The advent of modern blasting methods enabled the development of quarries, which are now used throughout the world, wherever competent bedrock deposits of aggregate quality exist. In many places, good limestone, granite, marble or other quality stone bedrock deposits do not exist. In these areas, natural sand and gravel are mined for use as aggregate. Where neither stone, nor sand and gravel, are available, construction demand is usually satisfied by shipping in aggregate by rail, barge or truck. Additionally, demand for aggregates can be partially satisfied through the use of slag and recycled concrete. However, the available tonnages and lesser quality of these materials prevent them from being a viable replacement for mined aggregates on a large scale.
Large stone quarry and sand and gravel operations exist near virtually all population centers due to the high cost of transportation relative to the low value of the product. Trucking aggregate more than 40 kilometers is typically uneconomical. These are capital-intensive operations, utilizing large earth-moving equipment, belt conveyors, and machines specifically designed for crushing and separating various sizes of aggregate, to create distinct product stockpiles.
According to the USGS, 2006 U.S. crushed stone production was 1.72 billion tonnes valued at $13.8 billion (compared to 1.69 billion tonnes valued at $12.1 billion in 2005), of which limestone was 1,080 million tonnes valued at $8.19 billion from 1,896 quarries, granite was 268 million tonnes valued at $2.59 billion from 378 quarries, traprock was 148 million tonnes valued at $1.04 billion from 355 quarries, and the balance other kinds of stone from 729 quarries. Limestone and granite are also produced in large amounts as dimension stone. The great majority of crushed stone is moved by heavy truck from the quarry/plant to the first point of sale or use. According to the USGS, 2006 U.S. sand and gravel production was 1.32 billion tonnes valued at $8.54 billion (compared to 1.27 billion tonnes valued at $7.46 billion in 2005), of which 264 million tonnes valued at $1.92 billion was used as concrete aggregates. The great majority of this was again moved by truck, instead of by electric train.
Currently, total U.S. aggregate demand by final market sector was 30%–35% for non-residential building (offices, hotels, stores, manufacturing plants, government and institutional buildings, and others), 25% for highways, and 25% for housing.