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Mining a volcanic seam to success


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Pumice is a light, porous rock whose best-known use is as a tool for removing rough skin from people’s feet. Pumice is formed when hot lava mixes with water and hardens. The resulting honeycomb structure lends it numerous advantageous properties in addition to its abrasive surface.

“We have been quarrying volcanic materials since the late 1980s,” says Sales Director Bruno Maggi. “The company is owned by the Maffei family and was founded in 1972. The family took over a number of existing quarries on the border between Tuscany and Lazio, near Bolsena lake, and set about improving productivity. In this way, the company has been able to become the market leader for inert volcanic materials.”

Europomice operates three pumice quarries in Tuscany, Lazio and Tessennano, a lapillus quarry in Lazio and a zeolite quarry in Tessennano. Although all three volcanic rocks are formed in a similar way, they vary in composition.

“We produce a wide range of volcanic aggregates for a variety of industries,” says Mr. Maggi. “For example, in the building industry pumice is used as a sound-proofing and insulating material while in the gardening sector it is used as a water-retentive substrate for potting plants or as a component in garden soil and compost. It can be used as a mulch to prevent water evaporation from flower beds or in hydroponic cultivation.”

Bruno Maggi
Volcanic pumice has a wide variety of applications and has been quarried by EuroPomice in Tuscany and Lazio for more than three decades Bruno MaggiSales Director

Pumice stones are also used in industrial washing machines to create a stonewashed effect on denim garments. Lapillus is another product of explosive volcanic eruptions and its characteristics and uses are similar to that of pumice.

Zeolite,on the other hand, is most frequently used in the agricultural field. “Our volcanic mixtures Vulcaflor, Vulcagarden, Vulcamix, Vulcapark and Vulcasoil are widely used in agriculture, landscape gardening and market gardening,” says Mr. Maggi. “They provide the ideal substrate for any kind of plantation.”

Grassed areas in hot climates remain green thanks to their water retentive properties and even larger plants thrive. The material can be formed into bricks suitable for use in green car parks while their low weight makes them an ideal substrate for green roofs.

Another application is sports fields where the volcanic soil resists the tendency of ordinary soil to become muddy in wet conditions. “Our substrates are widely used in the hot Italian climate to bring a touch of green to urban landscapes such as the vertical forest in Porta Garibaldi here in Milan,” adds Mr. Maggi. “Seeing our products play such an important role in improving quality of life in our cities makes me very proud.”

The use of volcanic materials is in itself an ecological way of approaching the need for more green spaces and is welcomed by EuroPomice. “The authorities in individual European states and at EU level should be more vocal in their support for ecological solutions such as our volcanic insulation materials and fertilizers,” insists Mr. Maggi. “Even without their specific intervention, however, more people are waking up to the ecological benefits and choosing our products to lower their carbon footprint. We would like to see more official buildings follow their lead in the future.”