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Flashback: Vulcan Materials' Caribbean Cruise

Calica Harbor, port for Vulcan Materials' Sac Tun Quarry near Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Calica Harbor, port for Vulcan Materials' Sac Tun Quarry near Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

In our August 1988 issue of Business Alabama, we reported a major venture by Vulcan Materials Inc.—development of a huge quarry in the jungles of Mexico. Sac Tun Quarry is still the largest single quarry owned by the Birmingham company, which is the largest producer of aggregate construction materials in the U.S. And the quarry is still operated successfully smack in the middle of one of the busiest tourist destinations in the Caribbean—35 miles south of Cancun and just up the road from Playa del Carmen, in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo.

Whether it would stay a pristine tourist destination was a big concern when Vulcan began dredging a deep-water port at Playa del Carmen. “We will do what it takes to stop them. Hopefully they will realize that we are not just a bunch of ecology nuts,” Sherrie Bell, an American member of Grupo Ecologista told the Associated Press.

Silting from the dredging soon settled, as did the worst environmental fears, of harm to coral reefs. Nearby Mayan ruins were excavated and protected. The Mexican quarry won the National Stone Association Showplace Award in 1990, its first year of operation.

What is now called the Sac Tun Quarry added 6 percent to Vulcan’s aggregate shipments when it went into production in 1989. Its deposits were first investigated in 1973 by Vulcan geologist Pete Wiese, who hacked his way into the forest with a machete. The Caribbean quarry opened the U.S. Gulf Coast to Vulcan, which had few reserves in the region. Mexican rock cruises across the Gulf to the ports of Houston, Tampa, New Orleans and Galveston.

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