Welsh Slate reopens one of its quarries

Welsh Slate has reopened its Blaenau Ffestiniog quarry in North Wales to help meet demand for its roofing, architectural and hard landscaping/aggregate products.

The Blaenau Ffestiniog quarry, which originally opened in 1818 but ceased production of roofing slates 10 years ago, will now restart, requiring the recruitment of more than 20 staff to help produce 25,000 roofing slates per week, rising to an anticipated 30,000 in the near future.

Seven of the staff will be based at Blaenau Ffestiniog, extracting and transporting large blocks of raw slate to Welsh Slate’s Cwt-y-Bugail quarry at Llan Ffestiniog. Six more staff at Llan Ffestiniog will saw and split the slate for the rivings to be dressed at the company’s main Penrhyn Quarry in Bethesda.

The reopening of its Blaenau Ffestiniog quarry will also enable Welsh Slate to re-establish its offering of Ffestiniog architectural products for external and internal applications such as cladding, paving, flooring, window cills, copings and fire hearths.

Its reopening has required a significant investment by the company, which is part of the Breedon Group, the largest independent construction materials group in the UK. Sophisticated geotechnical mapping of the site identified suitable underground chambers with minimal overburden.

This enables the existing roof of the mine to be removed to expose the slate pillar for extraction, a process that had been started by the previous owners in 1973 but was then considered untenable. The slate deposits identified by surveyors are expected to last for the foreseeable future.

Michael Hallé, commercial director at Welsh Slate, said: “It’s a far cry from its peak in the 1870s when the quarry at Blaenau Ffestiniog employed more than 2,500 people and produced around 10 million slates per year. But the reopening of our Ffestiniog Quarry will improve the availability of Welsh Slate overall, with total output from the three quarries amounting to more than 100,000 slates per week.

“We are delighted we will now be able to meet the exceptional demand from both domestic and export markets for this high-quality slate. There has been a strong interest from the merchants and roofing contractors in the UK and abroad, and we look forward to seeing Ffestiniog gracing roofs again.”

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