Megaquarry vs. Decentralized Mineral Production: Network Analysis of Cement Production in the Great Lakes Region, USA
The geography of mineral resources and human settlement influences the production-consumption cycle of cement and other mined construction materials, and affects the energy, cost and environmental burden associated with these materials. Although mines that supply most construction products have traditionally been located near major points of consumption, population pressures have raised the possibility that these small, widely scattered operations might be replaced by large, megaquarry operations. This study uses network analysis to compare transportation-related energy and cost for cement production from highly centralized facilities, or megaquarries, to that from smaller production facilities dispersed throughout the Great Lakes region of the United States. Results show that a transition to megaquarries can increase transport-related energy and associated environmental impacts by almost 50%. This suggests that decisions involving the location of mining operations for construction products are best made on a regional rather than local basis.