Aggregates Industry FAQ


Aggregates and industrial materials are critical to society.

Natural aggregates (crushed stone, sand and gravel) and industrial minerals are among the most abundant natural resources and a major basic raw material used by consturction, agricaulter, and industries employing complex chemical and metallurgical processes. Low in cost, natural aggregates are a major contributor to and an indicator of the economic well-being of the nation.

Road construction utilizes a majority of the aggregates produced in South Carolina. This includes crushed aggregates in concrete and asphalt pavements and drainage base under roads and sewers as well as parking lots and sidewalks.

A significant amount of aggregates go into Portland cement and concrete for bridges, buildings and pre-cast blocks, also riprap for erosion and railroad ballast. Sand and gravel are also used as a filter medium to treat sewage in a septic system.

Limestone and lime are used in foods and medicine, steel and paper manufacturing, and can remove pollutants before they escape into our environment from coal-fired power plants.

Aglime is used as a soil conditioner in agriculture production. It neutralizes soil acidity for better fertilizer efficiency, thereby increasing crop yields and facilitating sustainable food production.

Silica sand is used in a variety of products like frac sand, industrial abrasives, glass and computer chips. Other uses for silica sand include golf course  sand traps, playground sand boxes, pool filters, and at drinking water treatment plants in many communities.

According to the State Geological Survey, the mining sector employment multiplier can be assumed to be 1:3. That is, three additional jobs are created for every job in the new mine. Construction aggregates are sold mostly within 20 to 30 miles of the mine, so jobs are local and wages stay in the community.

In dollar terms, the multiplier varies from 2.5 to 3, depending on differences within the mining sector. Although wages in coal mines may be higher than in aggregates mining, it is fair to assume that the overall dollar multiplier is $2.50 to the South Carolina economy for each $1.00 spent for mining.

Road construction is the main use for aggregates. The Federal Highway Administration has estimated that every $1 billion of federal highway investment, plus the state match, supports 34,800 jobs.

Common uses

Concrete Aggregates

Asphalt Aggregates

Road Base Material

Erosion Control

Railroad Ballast

Concrete Block and Pipe

Brick Manufacturing

Mortar Plaster

Roof Shingles




Water Filtration

Roadway Ice Control

Golf Course Sand

Equestrian and Livestock Sand

Sand Blasting

Playground Material

Shoreline Protection

What are aggregates?

The term ‘aggregates’ refers generally to all types of sands, gravels and crushed stone which are used in a variety of construction applications and are products of a pit or quarry.

Is a pit the same as a quarry?

Generally, a pit contains sand and gravel that is directly excavated, screened, and transported. A pit can produce some products that consist of round stones, whereas products from a quarry are typically crushed which can lead to angular shaped edges. A quarry commonly contains rock that must be blasted first before it can be processed through crushing and screening into smaller-sized products.

What are sand and gravel used for?

Sand and Gravel are key ingredients that are used to build roads, sidewalks, schools, factories, offices, parking lots, driveways, basements, walls, roofs, gardens, walkways, paths, recreation centers, sports fields, golf courses sand traps, landscape rock, and hiking trails, among many other applications. Industrial sands can be used in the process of making glass, for grit for roofing paper, and as additives to paint and stucco.

What is the difference between sand, gravel and crushed stone?

Sand and gravel are naturally occurring, typically in pits, while crushed stone is a product of blasting, crushing and processing rock, typically in a quarry.

Where does sand and gravel come from?

Sand and gravel are found in certain geological settings around SC. They are not found everywhere. They were formed when rock was ground up through the movement and melting of glaciers during the last ice age which ended tens of thousands of years ago. They are also formed as a transportation process of rocks and minerals being moved down river systems, being deposited over thousands of years along bends where water velocity is reduced. Deposits are often found in and near river deltas and at widenings in rivers where flow slows and deposits fall out.

Do you just dig up the aggregates and sell them?

There are many steps that the raw product goes through before it is sold to the end user. A pile of aggregates does not have only one grain size but it has a distribution of sizes, ranging from small sands to 6-inch and higher cobbles.

The first operation is usually a jaw crusher; two plates are forced together on a rotating basis which breaks up large pieces of rock, found in almost all deposits. Conveyor belts take the product to screening, followed by recirculation to a cone crusher for larger particles.

Screening and classifying separates particles of similar size in one pile. This is accomplished through the use of mechanically vibrated screens, or sieves, stacked one on top of the other.

Larger particles that remain are sent back to the cone crusher, which takes the recirculated product and reduces the size as it falls through a rotating core to break the rock. The product is then sent back to the screen. This recirculation occurs over and over for any larger sizes remaining at the top of the screen. In a rock quarry, there is more recirculation through the cone crusher.

For various industrial applications, there are different standards that dictate the series of sieves to be used and what percentage of material must be in each sieve to be a given size (e.g. 1/2″ or 1/4″). Product passing through to the bottom of the screens is conveyed into piles or a surge bin, which then fills trucks for transport.

A washing cycle may also be included, depending on the type of product. Washed, or clear, gravel will have any fines (dust, clays, fine-grained) removed.

What makes a base product?

A base product is made up of a crushed or natural coarse rock and sand that is well graded to produce, when compacted, a firm stabilized subgrade for streets, highways or even concrete slabs.

What makes for good drainage material?

There are many products that will provide a good drainage material. The material to be used is dependent on how much water flow is anticipated. If the water flow is limited, a 1/4″ size rock can be used. If the water flow is higher, a larger size rock with a high void ratio (the open space between compacted rock) such as a 3/4″ to 1″ size rock is needed.

What is riprap?

Riprap is comprised of large pieces of rock (usually between 6 and 30 inches in diameter) which have undergone only primary crushing and sizing. Riprap is used to stabilize slopes and shorelines as well as to construct erosion-control structures.