Located 65 miles southwest of Washington, D.C., the Virginia Mist granite quarry site was opened in August 1999. The quarry was operated back then by a Canadian company before partnering with the R.E.D. Graniti Group, a large Italian stone producer with quarries throughout the world. “R.E.D. Graniti became partners in 2002, and was the distributor for this granite in Europe and Asia back then,” said Steven Rousseau of Virginia Mist Group. “In December 2004, R.E.D. Graniti acquired 100% of Virginia Mist Group and has been the sole owner and operator ever since. Between 2004 and 2008, Virginia Mist Group was operating two quarries simultaneously. The other site, known as the Aston quarry, was abandoned in 2009 since the company did not see the quarry as being capable of producing large size blocks.
“One of the first major projects from the current site was the Museum of Islamic Arts in Qatar in 2007-2008 -- roughly 500 cubic meters of blocks sold to an Italian customer,” Rousseau went onto say. “More recently, the quarry has supplied a Chinese client for the Ping An Financial Center in Shenzen. This project called for 1,000 cubic meters of first-grade blocks, which were supplied over the course of one year.” Among other important recent installations for the company was the Sean Collier Memorial in Cambridge, MA; the American Disabled Veteran Memorial in Washington, D.C.; the DTE Energy Park in Detroit, MI; the Cleveland Museum of Fine Arts in Cleveland, OH; and the Singapore Stock Exchange.
The Virginia Mist Group sells granite blocks, and currently 60 to 65% of those sales are shipped overseas. A good portion of these sales are going to Europe, according to Rousseau, but Asia seems to be making a comeback. “R.E.D. Graniti is reselling a portion of the blocks going to stockyard in Carrara, [Italy], in slab form for the America market,” said Rousseau. “However, we are also supplying Italian manufacturers for various projects in Europe. We have supplied stone for projects on five continents. You can also find slabs of Virginia Mist in most of the major distributors’ warehouses in America.”
The granite can be used in a variety of applications, including tombstones, countertops, landscaping and the like, but commercial projects have always been driving sales. Representing a smaller portion of the company’s sales are the thick slabs that are sold from the quarry for the landscaping and monument markets.
In the quarry, a wide variety of equipment is used to get the job done. This includes five Benetti Gamma wire saws, one Arrow wire saw, two DTH drills, two line drills, one Perfora Rock Buggy (a pneumatic drill), two Volvo wheel loaders and two Caterpillar excavators. Virginia Mist relies on the knowledge and expertise from their colleagues at R.E.D. Graniti. Those machines have been proven to work well in similar quarries that are in operation in other countries. All the drilling equipment is used mainly in the early stages of the quarrying process, while the quarrying is mostly done with wire saws. Most of the blocks produced have all sawn faces.
The quarry currently has 14 employees and finding new workers is not very difficult for the company, but keeping them can be the bigger challenge. “Retaining employees for more than a few months, even weeks has been a challenge,” said Rousseau. “Giving the nature of the work environment and being so close to a market like Washington, D.C., workers have the choice when it comes to choosing a workplace. The company must make sure that employees are rewarded for the job they are performing. We are fortunate to have a group of workers that have been with us for several years. We have a low turnover when it comes to our quarry workers.”
At this time, the quarry is producing approximately 300 cubic meters monthly, and the Virginia Mist Group has the capacity to increase its production to 500 cubic meters without adding any new machinery. “Virginia Mist is a very hard stone and is suitable for all kinds of applications,” explained Rousseau. “It requires minimum treatment and retains its original finish over the years. For the material sold in North America, a good portion of the blocks go for commercial projects. The countertop market, slabs going to stone distributors, is increasing every year with a trend these days for honed and leather finish slabs. The monument market, even though it represents only about 10 to 15% of our sales, is still important to us since it can be constant over the years. This quarry can produce mausoleum size blocks as well.”