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Technical paper: Engineering geology and construction materials

By A B Malkin

This paper was first published in GE’s September 1976 issue


The supply of raw materials for the construction industries in Britain is an important sector of the economy, providing a large tonnage of material at comparatively low prices. The other major extractive industry is coal mining, and Table I compares the production and value of these materials for 1963 and 1974.

The bulk of the production consists of crushed rock or natural aggregate and these are used mainly for road construction and for concrete. Smaller quant’ities are produced for granular fill, rail ballast and filter media. Bulk fill of rock, sand, shale or clay is excavated for embankments, dams, breakwaters and general site preparation works. Relatively small quantities of natural rocks aire extracted for masonry, roofing, cladding and general architectural purposes. For cement manufacture large quantities of limestone, chalk, clay and shale are extracted. A variety of clays and shales are also dug for brick and tile production. Table II lists the production of some of the more important construction materials in recent years.

By reason of transport costs the majority of the raw materials are used within a relatively short distance of their source. However, with the development of local and to some extent regionial, shortages and the economies of bulk handling, this tradiitional pattern is slowly breaking down. Thus the use of liner-trains to bring crushed rock aggregate from the Mendips into South-East England has been preferred to the nearer road-hauled sources. However, the demand for local materials is likely to remain high and the development of new resources should therefore continue even in areas of current shortage. 

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