- © The Mineralogical Society Of America
Zeolite-rich volcanic tuffs are widely distributed in almost every country of the world, where they are present in low-, medium-, or high-grade million-ton deposits. Even though the formation of the zeolite minerals may have followed different genetic paths, the zeolitic rocks have in common a matrix of finely crystalline zeolite that cements the other nonzeolitic particles and is responsible for the overall mechanical properties of the material. Zeolitic tuffs have been employed since pre-historic times in construction, mostly as dimension stone. This use is still the most common of natural zeolites in the building industry, although other applications have recently come to the forefront, such as lightweight aggregate or as additives for manufacturing blended cements.
Given the fact that much of this material is excavated and used locally and that the market demand is strongly affected by the trends of the building industry, estimates of the worldwide zeolitic tuff production for construction purposes are difficult to make. In Italy, where the use of zeolitic tuff as dimension stone is commonplace, about 75 quarries were reported in operation in 1992 with total production of about 3 x 106 tons per year (Aiello 1995). More recently, this production has decreased, due to the crisis of the building industry, and in 1998 it amounted to about 1.5 × 106 tons per year. In Japan, the production of tuff as dimension stone is currently about 4 × 105 tons per year (N. Kuchitsu, National Research Institute of Cultural Properties, Tokyo, Japan, pers. comm., 1996). Considering that zeolitic tuff is used as dimension stone in many other countries as well, e.g. Bulgaria, Cuba, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Mexico, Romania, and Turkey, the current worldwide zeolitic tuff consumption as dimension stone is about 3 × 106 tons per year.
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