How Tech is Making Mining More Efficient

Technological innovation has hit critical mass in recent decades, revolutionizing nearly every industry. Mining is no exception.

Mining productivity has declined worldwide in recent years. Researchers Ajay Lala, Mukani Moyo, Stefan Rehbach and Richard Sellschop estimate that operations worldwide are 28 percent less productive than they were 10 years ago, even after declining ore grades are taken into account.

Often, technology becomes the source to which mining professionals turn to address this problem. With so many new technologies on the market, however, it can be difficult to tell which options truly make mine operations more efficient — and which are simply the newest “gadget.”

Here, we explore several types of mining technology to examine what each one does and how well it works. We also examine several case studies in which tech is put to on-site, real-world use to see how it measures up.


Automated Drilling

While automation systems for drilling have taken hold in a number of mining operations worldwide, the complex nature of the drilling process means that many operations take a piecemeal approach to automation.

The piecemeal approach can improve efficiencies in certain areas, but it can also lead to greater complexities and, in some cases, additional injuries. To streamline the automation process, some companies in the business, including Sandvik and ASI, specialize in developing complete automation systems.

One such system is currently in place in the gold mine at Jundee, Australia, where underground operations are supervised by Byrnecut Australia. By using automated drilling systems, Byrnecut increased productivity, not only reviving Jundee’s operations but allowing them to thrive, notes managing director Pat Boniwell. In fact, during the December 2016 quarter, Jundee produced 59,527 ounces of gold — or nearly half of the total amount the mine’s owner, Northern Star, produced during the quarter.

The specifications for an automated drilling system produced by Komatsu provide a clear example of the technology’s flexibility and efficiency. Automation systems created for the company’s P&H 77XD and 320XPC drills offer obstacle detection sensors, auto navigation, high-precision GPS, and an auto drill that allows for rotary speed and feed-rate adjustments “on the fly.”

empty new landfill with plastic isolating layer

Biochemical Reactors for Waste Management

Waste management, particularly regarding water used in mining operations, has long been a subject of concern in mining. One attempt to “green” the mining process uses biochemical reactors, or BCRs. These engineered treatment systems employ an organic substrate to reduce levels of sulfates and metals in mining-influenced waters (MIW), as well as to reduce acidity levels, according to the Interstate Technology & Regulatory Council. Treatment may expand the range of options for storage or disposal of MIWs.

Several mining sites throughout the United States currently use biochemical reactors, including the Golinsky Copper Mine in California. Now managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the site produced copper between 1890 and 1930 and continues to discharge acid mine drainage to the nearby Little Backbone Creek. Copper, zinc and cadmium levels in the discharging water are considerably higher than federal safe levels, according to the California Regional Water Quality Control Board.

The BCR at Golinsky diverts discharge to three holding ponds in which sulfide-eating bacteria reside. As the water passes through the ponds, the bacteria go to work, causing carbonates and heavy metals to precipitate. While the resulting treated water does not yet meet California’s strict environmental standards for discharge to surface waters, it does meet federal standards for many of the metals it contains.

The site’s eventual goal is to remove 99 percent of the cadmium, copper, iron and zinc in the water, according to a 2008 Action Memo by site contact Brad Shipley. Continuing upgrades and care for the site will be necessary as technologies improve and as performance declines due to changes in the microbial population, predict researchers Parissa Mirjafari and Susan A. Baldwin.


Driverless Transportation

Extracting resources from mines is only one step in the process of making mining a profitable, industry-supporting endeavor. Extracted materials must also be transported to buyers, who may be located across the country or across the globe.

One mining site in Australia is experimenting with driverless technology for transporting iron ore across the hundreds of miles of outback to the nearest port. According to Tom Simonite at MIT Technology Review, mining company Rio Tinto has 73 driverless vehicles currently hauling iron ore 24 hours a day. The company is also examining options for upgrading train lines to include not only driverless locomotives, but systems that load and unload the train cars automatically.

Driverless technology is still being tested on public roads. In mining, however, “it’s easier to deploy because these environments are already highly regulated,” notes Carnegie Mellon University National Robotics Engineering Center director Herman Herman.

Companies like Komatsu and Caterpillar supply the trucks, which use tools like precision GPS, radar and LiDAR to spot and avoid obstacles in their paths. LiDAR technologies are also the primary method by which prototype driverless passenger vehicles sense their environment.

At Rio Tinto, the investment in driverless technology has resulted in a 15-percent reduction in haulage costs, according to the site’s productivity manager, Rob Atkinson. The trucks are more consistent than human drivers, which not only saves time, but also improves safety. Savings on maintenance are also anticipated, because the technology can apply brakes and controls more precisely.


Sensors, Data and Drones

With the expansion of technology comes an explosion in the amount of data generated. For instance, more data was created in 2015 alone than existed in the entire history of computing through 2003.

Mines can greatly benefit from the thoughtful use of sensor technology and the computing power to analyze that data effectively, note Hugh Durrant-Whyte, Ryan Geraghty, Ferran Pujol, and Richard Sellschop in an article for McKinsey. Examples include using sensors to examine rock composition; employing high-sensitivity GPS to spot obstacles during the drilling process; and employing drones to map, analyze, and examine mining sites, waste treatment areas, and accident zones.

A distributed control system (DCS) offers one option for tracking this data, according to Hein Hiestermann, Global Director of the Mining Industry at Rockwell Automation. The DCS allows for real-time information and monitoring that links every aspect of the mining operation, bringing disparate data streams together into one system and making it easier to see the “big picture” without losing track of the details.

Surveyors Kerstin Traut, Nigel King and Ruairi Hardman offer a case study on aerial mapping from one of the largest open-pit copper mines in Kazakhstan. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are used daily at the site to monitor the mine’s status, plan pits, leach pads, and infrastructure; estimate stockpile volumes; plan site rehabilitation; and patrol the perimeter.


Future Challenges

Technologies are being productively employed to address a number of immediate challenges in mining, including lower yields, lower ore quality, and mounting production and haulage costs. But technology use in mining also comes with challenges of its own.

As the study by Mirjafari and Baldwin demonstrates, biochemical reactors are not a “set it and forget it” option. The U.S. Forest Service estimates that the Golinsky Mine BCR costs approximately $65,000 per year to run, and the site must be monitored to ensure the bacteria responsible for remediating mine-influenced waters maintain a sufficient population to meet remediation targets.

The advent of Big Data in mining operations also produces challenges. As Hugh Durrant-Whyte, et al. note, mining companies — like many organizations — use only a fraction of the data they collect. Data may not be captured or stored in an accessible format. If stored, it may not be analyzed, communicated or considered in the decision-making process.

Data use in mining also faces a more archaic problem. While the thoughtful application of geologic data to potential mine sites could result in improved yields of higher-quality ore, much of the geologic data available is still in paper format — and the costs of transferring it to a digital medium that a computer can analyze is still written off as cost-prohibitive in most industries, according to the Committee on Technologies for the Mining Industries of the National Research Council, authors of Evolutionary and Revolutionary Technologies for Mining.

Finally, mining operations may be hampered by a short-term view. As Joe Amadi-Echendu, Obbie Lephauphau, Macks Maswanganyi and Malusi Mkhize note in an article in the Journal of Engineering and Technology Management, “technology planning and forecasting received priority attention only as far as they may be linked to making production tonnage in the short term.” However, the authors note, this short-term approach often fails to maximize the true potential of the technology in question, missing the potential the technology provides for long-term solutions that address mining’s current and future challenges.

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How Aggregates, Mining and Landfill Operations Create Local Jobs

Turn on any news station or pick up any newspaper, and employment features in nearly every story. Jobs have been an especially pressing issue since the 2009 recession, and even where the economy has rebounded, governments, companies and employees alike continue to focus on the expansion of job opportunities and career paths throughout the country.

While political opinions abound as to the best way government can stimulate job growth, on the ground, facts and statistics demonstrate that job creation is, as Nick Hanauer notes, not a product of rhetoric. Instead, job creation is the result of planning, management and strategizing.

Work will always exist as long as human beings need food, water, shelter and energy to survive. Where resources are allocated and how tasks are planned and carried out, however, have a direct impact on how many work-hours — and thus how many people — are needed to reach business goals.

Aggregates, mining and landfill operations all have one thing in common when it comes to jobs: They tend to employ a large number of people locally, and they tend to impact the employment of others further afield.

Here, we take a closer look at the ways in which these industries are leveraging the skills and abilities of local workers.

tow truck

Local Work, Local Jobs

The digital revolution has changed our relationship to work in a number of fields. Automation has led thinkers like David Autor to ask whether automation will replace human labor completely, while those like Andrew McAfee attempt to predict the ways in which “jobs of the future” will differ from the work we’re familiar with today.

Unlike many of the jobs created in the past 20 years, jobs in aggregates, mining and waste management are site-specific: A mine or stockpile cannot be uploaded to the Internet and accessed anywhere in the world the way a document or spreadsheet can. These operations exist where the resources and space exist.

These jobs have changed in recent years as a result of technology: drones, site mapping and GPS tools are just a few of the possibilities open to site managers and staff that simply did not exist in the previous century. The local, physical, site-specific nature of these jobs, however, remains the same.

Why do local jobs matter? Consider the following points:


Local Jobs Build Communities

Local jobs are also a great way to maintain communities across generations, since they allow workers to stay near families and offer needed support. The wide range of entry-level jobs available in mines and quarries, as noted by InfoMine, also helps build and maintain communities by giving workers viable options beyond leaving for college or the big city.

Because mining, aggregates and landfill operations create multiple off-site jobs for every job filled on site, these employers also help to stimulate local economies and businesses. Many of the tasks these operations need to outsource are tasks that are also site-specific, such as transportation and equipment maintenance. Further, employees need locally available things like food, notes Stacy Mitchell at Independent Business.


Onsite Work Improves Communication

As global communication has become easier, work teams in many industries have spread out. They’re working from home, on the road or any place other than the same worksite.

Remote work has certain advantages, particularly in fields where being off-site or away from the office is often required. It produces a wide range of challenges, however, and the jury is still out as to the best way to coordinate communication and innovation when your team isn’t in the same space.

Locally based operations like mines, quarries and landfills often don’t have this problem. When workers have to be on-site to get the job done, navigating the latest technology or synchronizing schedules to ensure you catch someone before they clock out in a different time zone becomes a non-issue — making teams easier to lead and improving cooperation, as Jonathan Farrington notes.


Entrepreneurship and Innovation are Collaborative, Hands-On Processes

Mines, quarries and landfills provide nearly endless opportunities for innovation and creative solutions to problems, particularly when it comes to efficient management of resources and supply chains. To achieve the best gains in this area, however, a cohesive, well-managed team needs to have the daily contact that makes it possible for them to rely on one another.

“Working effectively as part of a team is incredibly important for output quality, morale and retention,” notes Edmond Lau, an engineer at Quora. Effective communication is only part of the task; workers also need to be able to rely on one another and must trust that when they see a better way to do a task, their idea will be taken seriously. In such an environment, innovation can easily put a worksite ahead of its competitors — and such environments are easier to generate when employees live and work locally.

metal worker teaching trainee on machine use

Job Multipliers: How One Direct Job Creates More Indirect Jobs

Mining, aggregates and landfill operations all directly employ workers. Labor is an essential part of these operations’ success, and while technology has made work more efficient in some ways, in others it has increased the demand for higher-level thinking, strategizing and problem-solving in site staff.


Putting a Number to That Multiplier

Research indicates that every position filled at a worksite doesn’t just employ the person who fills it: it also creates demand for additional tasks, which require additional workers to address. In short, as Therese Dunphy notes at Aggregates Manager, these jobs create jobs.

A study released in March 2017 of the aggregates industry found that each aggregates industry job supports four more jobs, often in the local economy. The study examined the national, state and county-level impacts of aggregates operations. At every level, aggregates operations created and maintained not only the working positions needed to run the operation itself, but jobs in shipping, quality control and other related industries, according to George Ford, the author of the study.

Mining has similar effects on local economies. Analysts at Sunrise Coal, LLC, studying data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, estimate that coal mining creates an additional 3.88 jobs in the broader economy for every individual employed at the mine itself. Meanwhile, Reshoring Initiative founder Harry Moser estimates that mining hasn’t finished producing jobs yet: Faster permitting, he estimates, would allow mines to add another 125,000 direct jobs and reduce trade deficits.


The ‘Spillover’ Effect That Indirectly Creates Jobs

Every job mining produces also creates jobs indirectly related to the operation of the mine itself. According to a report by the Canada-based Mining Facts, mining’s stimulation of the demand for related goods and services, including equipment, maintenance and other services results in additional jobs within local communities. Their study indicated that mining’s “spillover” effect is higher than in many under industries, particularly in locations where mines outsource tasks like transportation or equipment repair.

When it comes to creating new jobs through innovation, however, landfill operations remain at the forefront. The “zero waste” movement, in which landfill deposits are recycled, has the potential to produce 1.1 million jobs directly related to these recycling operations, according to a report prepared for the Natural Resources Defense Council by James Goldstein.

“Recycling activity can create over 10 times more jobs than disposal in landfills,” notes Nancey Green Leigh, a Georgia Institute of Technology professor who focuses on city and regional planning. She advocates treating landfills not as an end point for waste, but as a resource for raw materials. The idea has some similarities to the ways in which mines and quarries produce raw materials, suggesting that the “jobs multiplier” from landfills might be similar if recycling were made a priority.

The labor-intensive nature of recycling makes it a natural job creator, since many work-hours are required to recycle effectively, according to Rick LeBlanc at The Balance. When recycling is considered more broadly to include tasks like reuse and resale, its jobs impact may be even higher, creating as many as 2.3 million jobs, according to Harmony Enterprises.

Landfills in many areas already serve as points for the production of one important raw material: methane, a potent greenhouse gas that is also the primary constituent of natural gas. A white paper from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) estimates that landfills are one of the largest sources of human-made methane on the planet, creating 17.7 percent of the country’s methane emissions. The EPA’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) works to help landfills create and sell electricity and natural gas from these emissions, stimulating jobs and helping to protect local and global ecosystems.

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How Farmers are Using Our Same Tech to Improve Growing

Technological innovation isn’t new to farming. Farmers have been embracing new technologies for millennia, from the discovery of crop rotation in the Middle Ages to the cotton gin and chemical fertilizers of the 1800s, to the satellite mapping of the late 1900s, notes Andrew Meola.

In this new century, technology continues to change farming — just in time, perhaps, for some of the biggest agricultural challenges humankind has yet faced. Drone mapping has yielded benefits in a number of industries and practices, from better mining management to faster and more efficient disaster response, drone researcher Vijay Kumar notes. Farms are also discovering ways to put mapping technologies to work in order to improve growing conditions, maximize crop yields and better manage resources.

Mapping via drone “is like being able to see your farm from a 10,000 foot altitude, but also being able to zoom in to two inches above the plants,” notes Rob Eggert of TDS Fertilizer. “There’s no other system that can do that.”

Not surprisingly, drone mapping is one of the most versatile tech tools available for farming today.


Putting Drone Mapping to Work on the Farm

Throughout the United States and the world, farmers are finding innovative ways to put drone mapping to work in the service of their crops and their business. They are using the same technology we employ every day. Here are just a few of their most recent applications.



NDVI, or normalized difference vegetation index, is a mapping method that can spot whether an area contains live plants, according to Australian Broadcasting Corporation reporter Tyne Logan.

NDVI got its start in surveying and satellite imaging a decade ago. Today, improvements in the sensors and programming have made it possible to outfit drones with NDVI technology, giving them the ability to provide detailed overviews not only of vegetation, but also of irrigation leaks, flooded areas and other potential problems in fields.


Precision Agriculture

Drones allow farmers to practice “precision agriculture,” in which they manage resources to ensure each plant in a crop receives the proper amount of water, fertilizer and protection from pests, flooding, and disease, according to Meola. By employing drones to check on crops, farmers can spot parts of a field or herd that need attention, but that might not be visible from a ground-level spot check.


Checking Crops for Parasites

Drones equipped with high-resolution cameras make it much easier for farmers to spot infestations of parasites, fungi and invasive plant species that can devastate food crops. For example, farmers in the Imperial Basin of California use drone mapping to check alfalfa fields for dodder, a parasitic plant that can destroy alfalfa seed.

Spotting dodder in time to burn out the young plants and kill the infestation used to be quite difficult. With drones, however, farmers can easily identify dodder infestations in their early stages, saving time, money and labor in containing the parasite, explains farmer Tyler Smith.

corn field at sunset


Drone-planting systems are beginning to reach the market, having spent several years in development, according to PwC’s Michal Mazur. These drones inject small pods shaped from seeds and plant nutrients into the soil, providing the optimal conditions for the seed to germinate as it plants. Early studies on drone planting technology indicate that an uptake rate of 75 percent can be achieved — while simultaneously cutting planting costs by 85 percent.


Assessing Post-Harvest Erosion and Drainage

While most farm drones see extensive use during the growing season, some farmers, like Sam Meeker, have started putting their drones to work after the harvest as well. By mapping harvested fields, Meeker can examine erosion and drainage. From this intel, he can choose the best places to install new drainage tiles, address erosion or take other steps to prepare the fields well in advance of the next planting cycle.



LiDAR, or Light Detection and Ranging, is an optical technology used to measure the distance from the source of the light to another solid object, according to North Dakota State University.

LiDAR is one of the tools we use to map worksites, and it also has significant uses in agriculture. In a report prepared for the House Standing Committee on Agriculture, Bob Howard from GES Mapping in Australia notes that LiDAR technology, combined with drones, can provide digital elevation models, vegetation models and data on erosion and erosion control. Because LiDAR-equipped drones are reusable and analyze data in real time, farmers can develop constantly updated maps of their land whenever needed.

In the northern Great Plains states, John Dietz at Successful Farming also notes that LiDAR technology has helped farms throughout the Red River Basin reduce flooding by mapping fields and ditches more precisely. Better mapping allows drainage contractors to work more efficiently, providing better drainage that is also more cost-effective.


Fertilization and Water

Like people, plants need the right types and amounts of food and water in order to thrive. Some of these inputs are available in the environment, but in commercial farming many are supplied by the farmer — including phosphorus, a key element in cellular growth and a substance that is in limited supply on our planet, according to biologist Mohamed Hijri.

One solution? Drone-based analysis and administration of variable-rate prescriptions of fertilizer, water and pesticides to each plant or zone. Agricultural expert Landon Oldham has undertaken a project to combine drone imagery with soil samples in order to generate highly accurate nutrient prescription maps, allowing for site-specific application of fertilizer, specific nutrients, water or pesticides.

combine harvester in action on wheat field, unloading grains

Smart Farming = Sustainable Growth

By 2050, Earth may be home to as many as 9.6 billion people, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). To feed this many people, agricultural production will need to expand by 70 percent — even as arable land, fresh water limitations and climate change present unprecedented challenges for farmers.

Smart farming may be the answer to the challenge, according to Forbes’s Federico Guerrini. Drones and mapping technologies are but one piece of a larger smart-farming puzzle, which collects information about crop yields, soil mapping, fertilizer uses, weather patterns, machinery, and animal health and analyzes it digitally to provide guidance to farmers.

In a column published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Achim Walter, Robert Finger, Robert Huber, and Nina Buchmann argue that the application of information and communication technologies in agriculture amounts of a “fourth revolution” in agricultural production. They identify the use of autonomous fertilizers and harvesters, drone mapping, analysis software, and virtual fence technologies “constitute a technical revolution” that will profoundly change the face and future of worldwide farming.

All change comes with questions and uncertainties. As technological tools replace human hands-on labor in a number of farming tasks, many find themselves asking the question David Autor tackled in a 2016 TED Talk: “Will automation take away all our jobs?”

In agriculture, at least, it appears the answer is “no”: Human intervention will always be needed to make critical decisions and to address contingencies that drones can’t identify or prepare for. While the tools make the work easier, they do not eliminate the need for planning or strategy, nor do they replace the importance of hands-on decisionmaking.

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Why You Need Tech Literacy to Manage Stockpiles and Worksites Today

It’s not a stretch to say that in the past 30 years technology has revolutionized every industry and every job — including the management of stockpiles and worksites. A great deal of the work that was done on paper only a few years ago is now done digitally, and managers today regularly use tools that simply did not exist 10 or 20 years ago.

To understand the tools necessary to the job, managers need a basic level of tech literacy. Reaching beyond the basics, however, can have profound benefits for your worksite, your team and your career. Here’s how.


What Do We Mean By ‘Tech Literacy?’

Broadly speaking, tech literacy is the ability to select and use the right tech tool for the job at hand, according to Caitrin Blake of Concordia University Nebraska. Tech literacy operates in the realms of problem-solving, communication and the evaluation and analysis of information.

Tech literacy helps both students and professionals function more efficiently in today’s tech-saturated workplace. It also improves decision-making, both by offering opportunities to gather more information and by providing more tools for analyzing that information.

In addition, the demand for technologically literate professionals in every industry is growing. A report by the Georgetown Public Policy Institute estimates that jobs in tech-heavy fields will expand by 26 percent between 2010 and 2020 — and that 95 percent of these job postings will demand extensive tech literacy as demonstrated by a college degree, a technical certification or other postsecondary education.

At The 74, Vince M. Bertram notes that the majority of people who use tech in their daily jobs aren’t employed in the traditional STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields. They work as business development reps, or as journalists or as inventory managers.

Jobs that demand tech literacy pay better, too. Fast Company’s Lydia Dishman estimates that positions in which tech literacy is essential pay up to $22,000 per year more than jobs in which tech literacy is optional. Dishman also notes that one particular tech literacy skill — the ability to write code — is becoming ever more important.

At Bridge, Troy Anderson notes that “digital literacy is the new literacy,” and it’s essential for managers. Among other reasons tech literacy needs to be a top concern for anyone in stockpile, site or area management:

  • The right tech can help you spot problems and solve them before they cause major setbacks.
  • Good tech can lead to better customer service, with the ability to respond more effectively and efficiently to problems.
  • Tech makes measuring ROI and other factors easy — which makes managing them easier.
  • Tech literacy can help you articulate goals and set your team on a path to achieving them.

In short, tech literacy makes people who manage worksites more effective at their jobs and better able to carry out their work.

architect showing new house project with tablet

How Technology Is Used in Worksite Management

With the vast proliferation of technologies in every conceivable industry, tech literacy matters — but it’s only as valuable as a manager’s ability to apply it to the technology most commonly used in their industry. Here are several of the ways in which tech is employed in stockpile and area management.


Forecasting Demand

Humans are notorious for attempting to predict the future based on what we recall about the past. We’re also notorious for selective and patchy recall of past events, resulting in our future predictions often being less than reliable.

Analytics software, however, doesn’t suffer from these problems. The right analytics tools, paired with a strong system for collecting and storing data, can make stronger predictions about where materials, equipment, labor, and other resources will be needed and when, according to McKinsey & Company. This kind of insight can help managers ensure that their work proceeds more efficiently, maximizing revenues and protecting the productivity of their teams.


Eliminating Waste

Every stockpile manager is conscious of the waste problem. As SmartData Collective’s Rick Delgado notes, many companies lose product during the transportation process — and lose revenue along with it.

Analytics tools can help companies determine where the leaks are occurring and find ways to prevent them, protecting revenues and improving the shipment of stockpiled aggregates and other materials to their final destinations.


Detailed Data Collection

When it comes to detailed data collection, drones are edging out human survey teams in a number of industries and applications, from stockpile management to crisis response in the wake of natural disasters. Drones can travel places humans can’t, Kristin Musulin at Waste Dive argues.

Drones can also gather more detailed information about topography, composition and other data points, making them more efficient at stockpile, site and area data collection than their human counterparts, notes Andrew Kahler of John Deere. Some drones can even be equipped with analysis software, so by the time they return to their operators, they’ve not only gathered more data than a human team would have, but they’ve crunched the numbers, as well.


Working More Efficiently

If stockpile managers ever had the luxury of sitting in their offices while their teams did the legwork, those days are long gone. Today, managers juggle a number of tasks, from keeping track of workers and equipment to meeting complex project deadlines. Often, these managers must stay on top of a site even if they’re not physically present.

Enter tech tools. Today’s mobile work environment has generated a wide range of apps and tools that can help worksite managers handle operations even if they’re not on the ground. Popular options include

  • GenieBelt, which helps worksite managers coordinate and complete projects;
  • APE Mobile, which manages construction site paperwork;
  • and BuildSourced, which combines QR code technology with a smartphone app to help teams keep track of equipment and materials during a large-scale operation.


Protecting Data From Attack

As ever-increasing quantities of data are created and stored online, companies become the focus of potential attacks from hackers worldwide who seek to exploit that information for their own uses. A 2015 PriceWaterhouseCoopers report estimated that the number of global cyberattacks on mining companies alone jumped from 3.4 million in 2009 to 42.8 million in 2014 — a span of just five years.

Unsurprisingly, tech tools are at the forefront of protecting this data from attack. Understanding the risks and the tools available to combat those risks are essential for any stockpile, site, or area manager.


Improving Communications

Like all managers, stockpile and site managers thrive on good communication. Communication is essential to ensuring everyone knows what they need to do in order to get the job done. Strong tech literacy skills can improve communication, ensuring that problems are addressed and work proceeds smoothly toward its goals.

Tech literacy is essential to good communication, journalism professor Aaron Chimbel says. “If we value clear writing and the ability to communicate clearly with people,” he writes in an article at MediaShift, “we should value teaching our students the basics of computer languages and digital communications.”

For stockpile and area managers, the value of good communication more than outweighs the effort required to improve the very tech literacy skills that will promote strong communication abilities.

manufacturing worker using digital tablet at work

Promoting Tech Literacy on Your Team

As tech literacy becomes essential to effective and efficient worksite management, increasing numbers of managers and executives are looking for ways to promote these key skills among members of their own teams. Here are three ways to do that, courtesy of members of the Forbes Technology Council:


Focus on Developing Problem-Solving Skills

As Cristina Dolan of the MIT Enterprise Forum NYC notes, you can’t create a technological solution to a problem — or implement the technologies you already have — until you can first clearly define the problem. Work on teaching teams to identify and explain problems before you turn to the tech.


Get Team Members Familiar With Coding

You don’t need to be a programming genius, but understanding the basics will help you understand what options are available and “talk shop” with the programmers who will ensure your tech tools do what you need them to do, notes Yocale’s Arash Asli. Understanding the basics of coding can also help you better articulate problems and explore solutions, ZipBooks’s Timothy Chaves says.


Learn From the Experts

“I don’t think everyone needs to code,” Chalmers Brown of Due says. “It’s good to stay tuned into the tech world by reading and engaging with tech experts.” Brown also recommends talking to developers and attending the occasional tech conference to learn more about how tech is being employed in the stockpile, mining and aggregates industries and how you can employ tech tools to solve worksite challenges.

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16 Publications Every Stockpile Management Professional Should Know

A very short time ago, professionals who wanted to stay on top of news in their field subscribed to paper newsletters, magazines and trade journals. Many of these publications still exist today, but they’ve been transformed by the rise of digital technology.

Now, newsletters, magazines and trade journals can often be read online, alongside digital-only publications like blogs and other media such as podcasts. Here, we’ve compiled 16 of the best digital publications out there on mining, construction aggregates management and stockpile management.

Add blogs to your favorite RSS reader or podcasts to your preferred podcast app for iOS or Android to make staying on top of industry news easy.


Mining Publications

Mining Magazine

Long-time industry professionals will recognize this publication from the days when print ruled the world. Mining Magazine has made the leap into the 21st Century with a clean, easy-to-read digital format and a search function that makes finding the most relevant articles simple.


Engineering and Mining Journal

Engineering and Mining Journal has been mining’s cornerstone trade journal for more than 150 years. Its archives are available in many university libraries, and subscribers gain access to current and past articles in both print and digital format.


Mining Journal

Not to be confused with E&MJ, Mining Journal covers a wide range of topics in the mining and aggregates industry. Key digital features include a Hot Topics section at the top of the reading list, followed by articles and blog posts sorted into Finance, Market Data, People and several other categories.


Mining Maven

Have a question about a particular mining project, application or professional? Mining Maven’s goal is to “demystify” the industry by providing entertaining, in-depth pieces that explore mining’s uses throughout the world and speak to some of the biggest names in the industry today.


Republic of Mining

Republic of Mining is a news aggregator that scours news outlets and collects the articles that are most relevant to mining professionals. It’s a quick and easy way to stay aware of the day’s headlines as they impact mining operations, equipment and professionals throughout the world.


Investor Intel

Even if you’re not an investor yourself, Investor Intel can provide valuable information on the current biggest players in mining, as well as the rising stars to keep an eye on. A Trending section and an international news ticker also help readers stay informed about what’s happening in mining and related heavy industries throughout the world, while one-click access to the blog’s Sectors section helps readers focus on the news that most directly impacts their work.


Aggregates and Stockpile Management Publications

Pit & Quarry

It’s tough to categorize Pit & Quarry as either a mining or a management. This 100-years-young magazine does it all. Subscribers can also access past digital editions, an e-Newsletter and resources stored on the website’s P&Q University section.


Aggregates Manager

“Your Guide to Profitable Production” is the site’s tagline, and Aggregates Manager delivers with content sorted into categories that include Operations and Management, Equipment, Regulatory and more. Information about contests and grants puts a friendly, forward-thinking spin on this trade publication.


Rock to Road

Rock to Road focuses on the uses of aggregates in road construction and repair. While its Industry News section focuses on Canadian projects and questions, its information on aggregates, equipment and paving applies throughout the global industry. Rock to Road is especially helpful because it often provides a perspective that similar US-based publications don’t.


Rock, Road, Recycle

North American Quarry News, Hard Hat News, and Waste Handling Equipment News all recently merged to form one new publication, Rock, Road, Recycle. The magazine explores a wide range of topics within the mining and aggregates industries, from identifying worksite hazards to applying the latest technologies when attempting to optimize stockpile or worksite management. News about upcoming industry conferences and trade shows helps managers stay informed, even when they can’t make it to those events in person.


Stone, Sand & Gravel Review

Stone, Sand & Gravel Review, a trade journal published by the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA), focuses on helping aggregates industry professionals communicate information about industry technology, trends, developments and other concerns. Interested members can even submit articles on topics of concern, making this a great place to participate in industry conversations.



Keeping up to date on the latest news doesn’t have to mean reading non-stop. Here are five of the best industry podcasts to listen to while you commute to work, travel between sites or take a well-deserved lunch break.


WA School of Mines

Based in West Australia, this podcast is run from the WA School of Mines and covers topics ranging from leadership, management and strategy to industry specifics that aren’t Australia-specific. Get a new perspective on your industry in these short episodes.


Exploration Radio

Interested in “the past, present, and future of mineral exploration?” So are the folks at Exploration Radio, which is why the entire podcast is devoted to the topic. Exploration Radio features interviews and discussions with explorers, providing an inside view not only into the future of mining and aggregates, but also lessons anyone can apply to become more adventurous, thoughtful and resilient.


The GIM Channel

With episodes averaging 20 minutes each, The GIM Channel fits nicely into many lunch breaks or commutes. The podcast provides information on geoscientific information management — including people, processes and technology that are making headlines in the field each week.


Proven and Probable

This podcast covers a little bit of everything, from industry news to executive profiles to investment tips. Episodes range from five-minute quick summaries to 30-minute interviews, making Proven and Probable an easy podcast to fit into a busy and rapidly-changing schedule.


Mining Stock Education

The Mining Stock Education podcast is part of the offerings on, a site that focuses on the investment end of mining. Interviews with top executives throughout the mining and aggregates industry provide an inside view of decisions made in boardrooms, their impacts on managers, and the most interesting innovations and new directions for the industry.

The web has given industry professionals easier access to information than ever before — but also created an explosion of information through which to sort. To build a list of publications that’s truly useful to you, start with these.

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Stay in the Know: Landfill Industry, Aggregates Experts, and Site Managers on LinkedIn

People working in the construction aggregates and landfill industries are laying the foundations of our society. It sounds hyperbolic, but it is quite literally the truth. Without a booming construction aggregates industry, there are no buildings to house the rest of humanity and no spaces for commerce.

Consider the statistic Leigh Hanson posted from the NSSGA: Every $1 of sales in the aggregates industry produces another almost $3.47 of sales in other industries. The knock on effects are impressive.

The US landfill industry is also a heavyweight punching hard in the national economy. In 2014, the EPA calculated over 258 million tons of municipal solid waste were produced across the country. The industry is valued at around $60 billion, according to the Waste Business Journal.

For project managers, heads of government departments or investors with big plans, the following list of landfill, aggregate and site managers on LinkedIn will help you tap into an expert community within the industry. You may even find someone to take the lead on your next big project.


Matt Arbuckle

Based in Florida, Matt Arbuckle is the business development and land manager at Vulcan Materials Company Southeast Division. He has been at the company since 2009, starting as general manager of Freeport Aggregates.


Kenneth Bettis Sr.

Plant manager at Knife River Corporation for 14 years, Kenneth Bettis Sr. has a wealth of experience to tap into. Bettis moved to his current role after working as plant manager at Quality Concrete & Materials Inc.


Jason Brown

Jason Brown is area HSE manager at The Brock Group. He’s been at the company for five years after a brief sojourn at Brand Energy & Infrastructure Services Inc., with a total of 23 years of chemical and refining experience as a safety technician. Brown shares motivational quotes and posts interspersed with work-related news to his nearly 4,000 followers.


Matthew Bunner

Matthew Bunner is safety manager at Mulzer Crushed Stone in Rockport, Indiana, a role he has occupied for 17 years. With plenty of industry knowledge, Bunner has much to offer. Check out his LinkedIn for articles about the pressing issues of on-site safety.


Joseph Colapietro Jr.

Joseph Colapietro Jr. is vice-president of construction at Gaia Real Estate, based in New York. He’s worked at L&L Tone & Tile, Toll Brothers, and Samson Management, and currently oversees GAIA’s Northeast portfolio, specializing in the mid through ultra-luxury markets.


Ralph Collins

Former U.S. Navy See Bee heavy equipment operator, Ralph Collins is landfill and transfer station manager at Rumpke in Louisville, Kentucky. In addition to his experience in heavy equipment and landfill management, Collins is familiar with Jackson County’s planning laws, serving as a member its Board of Zoning Appeals.


Bernard McCormick

Bernard McCormick is assistant plant manager at Martin Marietta’s Hunter Cement Plant in New Braunfels, Texas. McCormick has worked as project manager at Holcim and has racked up 19 years of experience in industrial management. He also has a decade on the job as plant manager from his time at CEMEX and his current role at Martin Marietta. With five years in disaster management and nearly a decade spent as a trauma nurse, McCormick is the man you need when the going gets tough. He has more than 1,100 followers on LinkedIn with whom he shares industry news and updates from the plant.


Sonia Dimogli-Stathi

Sonia Dimogli-Stathi is general manager of marketing at LafargeHolcim’s Greece operations. Her 20 years of sales experience is being put to work to drive growth for the large cement and aggregates producer, with a focus on digitalization and innovation. Dimogli-Stathi spent more than ten years at British American Tobacco with a brief period as a leadership member in trade and distribution and brand management, before concentrating on marketing management across multiple regions. Her LinkedIn feed, followed by over 2,000 people, offers motivational nuggets of information, branding tips and the opinion that opportunity exists everywhere.


Manuel Dovales

Manuel Dovales is Southeast Florida aggregate sales manager at CEMEX USA. He started in the construction and aggregates industry close to 15 years ago working first at CEMEX, with stints at Baker Concrete Construction and a chemicals company before returning to CEMEX.


John A Finamore Sr.

John A Finamore Sr. is chief construction manager–building envelope at EW HOWELL Construction Group. With over 8,000 followers, Finamore is a popular social media figure. He spent 37 years as president of Jordan Panel Systems Corp. before taking up his current role. He also sat on the Board of Directors at the Subcontractors Trade Association of New York, an advocacy and representative group working with public and state agencies on legislative matters. Finamore uses his LinkedIn to post articles he has written, as well as share news from the industry.


Caroline Hamby

Caroline Hamby is operations manager at Dynamic Enviro, Inc., which provides waste management services among many others. Hamby started her career with the U.S. Coast Guard and has focused on environmental affairs since.


Dan Henrie

Dan Henrie has progressed quickly in the past five years. He’s moved from being a productivity coach at Jacobsen Construction to field production manager at Okland Construction to president at Tactic Construction in Utah. Henrie has an impressive 4,750 followers. Check out his feed for snaps of projects in varying stages of completion.


Teresa Kress

Teresa Kress is Hyperion Systems manager at Summit Materials in Denver. She works with the company’s software management, drawing on her experience as senior consultant at IBM. Kress posts and likes articles on LinkedIn; follow her feed to see what she’s sharing.


Shay Lawrence

Shay Lawrence is project manager at Baker Concrete Construction Inc., based in Arizona. He started his career in construction as a project foreman at Jacobsen Construction ten years ago and has climbed the rungs of seniority. Lawrence posts news and photos as well as a couple cartoons to get you smiling.


Josh Leftwich

Josh Leftwich is a regional environmental & business development manager at Knife River Corporation, one of the top ten aggregate, ready-mix and sand and gravel producers in the US. He has a background in health and safety as well as environmental management.


Chris Leykam

Chris Leykam has been project manager at Granite Construction in Brooklyn for four years. He previously worked as a project engineer at Tappan Zee Constructors and before that spent about 18 years in project management and coordination with Weeks Marine. With a mix of company and industry news, Leykam posts some useful information to his 1,000 plus followers.


Jennifer McWilliams

Jennifer McWilliams is head of talent acquisition at Waste Management. McWilliams has over 10,000 followers who catch up with industry news and opportunities. She is active on LinkedIn and is a frequent source of information.


John Nelson

John Nelson is assistant secretary and assistant general counsel at Ash Grove Cement Company in Kansas. While dealing with legalities more than operational practicalities, Nelson also shares important information about the mining and mineral industries.


Carlos Ramos Ramos

Carlos Ramos Ramos is construction superintendent, drainage/utilities at Granite Construction. He worked as project manager at Oritz Group before moving to Granite Construction, and also has experience as a construction and operators manager as well as QA/QC and field supervisor. Ramos has close to 6,000 followers, with whom he shares articles on various industry related matters.


Tim Saenz

Tim Saenz is director of technical services at CEMEX. His previous roles include manager at Granite Construction in California and division technical services manager at APAC – Texas Inc. Saenz spent nearly a decade at Vulcan Materials Company managing heavy-duty highway and airport projects and more than 5 years as a project manager at Merrell Engineering. He has over 4,000 followers and actively posts information about the industry as well as ideas about good business practice.

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Toxic Site Cleanup: How the Tools We Use Help Emergency Response Teams, Too

Automation, smart technologies and drones have been game changers in a wide range of heavy industries, from improving aggregates stockpile management and mining operations to making waste company operations more efficient.

But the revolutionary power of drones, robots and automated mapping isn’t limited to heavy industries. Companies seeking to control or remediate contamination on their own sites can also put these technologies to use.

Here’s how.


Drones in Dangerous Areas

Drones have taken center stage in many discussions of new technology applications, in areas ranging from basic recreation or private security to military applications. In 2013, researcher Andreas Raptopoulos indicated that areas inaccessible to humans in physical form no longer need to be inaccessible to our curiosity or our ability to gather data: Drones can take over many of the information-gathering tasks.

In the context of a dangerous or hazardous pollution or spill site, the applications become even more valuable: information-gathering and cleanup.

Scientist Vijay Kumar has pushed the envelope in this area by suggesting “swarms” of drones that can not only fly over the landscape, gathering and analyzing data in places humans cannot safely go, but cooperating with one another to develop a more comprehensive picture of the area.

It’s easy to see how a team of small drones in a hazardous area could provide more data through cooperation than one larger drone could gather on its own. Equipping each drone with only the equipment necessary to its own task, like the intuitive AI suggested by Maurice Conti or the miniature multi-spectrum cameras researched by scientists like Sergei Lupashin, is one option.

Mapping is another option drones offer us, according to Olivier Kung. Even a drone with simple cameras can help improve mapping, and far more complex options exist or are being developed. Multi-spectral cameras, lidar, sensors that allow the drone to “see” and avoid certain objects or concentrations of certain chemicals or radiation, and similar tools can all be used to turn robotics into the ideal tool for assessing and addressing cleanup sites.


Using Drones at Nuclear Waste Sites

One of the biggest challenges of nuclear waste site cleanup is the dangerously toxic effects of radiation exposure — and the fact that technologies meant to protect humans from that exposure, as well as means of treating exposure after it has occurred, are still incomplete.

In order to protect the health and safety of workers, many researchers are looking to the use of drones to help map and clean nuclear waste sites. At the University of Nevada College of Engineering, researchers in the Autonomous Robots Lab, under the direction of Assistant Professor Kostas Alexis, are working on a drone that can fly into irradiated areas to pinpoint sites of radiation and toxic chemicals.

The robot offers inertial sensors, lidar, cameras, and radiation and chemical sensors, allowing it to map its environment in a number of modalities. It can learn the layout of an environment, remember important details and produce detailed analyses.

While drones adapted to nuclear sites are still in production, ground-based robots have been in use on nuclear and other toxic sites for some time — with mixed results.

Ground-based robots sent into the Fukushima nuclear site were destroyed, some in less than a single day, due to radiation levels far in excess of their capabilities, according to Niamh McIntyre.

At Environmental Leader, Jessica Lyons Hardcastle tracks the progress of ground-based robots assigned to data collection and cleanup at Sellafield, a nuclear decommissioning site in Cumbria, England, a project that University College London researcher Paul Dorfman estimates will cost as much as $12 billion.



Chemical Spills and Tech-Assisted Cleanup

While nuclear radiation is a major concern, nuclear sites are relatively rare in comparison to chemical spills, which occur at manufacturing, storage and similar sites throughout the world — as well as on college campuses.

A recent chlorine spill at the University of Arizona, as reported by Mike Truelsen at local NBC station KVOA, released dangerous chlorine vapors that sent a truck driver to the hospital. The incident offers an example of the type of site that can benefit from the use of robot or drone cleanup tools — which is why many risk management teams call for technological tools when appropriate.

Drone video and mapping of chemical spills or releases are often one of the first lines of defense when it comes to evacuating affected areas or containing the spill. Drones also allow authorities and hazmat teams to determine what was released without risking the health of team members. That’s why Turf writer John Fech recommends adding technological tools to your contingency plan when possible.

Even at the municipality level, emergency responders are folding this kind of technology into their arsenals, and they’re holding drills to test its effectiveness. Twin Falls, Idaho, for example, held a chemical-spill drill last year to test local authorties’ ability to react quickly to such a disaster, Emergency Management magazine reported at the time.


What Other Technologies are Out There?

Research on smart technology uses at cleanup sites continues to progress rapidly, notes Scott Marshall Payne, author of Strategies for Accelerating Cleanup at Toxic Waste Sites. Companies looking for the most efficient options must often expand their searches beyond their conventional sources to find what they need. Companies like Createc have been called in to address nuclear waste sites in places like Sellafield and Fukushima.

The EPA collects information on technologies used in the remediation of contaminated sites and publishes periodic reports on the options available and their uses in the field. These reports make it easy for companies seeking better options to learn more about field-testing technologies and their real-world impacts. The database can be searched by technology type, contaminant type, demonstration date and other variables.

Companies that specialize in smart mapping and drone use for heavy industries can also help provide guidance, as can those that focus on site management and cleanup.

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What Stockpile Managers Need to Know About Aggregates Recycling

As populations, city centers and demand for raw materials expands, recycling has become big business in every industry that deals with tangible goods — including rock quarries, concrete companies, and other businesses that provide aggregate and related materials.

And when commentators like Vince Beiser of the New York Times note that “we are starting to run out” of sand, the pressure to repurpose, recycle, and innovate rises even higher.

What happens to leftover inventory at quarries, or to concrete and other materials after demolition? How are these reused, repurposed or recycled? Who is leading the charge in recycling existing materials and in finding innovative ways to apply the results?

Here, we take a look at the mysteries of aggregates recycling.


Why Recycle Aggregates?

While visionaries like Bea Johnson advocate methods for reducing waste on the individual level, waste from construction and demolition accounts for far more of the contents of landfills — providing a much higher potential to reduce that waste.

Aggregate waste resulting from construction and demolition accounted for 11.6 million tons of solid waste in California in 2008 alone, according to the state’s Statewide Waste Characterization Study. About 977,000 tons of waste consisted solely of asphalt and concrete.

Construction and demolition waste also accounted for about 29 percent of all the waste generated in California in 2008. That’s a lot of landfill space!

Cement and concrete creation are also heavily implicated in the production of greenhouse gases. While many individuals focus on reducing their own greenhouse gas output, the average individual produces only four tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to an Earth on the Edge report. The average resident of the United States produces about eighteen tons: a higher number, but still nowhere near the production from the cement industry, which produces about one ton of greenhouse gases per ton of cement made, according to an 2012 article by Madeleine Rubenstein.

In other words, while individual efforts can help protect the planet and its resources for future generations, industries must lead the way in creating a more sustainable future for everyone. Aggregates recycling is one way that heavy industries can take the lead and realize a clear, stronger future with a continued market for their products and services.


Old Buildings, New Applications: Post-Use Aggregates Recycling

To reduce the amount of waste involved and to save both money and energy, many companies turn to recycled aggregate.

A 2004 study by the Federal Highway Administration estimates that 38 states used recycled concrete as an aggregate base, while 11 states had programs to recycle used concrete into new portland cement concrete (PCC). Recycled aggregate may be used for general bulk fills, bank protection, drainage base or fill, road construction, or in noise barriers or embankments.

The benefits of using hardened recycled concrete include its similarity to natural rock in most applications in which conventional aggregates are used, according to the Portland Cement Association. Some types even offer higher absorption than “virgin” aggregates, due to the lower specific gravity and increased porousness of recycled concrete when compared to other aggregate types.


What’s in the Works? Innovations in Aggregates Recycling

For many years, attempts to reduce environmental impacts through recycling in quarries, cement and concrete production, and other building materials and applications have been going strong.

A 2001 paper by C. Meyer of Columbia University, N. Egosi of RRT Design and Construction, and C. Andela of Andela Products Ltd. details how post-consumer glass can be used in concrete and asphalt, and ARI’s Guy Woodford reports on a quarry that’s saving nearly $1 million per year by recycling water.

Until recently, however, few innovations have focused on cement or concrete themselves — and even fewer have focused on their significant atmospheric impacts. According to Concrete Construction’s Kendra Kozen, concrete creates significant quantities of greenhouse gases each year: about one ton of gas emissions per one ton of cement.

In an effort to improve energy efficiency of concrete production, as well as to recycle and reuse where possible, a number of ongoing projects are changing the way we approach concrete.

Roland Pellenq at MIT actually explored changes to the molecular structure of concrete to make it not only more energy efficient, but also stronger and more resilient. The analysis suggested reducing the calcium-to-silicate ratio, an option that could be pursued in recycled concrete as well as in new materials.

By partnering with Louisiana Tech University, Alchemy Geopolymer Solutions’ Dr. Erez Allouche and other researchers used fly ash instead of portland cement in concrete creation, creating stronger and more fire-resistant concrete with lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Big things are happening at Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), where Construction Materials Laboratory head Karen Scrivener recently announced the development of a new form of cement that may help to further reduce the environmental impact of concrete, along with reusing old concrete materials. The new material is less porous and stronger than traditional cement.

Civil and environmental engineer Marwa Al-Ansary has also begun to push the envelope on the development of materials like sulfur concrete, which uses sulfur rather than cement, to create high-strength concrete that does not require the same curing period as conventional materials. Sulfur concrete is strong and durable, and has the added bonus of reusing sulfur produced as a waste material in gas and oil production.

Finally, Stanford professor Brent Constantz is exploring cements derived from seawater and power plant flue gases. If made according to Constantz’s vision, this cement might not only be carbon-neutral but actually carbon-negative, trapping power plant gases instead of allowing them to vent into the atmosphere.


Recycling Sand?

Concrete and asphalt are two popular candidates for recycling post-use: when a building is torn down or a roadway is torn up, for instance. However, leftover inventory of sand and gravel at rock quarries may also be recycled or reused — and they often are in order to meet consistently growing demands for sand, a major component in the creation of concrete.

Rock quarries are one of the world’s top producers of sand and gravel, after the operations that mine these materials specifically. While the sand and gravel produced at rock quarries is often secondary to the quarries’ production goal, it can be used in productive ways:

  • A 2014 paper by Liudmila Alexandrova explored the multiple uses of leftover aggregates from soapstone quarries in the North Savo region of Finland (and how to transport those stockpiles more cost-effectively).
  • A 2012 paper in the Journal of Mining Science by M. Lintukangas, A. Suihkonen, P. Salomaki, and O. Selonen looked into potential uses of abandoned quarries once aggregates and other materials have been removed.

As early as 1941, researchers were seeking replacements for natural sand to use in concrete and other building applications, as a report to the Michigan State Highway Department by E.A. Finney indicates. Today, the race to replace sand, or to use the world’s existing sand more efficiently, is on.

As David Owen notes at the New Yorker, bit by bit the world is running out of sand with the appropriate qualities for concrete and construction uses. Not all sand is appropriate for creating concrete — and for other purposes, ranging from building custom islands off the shores of Dubai to providing an appropriate base for beach volleyball courts.

For construction purposes, sand such as that produced in the Sahara Desert is inappropriate, notes John R. Gillis: The right kind of sand for building is more commonly found in lake beds or quarries. And getting it can have devastating environmental impacts.

As a result, attempts to recycle, reuse and repurpose appropriate sand deposits have focused heavily on the “waste” materials from rock quarries, as well as on other options, as Denis Delestrac noted in a recent TED Talk. New methods for using “unusuable” sand are in the works, as well. Architecture student Magnus Larsson focuses his research on how to use desert sand — often unsuitable for concrete applications — as a building material, creating rigid structures from sand for use as buildings, walls and more.

While much of the talk on recycling and sustainability focuses on topics like food production, clean water, outdoor green spaces, and ethical consumption, a focus on aggregates recycling and efficiency offers one of the most efficient and effective ways to apply materials, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and produce a future that is stronger and more sustainable.

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