental advantages/ disadvantages which relate to the activity and outcomes of the Limestone Industry.
Charlie Macgilchrist 10C
GCSE Double Science/ Chemistry/ Mr Ward/ Term 1
15th Oct 03 Science Essay-The Limestone Industry
In this Essay I will inform you of the social, economic and environmental advantages/ disadvantages which relate to the activity and outcomes of the Limestone Industry.
Firstly is shall answer the highly common and simple question; ‘Why bother Having this industry?’
Look around you. The house your siting in, warm and cosy wouldn’t be standing if it wasn’t for the limestone industry, in fact buildings as strong 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 themselves, wouldn’t exist if the limestone industry didn’t. I like the new car you’ve got out side, im 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 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. Glass jewels, ornaments, spectacles, kitchen-ware 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?
Well limestone happens to be calcium carbonate that reacts quite easily with acid, neutralising 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 optimise 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 reduces the pH of the chemicals surrounding the crops below pH7, which in turn 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 into Rivers and Lakes. The unused fertiliser is washed away into the rivers which then feeds the Algae and water bacteria, which then grows rapidly, 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, and 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 that have a pH of 7. Without using this it inevitably leaves the farmer with no food, no fertile land , no fish and no money, and us 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 fertilisers to form a mineral salts salt, which is both neutral and soluble so the crop can easily absorb the minerals safely from it. It also aids the rate of photosynthesis since the products of the reaction between the fertiliser(s) and the limestone also include carbon dioxide, water, and since this is an exothermic reaction it also releases energy in the form of heat. All three of these products are essential factors of optimising the rate of photosynthesis in plants, hence they increase the growth of the crop as well as saving it’s health and allows bigger amounts of crop to be grown, sold and eaten in a much shorter time-scale. Any unreacted fertilisers can be neutralised 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 clearly increases the profits of the Farming company substantially and prevents the starvation of us humans who buy and eat the crop.
This is a preview of the whole essay
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 and Calcium oxide is a hard strong material that’s also cheap and ideal for mixing with other compounds for producing statues and sturdy long lasting foundations for houses. 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 important too. It can easily 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 alumna, silica, lime, iron oxide, and magnesium oxide, which is burned together in a kiln and finely pulverised and used as an ingredient of mortar and concrete, which sets really 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 it’s 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, and its supply wont be as large either. Also Metamorphosed limestone (Marble) is a sturdy, strong and highly unreactive, long lasting material that is used for ornamental uses.
How does the limestone industry benefit road making and production of pavements?
As well as being an essential part of cement and concrete(mortar), in it’s rawest state(Limestone aggregate) it can be used as a base for the production of roads and pavements before tarmac is laid on top. 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 metals in the reactivity series can be formed very fast, because of its vast quantities cheaply, and in mass production. Because its about the most highest reactive metal that’s also in vast quantities it forms glass that’s a very unreactive stable bonded salt, and because its high in the reactivity series it isn’t at threat by many other metals from being displaced to form other metal silicates. Only the metals that are in small quantities thus expensive and highly reactive(Sodium, Lithium, Potassium etc…)can displace the glass, and its highly unlikely 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 is the Calcium compounds that benefit its cheap mass production, because without it, 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 thermosflasks to keep food/drink hot or cold, without the use of electricity.
Also since there are many coloured metals(mainly oxides) that 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 to be used in Jewels, and is found in millions of spectacles, which without many people couldn’t see. 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 an aid to their short/long sightedness and the thermosflask which takes an important role in peoples holidays wouldn’t exist, or at least be cheap enough to be worth while.
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 Gas state. Therefore it can only react with other chemicals in the furnace and will as such 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, hence in a furnace at 2000 degrees Celsius it will float on top of the molten Iron, seperating the slag from the pure iron which is them extracted for solidifying and usage via a separate pipe in the furnace. The Calcium compounds produced themselves, are 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 quite 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 is very cheap, and comes easily in large quantities for huge 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 obviously leads me into the next section about limestone-How it benefits employment in our society.
So how does the Limestone Industry Benefit Employment to 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 specialised or anonymous goods, and aid the purpose of their business by significant amounts. This means that businesses that specialise 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 to the businesses can earn a living by working for them.
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 inevitable 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 specialise 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 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 break heavily, the limestone is literally thrown out of the containers and in to the atmosphere.
- Because lorries drivers take short cuts 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 drivers 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 peoples windows and settle as 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 country side areas in the same principle. It rests on habitats and animals furs and skins, and because of the limestone’s colour it destroys the animals chance of survival because it stunts the animals camouflage in its surroundings. This allows the animals predator(s) to seek destroy and eat a lot easier, increasing in the numbers of predators and seriously reducing in the numbers 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. 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 foodchains 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 aswell.
- 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 breath as easily.
- One of the main disadvantages is the noise pollution causes 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 loosing 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 any more. 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, loose 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 it’s major downfalls; which can be alarming, the limestone industry is an essential part of out well being as a whole, producing many useful outcomes from the quarried limestone which without, would make life so much more 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 realise what real changes its 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!
By Charlie Macgilchrist 10C