CarrieÌ€res Plo, the company that runs the largest granite quarry in France from which the 117tonne Tsunami Memorial unveiled by Prince Charles at the Natural History Museum was made, will be among the exhibitors at the Natural Stone Show in ExCeL London 28-30 April next year.
The company also operates two prestigious marble quarries in the Pyrenees, one of which has supplied the stone for the Shangri-La Hotel in The Shard inâ€ˆLondon.
Jean Pierre Plo developed the quarries and has since handed the business over to his son, Philippe Plo, who is now the CEO, although his father still supports him in the firm.
The highly figurative marbles are Sarrancolin Opera Fantastico and Sarrancolin Versailles, extracted in the Pyrenees from quarries that Jean Pierre Plo re-opened in 2011, the same year that the huge granite memorial to commemorate those who lost their lives in the 2004 tsunami was unveiled. The marble quarries are in the Valley of Aure, 1,000m above sea level.
The marbles have always been highly valued and take their names from the use made of them by the French king Louis XVI at Versailles. The marble has also been used in the chateaux Fontainebleau and Chambord.
Later, the marbles were exported for prestigious projects overseas, including the Empire State Building and the reception of the Mayflower on the Park hotel in New York, the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong and the MGM Grand Casino in Macao, Francis Ford Coppola’s kitchen and Tina Turner’s bathroom.
And most recently the Versailles marble was used in the main entrance hall of the Shangri-La hotel in The Shard.
The Shard is the highest tower of its kind in Europe and the entrance to the hotel on the 52nd floor provides spectacular views out over London.
CarrieÌ€res Plo’s Granit du Tarn Silverstar quarry is at St Salvy-de-la Balme in Toulouse, in the South of France. It is in the Sidobre mountains, from where more than half the granite produced in France comes – and CarrieÌ€res Plo produces 20,000-25,000m3 of it a year, 45% of which is exported.
In the past five years the company has changed its method of extraction and now saws the granite blocks from the quarry using diamond disks up to 4.8m in diameter to make 2m deep vertical cuts. Diamond wires make the horizontal cuts.
For the Tsunami Memorial installed at the Natural History Museum in 2011 (see NSS, November 2011) the block needed to be 4m thick and had to be drilled out. It originally weighed 130tonnes and as the finished memorial still weighed 117tonnes.
To move such a massive piece of stone a special haulage carriage had to be built with 120 wheels to spread the load. Dispensation from the French Government had to be obtained to put the load on French roads and a survey of all the roads and bridges in France and England it would travel along and over was undertaken to ensure they could carry the load.
At the Natural History Museum, a 500tonne crane and a 100tonne crane were needed to turn and lift the memorial into position.
The story of the memorial is a fascinating one set out in a book published by Tsunami Support UK. Copies can be bought for £20 from CarrieÌ€res Plo, email [email protected]r.
You will be able to see smaller pieces of the granite and the Sarrancolin marbles at the Natural Stone Show at ExCeL London in April. And if you would like to join CarrieÌ€res Plo as an exhibitor at the Show, contact Anna on +44 (0)115 945 3898 / [email protected]k. There are only a few stands left, so it will be first-come-first-served.