We have previously outlined the history of stone use, engineering cases and changes in stone mining technology. As China is a big country in stone processing and export, Dymend would like to introduce the development of stone mining in China.
History of Stone Mining Technology in China
The Chinese nation has thousands of years of civilization. Although the history of mining and using stone materials is long, the improvement and progress of stone mining technology began after the founding of New China. It was more than 20 years after the reform and opening up that the Chinese nation really developed towards mechanization and narrowed the gap with the world’s advanced stone mining level (such as Italy’s technical level).
In the early 1950s, pneumatic stone drills began to be used in some quarries to replace manual hammers and steel drills for drilling holes, which was the first step for China to replace manual stone mining with machinery and move towards mechanized stone mining.
At the end of the 1960s, Hangzhou Marble Factory introduced a wire rope stone sawing machine from Italy and used the wire rope stone sawing machine in its own marble mine, becoming the first mine in China to realize partially mechanized marble mining. Later, this equipment has become a window for the Chinese stone industry to understand the advanced marble mining technology abroad and has trained much domestic stone mining technology and management personnel. Later, Jiangsu Yixing Marble Mine and Guangdong Yunfu Marble Mine also used wire rope sawing machines, which became the models of mechanized marble mining in China at that time.
In the 1970s, China developed some equipment for mechanized stone mining, such as chain arm mining saws, flame-cutting machines and wire rope saw machines, which laid a foundation for mechanized mining of stone mines in China.
In the 1980s, many Chinese stone companies successively imported complete sets of mechanized mining equipment for marble mines, which are composed of wire rope saws, diamond bead saws, hydraulic drills, hydraulic jacks, mast cranes and other equipment. In terms of granite mining, a few of the most advanced chain arm mining saws and complete sets of granite mining mechanization equipment composed of flame-cutting machines, bench drills and other equipment were imported. Thus, a number of mines with world-advanced stone mining equipment have been equipped and established.
In the 1990s and after entering the 21st century, compared with the previous 15 years, the number of stone machinery imported by China stone mining corporations has decreased a lot, but the degree of specialization and quality of the imported stone equipments are higher, such as diamond mining band saws and ordinary chain arm mining saws with international advanced level for mining hard marble, and granite diamond bead saws that were not widely used abroad at that time, large aperture hydraulic or pneumatic drill and other mining equipment make the equipment level of some domestic stone mines very close to the equipment level of foreign mines at that time.
Even if China imports and equips stone machinery on such a large scale, compared with the stone processing industry, the development speed of stone mining industry is still much lower. Therefore, the modernization of stone mines and the promotion of stone mining mechanization have been paid more and more attention by mining practitioners, and have attracted the attention of the management departments of the stone industry – China Stone Material Association(CSMA), the former National Building Materials Bureau and other government departments. In the mid-1980s, the first set of mechanized equipment for marble and granite mining at the international advanced level at that time was successfully developed, which filled the gap in the production of advanced stone mining machinery and equipment in China, shortened the gap between domestic and foreign technical levels in this field, and provided a guarantee for the development of stone mining machinery in China stone mines.
In recent years, the improvement and upgrading of stone mining equipment in China have also been ongoing. At present, many companies in China have developed and produced mechanized stone mining equipment, such as wire rope saws (which have stopped production), diamond bead wire saws machines of different structures and purposes, hydraulic drilling machines, hydraulic jacks, hydraulic splitters, horizontal single head pole drills, double head vertical bench drills, large hole drills and mast cranes. Many diamond tool manufacturers in China can also produce various diamond bead wire saws of high quality for granite and marble mining, which can guarantee the sawing performance for quarrying stone blocks and the supply ability of diamond wire saws and consumables at a competitive price. The chain arm mining saws for mines jointly produced by Chinese enterprises and Italian enterprises have been put into practical use, making it possible to purchase high-grade stone mining equipment from China’s local supporting facilities.
Jiangsu Yixing Marble Mine was the first to use wire rope saws and diamond bead wire saws made in China, and Shandong Rongcheng Granite Mine was the first to use bench drills made in China. Up to now, the equipment rate of Chinese stone mining machinery and equipment has far exceeded that of imported stone mining equipment. Especially since 2003, a wave of technological transformation has been set off in China’s stone mines. Many stone mines have rapidly entered the implementation and implementation stage from the recognition stage of mechanized stone mining. In a short period of 3 to 4 years, many stone mines in China, especially granite mines, have successively equipped a lot of diamond bead wire saws, achieving the goal of diamond-assisted mechanized stone mining. At the same time, about 15 enterprises have independently developed or cooperated with foreign companies to produce diamond bead wire saws and their supporting stone mining equipment. China’s stone mines are developing towards mechanized mining.
Up to now, China’s mining has formed a certain mining scale and reached a certain level of mechanized mining. For example, Fujian G3597 Sanlida Jade Green and G3603&G3623 series granite mines, Shidaohong series and Baima series granite mines in Shandong, as well as many marble mines, have achieved success in mining mainly with diamond bead wire saws and auxiliary mining. Among them, the G3597 Sanlida emerald green granite mine in Nanping City, Fujian Province, which adopts the full sawing mining technology of diamond bead wire saws, was observed and affirmed by the representatives at the “National Stone Mining Technology Field Exchange Meeting” held by the China Stone Material Association(CSMA) in November 2006 as a demonstration mine for mechanized stone mining.
Since 2005, China’s stone industry has experienced a transformation from prosperity to decline. The real estate industry is the main economic pillar of China, and stone is the building material. With the development of the real estate, the exploitation of stone has gradually flourished. Especially after 2016, the real estate boom has greatly increased the demand for stone in China. China’s stone mining technology has also gained unprecedented prosperity. Many stone machinery plants, such as Nan’an Julun Machinery and Huada Machinery, have gradually developed a full range of stone bridge-cutting machines and diamond wire sawing machines. As the most important exhibition in Chinese stone industry, the Xiamen International Stone Fair covers stone manufacturers, stone machinery manufacturers, diamond tool manufacturers, etc., and a complete stone industry chain has been formed in China. On the premise of meeting the domestic demand of China, the manufacturers have gradually expanded the international market and started to export mining technology, materials, machinery and equipment. However, with the implementation of environmental protection policies, China gradually prohibits stone mining. From 2017 to 2018, many stone mining areas in China, including Zhangqiu, Fujian Gutian, Fujian Shijing, Fujian Changtai, were prohibited from mining. In addition, price competition has led to the gradual decline of China’s stone mining industry.
At the end of 2019, Covid-19 broke out in Wuhan, China. In order to effectively control the infection of the virus, many mines began to shut down and isolate. However, the Corona virus continued to continue. Until 2022, it could not be completely removed, resulting in a rapid decline in the mining volume of mines. Many stone mining areas, including Xinjiang, Shandong, and Macheng, were seriously affected, and some of them did not return to work for more than 12 months.
At present, the stone mining industry in China is relatively mature in technology, but the prospect is facing severe challenges, especially after the real estate industry in China has been greatly affected by the epidemic.
Present Situation of Stone Mining Technology in China
China’s stone mining technology has developed rapidly in the short term. In addition to the advanced stone mining machinery produced in China, there are also much imported advanced mining machinery. However, China’s stone mining industry is built on a very backward basis, whether from the level of people’s understanding of stone mining, or from the level of the technical quality of mining personnel, as well as the external conditions of the mine, energy, transportation and other infrastructure construction, up to now, China’s stone mining construction, mining scale, management system and management level, the equipment ratio of mechanized mining equipment, etc., compared with the advanced countries in the world, the gap is still large. The reasons can be summarized as follows:
- In general, the equipment used in stone mines in China is relatively backward. Manual mining is still the mining method used in most stone mines. In most granite mines, hand-held rock drills are still the main equipment for Chinese companies to mine granite. For mines equipped with imported mining machinery and equipment, due to factors such as insufficient depth of basic work, imperfect supporting facilities, and large gap between the technical level of equipment operators and the actual requirements, this advanced mining equipment cannot be fully or well utilized, and the utilization rate of equipment has always been low. Most of the early imported mining equipment has been scrapped, and the rest cannot be used normally due to lack of maintenance or blocked spare parts supply channels.
- Lack of planning for stone mining. The mining order of most mines is unorganized, unplanned and similar to predatory mining. Where it is easy to mine, it will be mined where it is, which reveals the problems of the small size of stone blocks, low mining efficiency, low complete rate of stone block, limited output volume, etc., and causes damage to the ore body, wasting precious stone resources.
- The technical level of mining personnel is low and their quality is poor. Due to the hard living and working conditions in stone mines, the lack of smooth information is like isolation from the world, coupled with poor pay and other factors, the personnel with professional and technical expertise are unwilling to adhere to the mine work for a long time, resulting in that in most mines with stone mining machinery, workers cannot use advanced mining equipment well, nor can they correctly use advanced mining technology and methods.
- There is still some blindness in the construction of stone mines, and there is a lack of understanding of the particularity of stone mine construction. Before the construction of the mine, without any geological work data and without understanding the geological conditions of the ore body, the construction was carried out blindly, causing waste. In the process of mine construction, only the expansion of production scale is emphasized, and the important influence of small-scale trial mining on the determination of mining scale and mining method is ignored.
- The operation and management level of stone mine is low, there is no short-term and long-term mining planning, and there is a lack of modern production management and technical management system. The calculation of the cost of block mining is unscientific and inaccurate, and the comprehensive utilization of stone is poor. Compared with foreign advanced stone mines, the cost of block mining is relatively high and the waste is large.
- Attach importance to stone mining, not processing. Although in recent years, Chinese stone companies have increased their investment in stone mines and established a number of stone mines with a certain production scale and mechanized equipment level, compared with the stone processing industry, the speed of mine construction is far behind the demand for expanding processing capacity. This is because the risk of investing in the construction of stone mines is much higher than that of stone processing plants. Therefore, the imbalance between the stone processing capacity and the raw material mining capacity has arisen, and the contradiction between supply and demand of raw materials that meet the processing requirements cannot meet the demand of huge processing capacity.
Looking at the development experience of foreign advanced stone mining countries, they have reached the current technical level, also experienced a long time course, but also took many detours to reach the current situation and scale we see. Compared with them, China’s stone mines are only at the primary stage of the entire development process. We believe that it is not far away that, through a certain period of integrated development, stone mines with advanced mining technology and equipment, a certain scale and advanced management mode will emerge in China.