I flew home to Pittsburgh (home of the six-time super bowl champion Steelers!) this past Wednesday (barely making my connecting flight in time because a plane in front of us in Charlotte hit a deer on the runway. This is completely pointless to my blog, but an interesting story nonetheless). After finally landing at Pittsburgh International around midnight, my friend and I drove another hour or so to his school where I was staying. As we cruised along the highway, we noticed two very bright spotlights in the distance pointing straight skyward. My initial reaction was aliens of course, but he informed me that it was most likely the limestone quarry. I had no clue what he was talking about, but it caught my attention since we just played with rocks in Monday’s class. Apparently the little college town of Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania is home to one of the largest limestone quarries in the United States.
The Allegheny Mineral Corporation, owned and operated by Snyder Associated Companies, Incorporated, produces six different forms of limestone as well as limestone sand, rock fill and something called rip rap, a material used to protect shorelines and stream beds from water and ice erosion.
As we all know, limestone is a sedimentary rock consisting mainly of calcite, or calcium carbonate (CaCO2). It is quite soluble in acid. The limestone content in cement, mixed with the inevitable natural occurrence of acid rain, can be blamed for many of the potholes my Pennsylvanian roads are so well known for. Limestone is most commonly used for architectural purposes. The Allegheny Mineral Corporation mines large quantities of limestone for the manufacturing of commercial structures such as banks, schools, and other office developments.
Limestone is also a common ingredient in many of our regular household staples. I already knew that it could be found in most toothpastes and chewing gums, but I was surprised to learn that it is often added to our breads and cereals as an added source of calcium. Limestone also serves as an inexpensive filler ingredient and white pigment in paper, tile, paints and plastics.
We took a detour through the mine’s access roads, and I was taken aback by the exorbitant size of the property. Spanning a mass of approximately one thousand acres, employees work around the clock (which would explain the blindingly bright spotlights in the middle of a Wednesday night) excavating limestone material for international shipment.
The Allegheny Mineral Corporation operates three limestone mines in the wonderful commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with the Slippery Rock cite being the largest and most productive. So keep in mind the next time you brush your teeth, eat a sandwich, or pop in a piece of gum, that the mineral you are consuming may have come from the beautiful Amish countryside of middle of nowhere Pennsylvania.