Nature in an active quarry: Rosal Stones has conducted an inventory of animals and plants in its San Cosme limestone quarry

In the quarry, nature shows that it has species for colonizing unusual habitats.

“Horizontal“ quarrying might have a positive effect

Sometimes unusual things come together in natural stone quarrying. In this case, it is about a study of fauna and flora in a Spanish site and an innovative form of extraction. We are talking about the company Rosal Stones, which extracts limestone and sandstone in the Murcia region and has recently started using the horizontal method in hard limestone quarries. One after the other.

In 2023, the company commissioned the environmental organization Camp Altiplano to draw up an inventory of the animals and plants in its San Cosme quarry. The Abadía limestone is extracted there. Catalina Sánchez, Managing Director of the company, says that as part of the company’s normal environmental commitment, they wanted to know what was creeping and crawling between the rocks and wheel loaders.

The results regarding the animals were surprisingly positive: the observers came across 30 bird species, 27 of which were diurnal and three nocturnal. These included 16 passerines and eleven other species.

It should be noted that the surveys were conducted on days when the quarry was in operation.

The ibexes (Capra pyrenaica) in the quarry are perfectly camouflaged.

Spectacular animals were even encountered, including birds of prey such as the kestrel, peregrine falcon, and griffon vulture, as well as the nocturnal eagle owl and tawny owl.

And more: “27 of the species were resident, i.e. they remain in the area permanently and breed there,“ the final report states

As far as mammals are concerned, five species were found. Three of them are hunted (ibex, wild boar, and fox) and two are protected (genet and marten).

Three species of amphibians and reptiles were directly observed (Iberian lizard, swan lizard and common gecko).

A study of the plant population was also conducted. Above all, there were so-called pioneer species. The untrained eye usually does not see much of them because these plants do not form meadows but stand alone.

There were herbaceous and shrubby species here, even on the scree slopes. Esparto grass (Stipa tenacissima) was the predominant species, and there were large numbers of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and thyme (Thymus vulgaris) everywhere. Juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus, Juniperus phoenicea) was also common.

Even though the plant density was low, pollinators such as bees and butterflies had already joined in.

One current assumption is that the unexpectedly diverse animal and plant life could have something to do with the way the stone is quarried. Rosalstones has introduced horizontal quarrying in San Cosme: it quarries its limestone here in the same way that sandstone is cut from the rock elsewhere: a saw blade runs on rails through the quarry and cuts the raw block free from the base.

Ladybug on thyme (Thymus vulgaris).

Normally, limestone is extracted like marble: a large piece is detached from the rock face and then tilted forward. Catalina Sánchez calls this vertical quarrying.

The horizontal method has various advantages, she says:
* it causes hardly any noise,
* you can saw dry, so no water is used, and yet there is less dust than usual,
* there is less stress and disturbance for animals and plants in the vicinity.

Finally, from the workers’ point of view, the process offers far fewer hazards than usual.

Horizontal extraction also has economic advantages: around 60% of the material can be processed, compared to the usual 20%. Final results should be available by the end of 2024.

Rosal Stones had already used this method for years in its quarries where the softer Albamiel stone is extracted.

And finally: in parallel with horizontal extraction, Rosal Stones is renaturalizing three hectares of former quarry land, reintroducing native species such as the holm oak (Querqus ilex).

Rosal Stones

Camp Altiplano

Fotos: Camp Altiplano

(22.04.2024, USA: 04.22.2024)