MARBLE, Colo. (CBS4) – It’s the only active quarry in Colorado that mines the state stone — white marble — and it’s about to get bigger.
Work is now under way to double the size of the quarry to access more of the one-of-a-kind stone. It’s located south of the town of Marble in Gunnison County.
The quarry only started the new portal about six weeks ago. Now there’s a race before winter comes so that they can get inside and start getting to the marble.
“We’ll go in this level and then we’ll start spreading out and then we quarry down,” Colorado Stone Quarries Vice President Kimberly Perrin said.
A new portal hasn’t been built in about a century. What can be sold is deeper into the quarry — the pieces near the surface are just too fragile and fractured. But if the original 1870 quarry is any indication, there’s plenty inside the mountain to be had.
“This portal will actually give us between 65 and 100 years of production,” Perrin said. “So we’re always thinking ahead of time so that we’re developing and we can have new production.”
The quarry has been in a boom and bust cycle for the 19th and most of 20th centuries, but since reopening in the 1990s there’s been massive production, with 85 percent of the marble sent to Italy.
“This marble has very, very fine, tight crystal structure; it’s very nice for especially interiors, it polishes up just beautifully.”
It’s cut with a special diamond wire cutter that makes large portable blocks. There’s only about another millennium worth of marble to be produced from the area, so the quarry owners feel like they’ll be there a while. It’s good news for the nearby small town of only about 100 people.
“It’s really one of the good economic things that is happening right now in the area.”
So the removal of the massive blocks will continue at about 50,000 to 70,000 pounds at a time.
Only about a third of the marble quarried is actually sold. The rest can’t be due to damage and discoloration.