Mineral products are made using geological resources extracted from the ground often in combination with recycled or secondary materials.
Here are the main minerals and associated mineral products manufactured by MPA members:
Most mineral products begin with aggregates - rock broken down into smaller pieces either by industrial process (in the case of crushed rock) or by nature over many thousands of years (sand and gravel).
Primary aggregates are extracted through quarrying or mining on land or marine dredging from the seabed. Recycled aggregates come from the reprocessing of construction and demolition waste, whilst secondary aggregates are made using by-products of other industries. Recycled and secondary aggregates account for almost a third of the total construction aggregates used in Britain.
Different geological rock types give rise to different uses - some are highly versatile while others have very specific properties and uses. For example, limestone can be used as construction aggregate but is also essential in the manufacture of cement and in the production processes for glass, steel and paint. On the other hand, the properties of gritstone (a type of sandstone) make it ideal for road surfaces thanks to its high skid resistance.
As well as representing a constituent part of many mineral products, aggregates can also be used as a product in their own right – such as crushed rock used as railway ballast, or sand and gravel used to protect our coastline.
There are over 530 quarries located across Great Britain, producing over 160 million tonnes of primary minerals every year. A further 71 million tonnes of recycled and secondary materials are produced, supported by 131 recycling plants across the country.
For more information visit the aggregates page.
Asphalt forms the surface and foundation layers of our roads, airport runways, footpaths, playgrounds, car parks and racing circuits. It's a mixture of different types of aggregates with hot bitumen (from crude oil) which creates a hard-wearing surface when rolled and cooled.
Even with years of wear, asphalt is highly durable, with skid resistance to enable safe braking and cornering. It also provides a smooth and stable ride quality.
Besides taking the relentless impact of traffic, asphalt also has the flexibility to absorb minor ground movements beneath it. It's also relatively easy to lay and maintain, long-lasting and 100% recyclable.
There are 300 asphalt plants in Britain supplying around 20 million tonnes of asphalt per year.
To find out more visit the asphalt page or the Asphalt Industry Alliance website.
Cement is the key ingredient in concrete, the most commonly used of all man-made materials due to its versatility, durability and availability.
Over 15 million tonnes of cementitious materials are produced each year, supported by 23 cement quarries and plants.
Cement is made by combining limestone and shale (or shale substitutes) at 1450°C to produce clinker. The clinker is then ground and blended into the grey cement powder. This is then transported across the country by road and rail for use in construction.
Some secondary ‘cementitious’ by-products can be used as cement substitutes – with PFA (pulverised fuel ash) from coal-fired power stations and GGBS (ground granulated blast-furnace slag) from the steel industry contributing around 20% of all cement requirements.
Because it requires high temperatures to make, cement manufacture uses a lot of energy and has a significant carbon footprint. The British cement industry has pioneered ways to reduce the carbon footprint of cement by almost a third in the last three decades, with many more innovations in the pipeline.
MPA UK Concrete, the group representing the UK concrete industry, has developed a framework to help inform the delivery of an ambitious roadmap for the UK concrete and cement sector to deliver net negative emissions by 2050.In preparing the roadmap, UK Concrete is exploring the use of existing and emerging technologies including energy efficiency, fuel switching, low-carbon cements and concretes, and Carbon Capture, Usage or Storage (CCUS) to deliver the UK Government’s net zero target. To find out more visit https://thisisukconcrete.co.uk/Perspectives/UK-concrete-and-cement-sector-sets-out-roadmap-for.aspx.
Virtually every structure uses concrete for its foundation and strength - from the iconic Shard in London right down to the base of your garden shed! A mixture of cement, aggregates and water (plus additives to enhance performance), concrete is the most commonly used of all man-made materials due to its unparalleled versatility, durability and availability.
Contrary to popular belief, concrete has remarkable whole-life sustainability credentials. It boasts impressive thermal mass properties which in buildings can more than offset the embodied carbon from the manufacture of its cement component. Concrete is also highly resistant to fire and extreme weather conditions. To find out more visit thisisukconcrete.co.uk.
There are two basic types of concrete:
Ready-mixed concrete: delivered to construction sites in a concrete mixer and poured into place. Commonly used for foundations and floors, columns and walls of larger buildings. Visit www.brmca.org.uk.
Precast concrete: mixed and cast in moulds in a factory, then delivered to site once set. Includes building blocks, roof tiles, paving, kerbs, pipes, bridge and tunnel sections. Visit www.britishprecast.org.
Over 1,000 concrete plants meet an annual demand of 20 million cubic metres of concrete each year in Britain. Made from almost entirely indigenous raw materials, concrete is 100% recyclable as it can be crushed to produce a recycled aggregate at the end of its use in structures.
Alongside the higher-volume mineral products, there is also a range of other essential primary mineral resources and products manufactured by MPA members which have important specialist applications in construction and other industries.
Agricultural lime is the main contributor to improving soil to help ensure healthy crops.
For more information visit the agricultural lime page or the Agricultural Lime Association website.
Dimension stone is key to maintaining unique local character and heritage in buildings.
For more information visit the dimension stone page.
Ground Granulated Blast-furnace Slag, a cementitious material whose main use is in concrete and is a by-product from the blast-furnaces used to make iron.
For more information visit the ground granulated blast-furnace slag page.
Industrial lime is used in the making of glass, steel, chemicals, foods, medicines and water.
For more information visit the industrial lime page, or the British Lime Association website.
Mortar is the 'glue' that bonds bricks and blocks together in almost all buildings.
For more information visit the mortar page, or the MPA Mortar website.
Silica sand has a critical role to play in the manufacture of glass, paints and plastics.
Download the Silica Sand Mineral Planning Factsheet.
For more information visit the silica sand page, or the Silica and Moulding Sands Association website.
China Clay or Kaolin has a wide range of industrial markets including ceramics, paper and specialist applications such as fillers for pharmaceuticals, paints, adhesives and animal feeds.
Ball clays, also known as plastic clays, are used principally in the ceramics industry for industrial applications, including sanitaryware, tile manufacture and tableware.
For more information visit the industrial clays page.
The Mineral Products Association (MPA) is the trade association for the aggregates, asphalt, cement, concrete, dimension stone, lime, mortar and silica sand industries.