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Mine v. Quarry

Ask a Teacher: Mine v. Quarry
Ask a Teacher: Mine v. Quarry
Mine v. Quarry
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Hello! This week on Ask a Teacher, we will answer a question from Yusuf about the difference between “mine” and “quarry.”


Hi VOA learning team,

Would you please help me to understand the difference between “quarry” and “mine?”

Thanks, Yusuf


Dear Yusuf,

This is a great question! Thank you for asking it!

Both “mine” and “quarry” can be used as nouns and verbs. Their meanings are related but are different in important ways. Let us start with the word “mine.”


As a noun, a “mine” is a hole dug underground to recover minerals and other valuable substances from the earth. For example,

Recently, a large pink diamond was found in a mine in the African country of Angola.

“Mine” as a noun has another meaning.

A mine is a bomb that is hidden underground as a defensive weapon. These land mines cause many deaths, even long after a war is over.

Large pouch rats in Africa are trained to find land mines by using their sense of smell.

A floating mine can also be put in the sea as a weapon against ships.

A “mine” can also be any large supply of a resource. For example:

There is a mine of information on the internet.

“Mine” can also be a verb. “To mine” means to dig useful or valuable substances out of the earth.

Americans went west to California in the mid-1800s to mine for gold. This is called the California Gold Rush.


A “quarry,” like a mine, is a place where valuable minerals or rocks are recovered, but it is open on the earth’s surface rather than underground. Rocks, sand and minerals are removed from quarries. Big pieces of stone like limestone and granite and some minerals are removed from quarries as building materials.

The Ancient Egyptians cut huge blocks of limestone and granite from quarries to build the Great Pyramids.

The noun “quarry” has another meaning. It can be an animal or even a person that is hunted.

The dogs chased their quarry through the field.

“Quarry” as a verb can mean to take or dig from.

There are many sites in the United States where you can quarry for fossils.

The use of “quarry” and “mine” is sometimes linked to the kind of mineral being recovered. So, limestone is almost always quarried while diamonds are usually mined.


So, a “mine” is a hole underground that is used to remove minerals and valuable substances from the earth. A “quarry” is like a mine but is on the surface of the earth and usually is used to remove large pieces of stone, sand or minerals. It can also be something that is hunted or sought after.

Both “quarry” and “mine,” as verbs, mean to dig something out of the earth.

Please let us know if these examples and explanations have helped you, Yusuf!

What question do you have about American English? Send us an email at

And that’s Ask a Teacher.

I’m Faith Pirlo.

Faith Pirlo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

pouch – n. a pocket of folded skin especially for carrying the young (as on the abdomen of a kangaroo) or for carrying food (as in the cheek of a hamster)

idiom – n. an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but that has a separate meaning of its own

fossil n. the remains of ancient life forms that have mineralized and turned to stone


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