The Quarry Controversy: Tuscany passes a compromise plan on the management of marble quarries within the Apuan Alps Natural Park – and no one is happy; scheduled for tomorrow Tuesday the 1st of July: a complete shutdown of the industry… and a “March on Florence”


After weeks of bitter back and forth between the two opposing factions – the confederation of industrial interests representing the quarries who have a century-long tradition of extracting the prized stone from the Apuan Alps, overlooking Carrara, and the coalition of environmental groups hoping to shut down ALL the quarries operating within the Natural Park of the Apuan Alps – … and the Regional government of Tuscany, who has been deliberating a new environmental protection plan for the last few months, the Region passed a plan last week. The environmental impact report or “Piano Paesaggistico,” as it’s called in Italian, substantially asks that a few quarries operating within the park be shut down, that only some be allowed to re-open after years’ inactivity, and that mechanisms be put in place to better manage the environmental costs of the quarrying.

It appears that the Region’s approval of the plan has made very few people happy on either side.

On the one hand you have the industry – and with them stand all of the 7 mayors of the affected municipalities in the area – they claim that the plan as articulated will still cause a great amount of financial hardship for the companies extracting in the area, and they insist that thousands will lose their jobs, in an industry that’s already struggling to cope with “la Crisi.” We note here that while employment has gone down considerably since 2008 in the quarry-industry at large, and that many shops working the marble have shut down, the export of marble has seen dramatic increases, both for construction uses and for other uses. (See “Turning Art History into Toothpaste,” for details on the amounts extracted what the “other uses” are.)

On the other hand you have the environmental groups, which claim that the Region’s plan does not go far enough, and does not ensure the preservation of the natural resources (geologic, flora and fauna) of a unique landscape, beautiful, yet scarred by the increased quarrying.

The “debate” has reached a feverish pitch: all of the quarrying industries have called for a total shut-down of activities in protest, and the environmental groups have called for a “March on Florence” to present the Regional government with a petition containing 100,000 signatures asking for the Region to “save our mountains” in protest.

The environmentalists note that: “there are more than 2000 natural caves in the Apuan Alps, with the deepest cave (the Roversi at -1250 meters,) and the longest underground cave-complex in Europe (the Antro della Corchia, with 53 kilometers of underground caves and tunnels, so far explored.) The mountains are home to Italy’s most important spring-water source, the Fiume Frigido in Forno, 20 plants that are unique to the area, and more than 3000 types of flowers, of the 5595 known species in Italy…” And they ask: “How can we re-open quarries that have been closed for 20 years in an area that’s been barely restored to its natural state? How can we authorize the expansion in the current quarrying zones, up to 1700 meters, in the forests and on the crests of the mountains?”

We talked with a sculptor who lives in Pietrasanta and works in marble – who asked to remain anonymous – and they told us that something must be done to preserve the natural beauty of the mountains – and that “the argument that shutting down the quarries would negatively impact the artist communities and the sculptors working in marble, is a fake argument, as the amount used by the artists is a minuscule fraction of the total marble quarried. Some of the quarries,” continued our source, “are in the hands of the families of the Italian managers of the quarries who ran the quarries when the British had control over them, and who inherited them when the Italian state expropriated them from British concerns – these quarries belong to the Italian state, the Italian people, and not to the families who run them, nor should they belong to foreign conglomerates.”

The “March on Florence” is scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, the 1st of July: the appointment for those going by car is at 11am in Via Cavour, in Carrara, and for those going by shuttle bus the appointment is for 9am in Piazza del Tribunale, in Massa. Anyone interested can call 338 7092364, for more info.

We’ve posted before on the issue and you can get more information on the two sides’ concerns in the links below.

The photo above is by Andrea, Il Cacciatore di Emozioni, from the Salviamo le Apuane Flickr stream, linked here.

Previously on Art is Life:

24 hours to “Stop the Destruction of the Apuan Alps”

“In the quarry of Michelangelo, it’s war between environmentalists and quarrymen” The Italian daily ‘La Stampa’ follows the ongoing controversy over the marble quarries in the Apuan Alps

Marble Quarry Closures – The seven mayors of the Versilia stand united against Tuscany

48 marble quarries at risk of being shut down as part of new Tuscany Region environmental plan

“L’economia alternativa nelle Apuane” conference will address alternatives to the ongoing marble quarrying, this Saturday, in Lucca

“Turning Art History into Toothpaste” The issues involving the “ongoing environmental disaster” in Carrara’s marble region are beginning to be noticed

<Reposting: “The destruction of the Apuan Alps; the greatest environmental disaster of Europe”

UPDATE: ____________ “Stop the destruction of the Apuan Alps” – Online petition gathers steam, prompts an official response

“SALVIAMO LE APUANE” Environmentalists and “escursionisti” tag Mount Pania to stop the “destruction of the Apuan Alps”

“The Plundered Alps” Der Spiegel Magazine tells of the devastation of the Apuan Alps

John Singer Sargent’s watercolors of the Marble Quarries in Carrara

“The Apennine in the light of day / Is a mighty mountain dim and gray.” B&W photos of the marble quarries in the Apuan Alps over Carrara

“Out of the Mist – the Rock Art of the Alpi Apuane” at Villa Gori

One thought on “The Quarry Controversy: Tuscany passes a compromise plan on the management of marble quarries within the Apuan Alps Natural Park – and no one is happy; scheduled for tomorrow Tuesday the 1st of July: a complete shutdown of the industry… and a “March on Florence”

  1. Hey. I read the story in the Guardian this morning or maybe I was on the BBC, and of course have been following your stories. What a dilemma! I hope you are going along to Firenze tomorrow, so you can report.

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