How can Dimension Stone Industry meet the fundamental values of Geoethics?

by N. Careddu, G. Di Capua and G. Siotto.


What Geoethics is?

Geoethics is defined by the IAPG – International Association for Promoting Geoethics as the “research and reflection on the values which underpin appropriate behaviours and practices, wherever human activities interact with the Earth system. Geoethics deals with the ethical, social and cultural implications of geoscience education, research and practice, and with the social role and responsibility of geoscientists in conducting their activities.” (Cape Town Statement on Geoethics).


Thoughts on the application of values of geoethics to the dimension stone industry

Professionals working in the dimension stone industry are expected to be competent in this field. They should follow regular training activities and a life-long learning. A degree in geology or mining engineering is a strategic option, which may be further enhanced by a Ph.D.

Technical and scientific knowledge (including information about probabilities and uncertainties of analyses) and theoretical and practical experience achieved through various studies must be shared at all levels. Sharing knowledge can be carried out by publishing each own study in journals subject to a peer-review process. An objective and unbiased peer-review process should always be applied to technical and scientific publications on dimension stone. Nonetheless, a lot of people working in the dimension stone sector have published top-notch studies and articles only in commercial journals (especially in the years 1970-2010), that lack of any kind of peers’ check. Unethical practice which should be stopped includes the re-publishing of academic research after a mere change of the editing, or of numbers. The public presentation of research results at congresses or conferences should be highly encouraged. The principle of research integrity has to be applied also to the dimension stone sector, too, in order to guarantee excellent working results and the adoption of best practices.


Environmental implications of the dimension stone sector in Sardinia

Since ancient times, the life of Sardinian people have been strongly linked to stone, which turned out useful once humans found a way to transform and use it to organize their life. Stone was used for building tombs, “nuraghi” (typical constructions of the bronze age), places of worship, roads and cathedrals. Sardinian stones currently are undergoing a new phase of industrial use in the production of street furniture and decorative parts used for public and private buildings (e.g. in the restoration of several civic centres).

The sardinian landscape offers a remarkable geological diversity, that has to be preserved as an essential element sustaining local biodiversity and favouring cultural and social diversity. The law n.31/1989 by the Sardinian Regional Government recognizes 24 “geologic monuments” which constitute a tangible and intangible “resource”, capable to comply with the idea of the sustainable development. The geological history of Sardinia covers a wide geological time of the Earth history: there are many outcrops showing lithological and paleontological peculiarities that are important for both studying and teaching. Following a geoethical approach, these geological outcrops should be preserved and not ruined, for examples, by heavy sampling. Many Sardinian historical quarries for ornamental purposes should be protected and recovered as touristic sites showing an industrial archaeology heritage, as done for example, from 1997, with the geopark “Parco Geominerario della Sardegna”, now included in the UNESCO Global Geoparks network.

On the other side, the promotion of positive examples in the way quarries operate should be undertaken more effectively, in order to make local communities aware that in those cases operations fulfill all the sustainable development criteria and practices and are respectful of the environment. For example, in the case of the marble quarries of Orosei (East Sardinia), fossils found during the excavation process have been preserved.

In this perspective, geotourism representing an “added value” to the local economy of communities, can play an important role in the enhancement of a geoethical culture in society. Geotourism is strictly linked to the concept of “Geoheritage” and has clear geoethical implications: the geoheritage, as well as all scientific and cultural factors, has an intrinsic social and economic value, and strengthens the sense of belonging that communities feel for the local environment in which they live.


Role and responsibilities in the dimension stone sector

Whenever possible, professionals in the dimension stone sector have to consider that the setting-up of a quarry for ornamental stone has an important impact on the geosphere and ecosystems. Negative past experiences in Sardinia show many examples of avid and unethical exploitation of stone deposits (known also as “robbery mining”) and brought to wide damages to the environment. Such quarrying methods prevented further working activities and the excavation of other portions of the deposit of economic interest. Landfills must be designed in the perspective of a circular economy development, favouring the reuse of waste/scrap materials as secondary raw materials. Finally, the opening of a quarry and/or a stone-processing plant have to be carefully evaluated and assessed in comparison with other alternative activities which could be more interesting from an economic and social point of view. Responsible mining is a new way to develop socio-environmentally respectful mining activities. In this perspective, all actors involved in mining projects have duties toward the environment and human communities, such as: 1). Professionals have to support decision-makers with environmentally and socio-friendly solutions able to guarantee adequate levels of safety for the environment and people; 2) Politicians should not prevent quarrying only on the basis of environmental claims or in support of irresponsible opportunistic slogans: they should base their decisions on mining activities by evaluating their socio-economic benefits for local residents, and the impact on ecosystems and landscape; 3) Mass-media should not create sensationalistic warning every time there is the possibility to start mining activities by open a quarry: mass media should inform citizens in a transparent way, by sharing information that have a solid scientific and technical basis; 4) Citizens have the right to receive an adequate level of information on pro and cons about a mining project and to be involved in the decision-making process, but at the same time they have the duty to evaluate information based on reliable scientific and technical data. They should avoid to turn down a project only on the base of irrational and groundless fears; 5) Universities have to create geoscience and engineering curricula in which ethical problems and dilemmas related to mining activities are adequately treated. A strong cooperation among these actors is necessary to guarantee a geoethical approach to mining.

Geoethics values applied in dimension stone industry are not a limit to the freedom of action but a new opportunity for geoscientists to contribute to determining the best way forward for society.


Short notes

This article was presented as an extended abstract at the Global Stone Congress 2018 (April 27-29, 2018, Ilhéus, Brazil), and it is printed with kind permission of Authors.

An extended version of this article, entitled “Dimension stone industry should meet the fundamental values of geoethics”, was published by Resources Policy and is available at or it can be requested from the Authors.



The authors is thankful to Organizing Committee of Global Stone Congress 2018 (April 27-29, 2018, Ilhéus, Brazil), for having invited them to present this study. Gratefully acknowledges Autonomous Region of Sardinia for the financial support (L.R. of 7th August 2007 nr.7, annuity 2013).


About the authors

Nicola Careddu, senior researcher University of Cagliari, Department of Civil, Environmental Engineering and Architecture (DICAAr). Address: via Marengo 2, 09123 Cagliari, Italy. E-mail: Phone n.: +390706755561.


Giuseppe Di Capua, geologist Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia. IAPG – International Association for Promoting Geoethics. Address: via di Vigna Murata 605, 00143 Roma, Italy. E-mail: Phone n.: +390651860806.


Giampaolo Siotto, mining engineer Mediterranea Progetti e Finanza s.r.l. Address: via Tola 30, 09128 Cagliari, Italy. E-mail: Phone n.: +390704560893.


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