Quarried natural resources

Quarried natural resources

Interesting facts about quarried natural resources

Interesting facts about quarried natural resources
Every year, the building materials and quarrying industry extracts roughly 560 million tonnes of primary raw materials (excluding quartz sand, kaolin and fine ceramic clay) or uses these materials in production. In addition, approx. 100 million tonnes of secondary raw materials are used every year in the production of building materials to conserve resources.
Interesting facts about quarried natural resources
Quarried materials comprise a variety of mineral resources; gravel, sand and natural stone account for the largest share of the total volume extracted.
Interesting facts about quarried natural resources
Around 80% of the quarried materials are supplied to the building industry, while around 20% is used in the chemical, steel or glass industries.
Interesting facts about quarried natural resources
Quarried natural resources are needed for the manufacture of many products that we use in our daily lives. Stone powder, for example, is the basic ingredient of toothpaste.
Interesting facts about quarried natural resources
Statistically, each one of us needs over 1 kg of sand and gravel per hour
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Quarried natural resources comprise a great number of mineral deposits, in particular gravel and sands, broken natural stone, natural stone, lime, marl and dolomite stones, gypsum and anhydrite stones, as well as coarse ceramic clays and loams. Quarried natural resources are bulk raw materials; due to geological conditions, they are site-bound and not distributed evenly across the country.


Quarrying has been handed down since the beginning of human history. According to scientific findings, the oldest known “stones from human hands” originate from the 9th to the 8th millennium B.C., taken from ground fortifications in the Middle East. The extraction of quarried natural resources also has a very long tradition in Germany. In the past, these natural resources were mainly extracted by hand, but companies today use modern technology. Geophysics, GPS, intelligent machine and plant control and largely automated processes control the extraction of these natural resources.

Economic Importance

Every year, the building materials and quarrying industry extracts roughly 560 million tonnes of primary raw materials (excluding quartz sand and gravel, kaolin and fine ceramic clay; these materials are covered in the section vii. industrial minerals) or uses these materials in production. In 2021, gravel and sands with 277 million tonnes and broken natural stone with 219 million tonnes represented the largest share of natural resources in terms of quantity in the German extractive industry. The total value of quarried natural resources was around €5.5 billion in 2021. Thus in 2021 around 41% of the total value of natural resources mined in Germany was attributed to quarried natural resources. Germany meets its own requirements for quarried natural resources largely from reserves within the country. Quarried products are generally mined on a regional basis and are transported over short distances to the consumers. The reason for this is that the transport costs are relatively high compared to the value of the material. Accordingly, foreign trade plays mainly a role in areas adjacent to the border. The main customers are the countries which are Germany’s direct neighbours, e. g. the Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium. In 2021 (2022), imports in terms of volume were approx. 17.4 (16.2) million tonnes valued at €1.2 (€1.4) billion). In 2021 (2022), exports in terms of volume were approx. 28.3 (25.5) million tonnes valued at €0.8 (€0.9) billion1. In 2021 (2022), the quarried natural resources sector (including Other mining) employed 38,396 (38,229)2 people in Germany who are subject to social insurance contributions.


Quarried natural resources are mined decentrally and, with just a few exceptions, are extracted in open-cast operations. In 2021, the industry operated around 3,400 extraction sites in Germany.3 When extracting sand and gravel, a distinction is made between dry and wet extraction, depending on the groundwater situation, and these two scenarios require different production techniques. Nearly all quarried natural resources require processing and refinement before they are sent on for their intended use. As non-renewable natural resources, they are also site-bound because of their volumes.


Around 80% of the quarried materials are supplied directly to the building industry (e. g. civil engineering to build roadbases and wearing courses, track ballast) or are initially processed by the building products sector into basic and building materials (e. g. cement, concrete, quick lime, mortar, insulation materials, tiles, bricks) and then supplied to the construction industry. The remaining approx. 20% are used in the chemical, steel or glass industries. In addition to the quarried quantities of primary earth and stone, approx. 100 million tonnes of secondary raw materials (mineral construction waste and by-products from industrial processes) are used in the building industry every year4. These result from e.g. the demolition of buildings, the production of pig iron (blast furnace slag) or from electricity generation in conventional power stations (FGD gypsum, fly ash). The use of secondary raw materials contributes to the substitution of primary natural sources. The substitution rate is around 15%5.

Other natural resources:
Industrial minerals


Industrial minerals are mineral rocks that can be immediately used in industry due to their special chemical and physical properties, i. e. without any substance conversion. In addition to the salts already mentioned in section v., this group includes kaolin (also called porcelain earth), quartz sand (clay), special clay (fine ceramic clay), quartzite, feldspar, sticky sand, bentonite, silicas, fluorite and barite. Industrial minerals have been extracted in Germany for hundreds of years in very diverse quantities.

Economic Importance

Apart from salts, the two most important industrial minerals in Germany in terms of volume are quartz sand/gravel and fine ceramic clay with production volumes of around 10.7 million tonnes and about 2.6 million tonnes respectively in 2021. In 2021, the total value of the industrial minerals extracted in Germany was around €290 million.


The extraction of industrial minerals in Germany is extremely regional in structure, due to natural conditions. While, for example, kaolin is produced in Bavaria and Saxony and silica in Bavaria, the extraction of special clay is mainly concentrated in Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse. Apart from salts, industrial minerals in Germany are mainly mined above ground by small and medium-sized enterprises. In contrast, fluorite and barite are also mined underground. In Germany, industrial minerals are extracted at around 200 extraction sites, although this number varies slightly each year.


Due to their chemical and physical properties, industrial minerals are mainly used in the paper, chemical, glass, ceramic, refractory, foundry and steel industries. However, the pharmaceutical industry, environmental management (exhaust gas purification, wastewater treatment plants, solar panel and wind turbine plants) and the automotive industry also use industrial minerals.

Iron ore

In Germany, iron ore is mined in North Rhine-Westphalia and Saxony-Anhalt. The iron ore extracted here is not smelted into iron, however; it is used mostly in the form of crushed stone, chippings and brittle sands as a coloured and iron-rich aggregate for the concrete or cement industry. Germany’s requirement for iron ore to produce pig iron is covered entirely through imports. In 2021, around 39.5 million tonnes6 of iron ore were needed, 17.8% more than in the previous year. The ore came primarily from Brazil, followed by Canada, the Republic of South Africa, Sweden and Russia.

1Federal Statistical Office (2023): Query export and import (foreign trade): Germany, years, commodity classification, GP2019 (4-digit). URL: https://www-genesis.destatis.de/genesis/online?operation=statistic&levelindex=0&levelid=1690546375737&code=51000#abreadcrumb (Accessed on 28 July 2023).

2[BA 2020] (Statistics of the coal industry), for a detailed source reference, see final note i.

3Elsner, H. (2022): Sand and gravel in Germany – Volume I: Fundamentals. 93 p., Hanover. URL: https://www.bgr.bund.de/DE/Themen/Min_rohstoffe/Downloads/studie_sand_und_kies_Band_I_2022.pdf?__blob=publicationFile (Accessed on 11 September 2023).

4Bundesverband Baustoffe – Steine und Erden e.V. (German Building Materials Association – Quarried natural resources) (2022) Report on the “Demand for primary and secondary raw materials in the non-metallic minerals industry up to 2040 in Germany”. URL: https://www.baustoffindustrie.de/fileadmin/user_upload/bbs/Bilder/Aktuelles/2022-04-20_BBS_Rohstoffstudie_01_ONLINE.pdf (Accessed on 11 September 2023).

5Bundesverband Baustoffe – Steine und Erden e.V. (German Building Materials Association – Quarried natural resources) (2023): Annual Report 2023. URL: https://www.baustoffindustrie.de/gb/konjunktur-rohstoffe (Accessed on 11 September 2023).

6Data for 2021 are provisional, DESTATIS revision status 07/2022 for iron ore imports (2020 33.5 million tonnes according to current data).


In Federal States in which legislation does not include an excavation law and the State-level Nature Conservation Law does not apply to the extraction of non-energetic, ground-based natural resources in the context of dry excavations, this type of natural resource extraction falls within the scope of the relevant state building regulations.

Legal limitations also exist: State building regulations apply to the excavation of solid rock (limestone, basalt, etc.), for example, in quarries with an area of up to 10 hectares (ha) in which no blasting is carried out. In the event that this area is exceeded, or if water bodies are formed after completion of the extraction operations, the German Federal Immission Control Act (BImSchG) and/or Water Resources Act (WHG) are applicable.
In Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia, the above-ground excavation of non-energetic, ground-based natural resources in the context of dry excavations is determined at state level by the existing excavation laws (AbgrG). For the excavation of solid rock (limestone, basalt, etc.) in quarries where blasting does not occur, the AbgrG applies to sites with an area of up to 10 ha. In the event that this area is exceeded, or if water bodies are formed after completion of the extraction operations, the German Federal Immission Control Act (BImSchG) and/or Water Resources Act (WHG) are applicable. In the other Federal States, this type of natural resources extraction is regulated by the respective state building regulations or by the state-level nature conservation laws.

In general, the AbgrG applies to those raw materials the excavation of which is not directly subject to mining law or the mining authorities. These raw materials include (in particular) gravel, sand, clay, loam, limestone, dolomite and other rocks, bog mud and clays. However, the jurisdiction between AbgrG and mining law can vary from case to case in the case of certain raw materials, such as quartz gravels. The requested authority must always verify its own jurisdiction in each case. The AbgrG also encompasses surface area usage and the subsequent rehabilitation of the area.
The German Federal Immission Control Act (BImSchG) is the most important and practice-relevant law in the field of environmental law. It constitutes the basis for the approval of industrial and commercial installations. In the natural resources extraction industry, quarrying companies must have approval to extract stones and earth. Every quarrying area of 10 hectares or more must undergo a full approval procedure, including public participation and UVP (environmental impact assessment). A more simplified approval procedure is used for quarrying areas of less than 10 hectares.

The sphere of responsibility for the legal immission control approval procedure is fully specified in the Immission Control Acts of the Federal States. The Federal States are tasked with the administrative enforcement of the approval procedure. Each individual state’s Environment Ministry – the highest local immission protection authority – usually bears the responsibility for this procedure. Subordinate authorities include regional councils, district authorities and lower-level administrative authorities. Administrative jurisdiction generally lies with the lower-level administrative authorities.
The GDP measures the value of goods and services produced domestically (creation of value) within a given period (quarter, year). The Federal Office of Statistics calculates the GDP as follows: production value minus intermediate consumption = the gross value added; plus taxes on products and minus subsidies = GDP
The gross value added is calculated by deducting intermediate consumption from the production values, so it only includes the value added created during the production process. The gross value added is valued at manufacturing prices, i.e. without the taxes due (product taxes), but including the product subsidies received.

During the transition from gross value added (at manufacturing prices) to GDP, the net taxes (product taxes less product subsidies) are added globally to arrive at an assessment of the GDP at market prices’. Source: Destatis
The planning approval procedure under mining law is used for the approval procedure of a general operating plan for projects which require an environmental impact assessment (§§ 52(2a), in conjunction with 57 a of the BBergG).
There are different definitions and methodological approaches at the international as well as at the national level as to what subsidies are and how they are calculated. According to the definition of the German government’s subsidy report, this report considers federal subsidies for private companies and economic sectors (ie grants as cash payments and tax breaks as special tax exemptions) which are relevant to the budget. Subsidies at the federal level can be viewed via the subsidy reports of the federal states (see Appendix 5 of the German government subsidy report).
In compliance with § 68(1), Water Resources Act (WHG), the excavation of landowners’ natural resources such as gravel, sand, marl, clay, loam, peat and stone in wet extraction operations requires a planning approval procedure. The reason for this is that groundwater is exposed in wet extraction, resulting in above-ground water. The planning approval procedure is implemented by lower-level water authorities.

The procedural steps of the planning approval procedure are governed by the general provisions of §§ 72 to 78 of the Administrative Procedures Act (VerwVfG). Within the meaning of § 68(3), nos. 1 and 2 of the WHG, the plan may only be established or approved if an impairment of the common good is not to be expected and other requirements of the WHG as well as other public-law provisions are fulfilled.