A Tar Heel State Gem: The World’s Largest Open-Faced Granite Quarry

by | Oct 17, 2015 | News


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You may have heard of ‘The Rock’ at Mount Airy. It’s the single largest open-faced granite quarry in the entire world, which has made it something of a tourist attraction in recent years as well as a source of materials for stone fabricators throughout the world.

The Rock is a truly colossal feat of human engineering and endurance, with the quarry having provided granite and natural stone for nearly 120 years. Popular legend has it ‘The Rock’ is even visible from space.

The quarry is a marvel of the modern world and, best of all, it is showing no signs of slowing down when it comes to production. In fact, it is believed that there is enough material in the quarry to be mined for another 500 years at least, meaning it has been mined of approximately one-sixth of its full capacity so far. So, the largest open-faced granite quarry in the world is only set to get larger as time goes by.

However, the story of ‘The Rock’ goes back much further than the century or so that it has been in use as a quarry. In fact, the story starts more than 300 million years ago when it was formed as a result of plate tectonics when the African plate collided with the North American plate on which North Carolina sits.

It was an event that would cause catastrophic damage in the modern age, however, it put the events in motion that would eventually lead to the formation of ‘The Rock’. This is because the plate collision led to the development of molten rock that eventually rose to the surface and resulted in the creation of pluton. It is this igneous rock that gave the site the potential to be used as an open-faced quarry, and it is fair to say that it has more than lived up to its potential.

Fast-forward a few hundred million years and we have ‘The Rock’ as we know it today. It is a site that is mined for tons upon tons of granite and natural stone, which is used by fabricators for everything from bathroom designs to kitchen surfaces. Over the next five centuries, the industry expects it to continue to be one of the most important quarry sites in North America.