Limestone – a key ingredient of civilisation

Limestone, or calcium carbonate, is a natural, but perhaps slightly overlooked, part of our everyday world. The water you use to make your morning coffee may have been purified using limestone. Limestone products are used to manufacture the steel in your coffee machine and the paper in your morning newspaper. Your bread comes from cereals grown on land that has been improved with calcium carbonate. And even the sugar in your coffee and your marmalade has been grown with the help of limestone products.

Limestone through the ages

Limestone has been part of human civilisation for thousands of years. No one knows exactly how long we’ve been using it, but floors using limestone as a binder have been found around the Mediterranean that are over 9,000 years old. In other words, limestone in its various forms is essential to human civilisation and improves our quality of life – yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Limestone today

Sweden has lots of limestone deposits in areas such as Dalarna, Värmland, Närke, Västergötland and Skåne, as well as on the islands of Gotland and Öland.

Of the approximately 9.3 million tonnes that are quarried each year in Sweden, over 8.8 million tonnes are calcium carbonate, while the rest is dolomite.

Products from limestone and dolomite are used in an extensive range of applications, including industry, agriculture and environmental management. However, almost half of production is used to manufacture cement.

Marble is also a form of limestone but is harder. Known marble deposits in Sweden are Ekberg marble and the Kolmård deposit.

The future of calcium carbonate products

No one really knows how things will develop in the future, but it’s likely that calcium carbonate will be put to entirely new uses.

For example, a research project at Herslev University in Denmark is investigating the possibility of treating cancer using calcium carbonate. This is done by injecting a calcium carbonate mixture into cancerous tumours while applying short electrical pulses. This damages the protective membrane of the cancer cells and the calcium carbonate is absorbed. The cancer cells then try to restore the balance of calcium carbonate, expending so much energy that they die. Initial trials are promising and the research is continuing.