Salem Stone, Holston River Hosts Rockhounding 101 Class

Member and Industry News,

On June 11, Salem Stone Corp. hosted Friends of Mineralogy Virginia, Inc. (FMVA) at the Holston River Quarry in Dublin, Virginia for a geology and mineralogy field trip. The group consisted of participants who had been in an intensive five-course training program provided by FMVA to teach citizens about their state geology, mineralogy, and industry. Chip Dunstan and Hunter Thomas of Salem Stone were on site that day for the field trip.

The trip started off with a fantastic overview by Chip and Hunter on the production at the site and the various processes and aggregate products produced by quarrying the limestone. Students were provided a detailed overview of the various machines, materials (i.e. the difference between #57, crush and run, rip rap, etc.) and the history of the location.

One student, a local community organizer in Fairfax, stated, “This trip gave me an entirely different perspective on why the aggregate industry is essential to my community.”

Thomas Hale, president of FMVA and instructor of the course, provided a detailed geology and mineralogy overview of the quarry, explaining how the site once sat under water in an ancient ocean over 500 million years ago. These limestones, formed in shallow tidal zone marine environments on a carbonate platform, produce the very rocks necessary for the state’s economy. Thomas told the class, “It is really exciting to step inside a quarry and go back millions of years into the past to see how ancient geologic processes produced the essential rocks and minerals we use today.” In addition to learning about the geology of the limestone, Thomas gave an overview of the different minerals which are typical at the quarry including calcite and strontianite. Strontianite was of particular interest, as it was a former critical mineral deemed strategic to the United States economy. It is used in pyrotechnics to produce a red color (fireworks and flares) and in sugar refining as a clarifying agent.


This course is an ongoing initiative within FMVA to educate the public about the aggregate industry and provide community geoscience programs for citizens across the Commonwealth. VTCA has been working closely with FMVA over the last year, producing a teacher manual, raffling off a school rock and mineral display, and creating professional development field trips for teachers across the state. In July, FMVA will be releasing a new book on aggregate quarries in Northern Virginia to assist the industry in providing a fresh look at the industry today and how it is essential to our shared future.

If your quarry would like to learn more about the VTCA-FMVA partnership or participate in these programs, contact Rob Lanham. We would love to have your company participate in this growing and successful community outreach program.