Roofing slates of the world, part I

Images of hand specimens and thin sections of slates from several world´s locations. Real color of the specimens may vary with respect of shown in the images.

Pizarras del Mundo01

1 – Slate from Labassere, Pyrenees, France. Dark and homogeneous slate quarried in the French Pyrenees. Nowadays, the quarry keeps a small production focused in the local market. Stratigraphy: Ordovician. Sample picked directly at the quarry.

2 – Shale from Minas Gerais, Brazil. Green rock, although other colors are quarried. It has a metamorphic grade slightly lower than slate. Also, it may have carbonate inclusions (red colored zones in the 200 zoom microphotograph) located in sandy levels. Stratigraphy: Bambui group, Ediacaran. Sample courtesy of Pizarras SAMACA.

3 – Red slate from Newfoundland, Canada (Trinity slate). Fine-grained and homogeneous slate with abundant iron oxides which gives it the red color. Stratigraphy: Bonavista Formation, Lower Cambrian. Sample courtesy of Laboratorio del Centro Tecnológico de la Pizarra.

4 –Himalaya slate. This rock is actually a layered volcanic rock, as it can be deduced due to the epidote crystals seen in the thin section. There are some studies about roofing slates in the Nepal and Himalaya zone Himalaya (Neupane 2007, Neupane 2012). The production potential for this area is still unknown. Stratigraphy: Nourpul and Benighat Formations, Neoproterozoic/Lower Cambrian.

5 – Shale from Jiangxi, China. Light grey rock, fine grained, with homogeneous texture and abundant opaque minerals. Roofing slates form China are very varied both from  petrological and commercial points of view. Thus, there are some exceptional god materials together with other with less quality. Stratigraphy: Shuidonggou Formation, Silurian. Sample courtesy of StoneV.

6 – Angers slate, France. Dark and fine-grained slate, with homogeneous texture, very typical in France. It has been quarried for centuries. Startigraphy: Grand-Auverné Formation, Middle Ordovician. Sample courtesy of Ardosieres d´Angers.

And please remember: There are no bad slates but bad uses. The slate should be used in accordance with the building and environment requirements, so it is critical to know and understand the rock we are dealing with.

World´s roofing slate market in 2011

Producing countries versus consuming countries

A brief analysis of the global market for roofing slate in 2011 reveals a number of interesting conclusions. Spain still remains the largest exporter of slates in the world, followed by China and Brazil. Spanish exports in dollars (graphic 1) are well above those of China and Brazil, but not so for exports measured in tons (graphic 2), where China is close to the production volume of Spain. Regarding to consuming countries, in 2011 France was the largest consumer, followed by the UK, Germany and the United States.

Evolution 2011

Taking into account the selling prices for slate, measured in $/ton (graphic 3), Spain, the largest producer, sells its slate at an average price of $ 657/ton, down from the average of 855 $/ton. However, this price is higher than the sales of China (343 $/ton) and Brazil ($ 479/ton). In fact, the overall average price rises due to high sale prices of Central European countries (Germany, France, Belgium and Italy) that had a very limited production but sold at high prices their production into their own markets for restoration of historical monuments and singular buildings. On the other hand, the buying price (graphic 4) for all the countries is closer to the average (787 $/ton), except for the case of China (1,412 $/ton) and Brazil (1,071 $/ton). These two countries buy little roofing slate (graphics 1 and 2) but at very high prices. Thus, it is possible to draw a conclusion: China, and to a lesser extent Brazil, are potential consumers of roofing slate. The opening of these markets to European production companies can be a good solution for the economic crisis that many of these companies are experiencing.

Statistical data:, code 6803, category HS2002