What We’re Looking Forward to at the 2017 CONEXPO-CON/AGG Convention

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Because it only takes place once every three years, the CONEXPO-CON/AGG expo is a huge event for the construction, aggregates and ready-mixed concrete industries.

The 2017 expo will take place in March 7–11 in Las Vegas, at the convention center. The numbers for this year are pretty staggering: 2,500-plus exhibitions, 150 education sessions, and 2.5 million sq. ft. of space needed to host everyone.

We’re going to be at Booth B91804 in the Bronze Hall; stop in and say hello! And here are 14 of the other companies, speakers and events we’re especially excited about.


GeoSonics/Vibra-Tech (Booth C30973)

GeoSonics/Vibra-Tech has offered blasting and vibration consulting services to mine operators for years. At the expo, the company will be showing off its new Re:mote Monitoring Technology, which automatically collects continuous data on vibration, noise levels, dust and other environmental concerns, then delivers that data to either a web browser or the smartphone app.


Zeecrane (Booth G1412)

Zeecrane tends to turn heads on the exhibition floor with its zero-emissions cranes, one with a 9,000-pound lifting capacity and a second with an 18,000-pound capacity. Most importantly, these cranes produce zero operational waste (and make very little noise) because they have all-electric operating systems powered by a maintenance-free battery.


Metso (Booth C31061)

Finland’s Metso has promised to unveil some truly revolutionary crushing technology at the expo, though the company has kept a tight lid on details. What we do know is this new technology is said to increase uptime and reduce operational costs.


Liebherr (Outdoor Booth G4637)

Liebherr’s outdoor booth is going to be huge: The surface area will cover 50,000 sq. ft. and feature 25 different hydraulic excavators, tower cranes, wheel loaders and other heavy equipment the company manufactures. Additionally, its tower cranes team will have a virtual reality app that will let users get a feel for what it’s like to operate one of those giant cranes in real time.

TII Group (Booth G1723)

The TII Group will have several models from its Highway line of transport vehicles (pictured above), including some self-propelled models. One model the company is excited about is the SCHEUERLE SPMT Light, which it says is perfect for moving up to 220 tons in enclosed facilities such as plants.


McCloskey International (Booth S5115)

McCloskey International has a new wash plant called the Sandstorm that it will be launching at CONEXPO-CON/AGG. That first product will also signal the launch of a new division within the company, McCloskey Washing Systems. Other new products on display will include a lineup of screening equipment and a 100-foot telescoping stacker.


Raimondi Cranes (Booth S5035)

Italian crane-maker Raimondi is making its first-ever appearance at the expo in a move to get its products in front of prospective North American buyers. As such, the company is bringing its entire executive team out to Las Vegas. “We are signalling to the markets of Canada and the United States that we are looking to cultivate strong, new relationships, while simultaneously developing upon cooperative efforts with our existing client base,” technical director Domenico Ciano says.


Maeda (Booth G4017)

Maeda USA has a new mini-crawler crane, the CC1485, that the company is excited to show off. It’s the only small crawler sold in North America with a telescopic boom (that boom has a capacity of 6.6 tons, too).


Sandvik (S5128)

Sandvik Construction is going to have a pretty big display at the expo where it will feature its CS550 cone crusher, its brand-new QJ341+ mobile jaw crusher, its electrically driven UI310+ wheeled impact crusher, and its self-contained DT912D jumbo drill rig, among others.

Session: Tapping into New Technologies at the Tappan Zee Bridge Project (T14)

John Glinski, owner of Crane Training and Safety Consultants, will host one of three very promising sessions on Tuesday. Glinski will give an overview of the ongoing reconstruction to New York’s Tappan Zee Bridge and what innovative technologies are being employed on that project.

When: 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., March 7


Session: The Next Generation Job Site: Drones (T19)

Concurrent with the session above, Andres Vargas, kinematic integrations and applications engineer at RIEGL USA, will discuss various applications of drones in the construction industry: From estimating and surveying to giving potential clients aerial views of projects to structural inspection.

Vargas will also go over how contractors can find the right drones for their needs, what regulations they should be aware of, and what insurance or liability issues exist with drone deployment.

When: 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., March 7


Session: OSHA Compliance: How to Avoid Fines (T28)

Bruce Mosier, VP at Prins Insurance in Iowa and certified OSHA Outreach Trainer, will lead a session for contractors that will specifically address new laws governing OSHA (including its power to raise fines as of August 2016) and how contractors should interact with that organization.

Key points will include preparation for an inspection, a rundown of your rights as a contractor, communication with OSHA inspectors, and an overview of fines and penalties.

When: 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. March 7


The Tech Experience

Organizers this year have a Tech Experience exhibit that, frankly, is going to be really cool. The showcase will be 75,000 square feet and feature some immersive technology, have solar-powered runways and include a 3D printed excavator, among other things.

Plus, the Tech Experience speakers list is outstanding. It includes NASA astronauts Captain Mark Kelly and Captain Scott Kelly, as well as Bruce Upbin from Hyperloop One. Look for some interesting talks on connected jobsites, the maker movement, SMART highways and high-tech protective equipment.


NSSGA 2017 Convention

The National Stone Sand and Gravel Association will hold its own annual convention in the days just before CONEXPO-CON/AGG, on March 3–7. Besides the networking opportunities and a scheduled Blue Man Group performance, there are some very good reasons for anyone in the industry to get to Las Vegas five days early.

On March 6 and 7, that convention will host educational sessions that will touch on strategic sales and basic supervisory skills. Also, the NSSGA announced at the beginning of the year that Ken Schmidt, former director of communications strategy at Harley-Davidson Motor Co., will close the general session.

For anyone who works in mining or with quarries, March offers an excellent opportunity to double up on conventions, make the most of those networking opportunities and maybe take in a trip to the Grand Canyon that Sunday.
images by: ©welcomia/123RF Stock Photo, TII Group, ©kasto/123RF Stock Photo

19 Mining and Materials Firms Leading the Way in Sustainability

It surprises people when we show them what lengths our industry goes to to keep our planet and our communities clean.

The truth is mining and materials companies oversee some of the world’s most ambitious sustainability programs.

Here are 19 examples we feel deserve special recognition.

Oldcastle Materials

America’s largest asphalt producer and asphalt paver, Oldcastle Materials works with local communities and governments to ensure it abides by the principles of being a good neighbor. This guiding mission has led the company to establish several wildlife habitats on the land it owns.

What’s more, Oldcastle’s team is active in working with Habitat for Humanity to build homes for some of the more vulnerable members of the communities in which the company works.


CEMEX has several facilities where thousands of acres have been set aside for wildlife habitats and wetland restoration projects. Other nature conservancy efforts include

  • a tree farm planted at its Louisville, Kentucky, site;
  • a clay mine reclamation project in Fairborn, Ohio, that established 47 acres as native grasslands for local birds;
  • and an ongoing project in Lyons, Colorado, that involves planting native vegetation, controlling for invasive weed species, and encouraging various biodiversity efforts such as having goats graze on those lands.


Martin Marietta

Martin Marietta had several interesting case studies in its 2015 sustainability report about what specific steps the company was taking to promote responsible environmental stewardship.

These included turning its 47-year-old Cedar Rapids Sand Plants into a recreational park now known as the Prairie Park Fishery. The park features a 65-acre lake, nearly two miles of hiking and cycling trails, abundant plant life, and a great spot for Cedar Rapids residents to picnic in the summer.

Or, consider the company’s ongoing operations at its Hunter, Texas, plant. There, the company worked with municipal officials to change much of its water supply to recycled water, thereby reducing its consumption of water from local wells. It’s also testing out a variety of alternative energy sources at that plant to offset its reliance on traditional fuels.

BHP Billiton

Australia’s BHP Billiton recently announced that its Ayllu Solar project, a partnership with the Centre for Solar Energy Research, had won an award for best business practices from Chile’s Minister for the Environment, Pablo Badenier. That project seeks to build greater working knowledge of sustainable development via solar energy in Chile’s northern Arica y Parinacota region.

Capitol Aggregates

Capitol Aggregates bakes sustainability into its product manufacturing processes, citing it as a key concept to the company’s ongoing success. The company was the first American cement producer to publish an Environmental Product Declaration for cement, offering transparent and independent verification about the environmental impact of that product’s lifecycle.


Brazilian mining company Vale had its Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory recognized by the Brazilian government for the sixth straight year. In 2015, Vale saw a reduction of about 1 million tons of CO2e, even with eight new projects launched and another 18 existing projects continued. This is all thanks to the carbon program the company implemented in 2008, laying out exactly how it plans to continually reduce GHG emissions.


Summit Materials

A relative newcomer to the industry at just nine years old, Summit Materials was founded during our industry’s modern age, when companies really began to double down on their sustainability efforts. Summit baked these ideas into the company’s foundation. Just to give a snapshot of what this looked like in 2015, Summit

  • had six habitats certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council,
  • cut CO2 emissions at its hot mix asphalt plants by 42 percent,
  • and recycled 18 million pounds of material at its recycling facility in Kansas.



Freeport-McMoRan recently announced it had begun to implement new procedures to improve its waste and recyclable material management programs. In 2015, the company says, it was able to recycle 95 percent of the 20 thousand cubic meters it used in maintenance activities. Further, the company provides ongoing monitoring to reclaimed lands to ensure vegetation and other native species thrive in those areas.



AngloAmerican is one of the founding signatories of the International Council on Mining and Metals, which was established in the early 2000s to guide the mining and metals industry’s social and environmental practices.

In the run-up to the industry’s goals to significantly reduce environmental impacts by 2020, AngloAmerican has continuously reduced its water consumption, reduced the number of environmental incidents (from 14 in 2014 to just 6 in 2015), and made marked progress in getting every one of its operations to meet the ISO 140001 environmental management standard.


Geneva Rock

“We believe the concrete industry is an important product in achieving sustainable development,” Geneva Rock says. “… Environmental awareness includes a proactive effort of lowering emissions and other environmental impacts related to the company’s ongoing operations.”

To that end, its parent company, Clyde Companies, has

  • offered continuous training to employees on sustainable practices, reducing energy consumption and recycling;
  • maintained strict sustainability standards for its offices and jobsites;
  • diverted tens of millions of tons of waste from landfills over the years;
  • and recycled thousands of gallons of oil.



Goldcorp Executive VP of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability Brent Bergeron wrote that the company hit some important milestones toward becoming more sustainable in 2016. These included

  • its bi-annual sustainability summit that brings together employees for all over for three days of learning;
  • an award from Global Compact Network Canada, the Canadian chapter of the UN Global Compact Network, for Goldcorp’s work in promoting both sustainability as well as worker rights;
  • the opening of an all-electric underground mine in Canada, “an ambitious transition from diesel-powered vehicles to battery and electric mobile equipment that would eliminate all greenhouse gases associated with the movement of ore and waste rock.”



Lhoist understands that its mining operations can span years and decades at certain sites, so the company works continuously to ensure its plans account for all stakeholders when it deploys its resources. “Only by doing this, we can ensure a supply that meets the needs of existing and emerging applications,” the company says. “This is particularly true in the areas of steel, environment, construction, civil engineering and agriculture.”

To that end, Lhoist has take specific steps to reduce its emissions, including increasing their usage of biomass fuels, investing in energy-efficient technologies and working with kiln manufacturers to improve installations.



Newmont has been directly involved in bringing a bird species, the Greater Sage-Grouse, off of the Endangered Species list in 2015. Newmont’s Sagebrush Ecosystem Conservation Program helped conserve 400,000 acres of the Greater Sage-Grouse’s natural habitat on the company’s private lands (in addition to another 1.4 million acres on federal land).


Granite Construction

In 2016, the Ethisphere Institute named Granite one of the world’s most ethical companies. Part of that designation is due to Granite’s ongoing commitment to improving its environmental impacts, which include a goal of achieving zero environmental incidents and citations (a number the company took significant steps to reduce between 2014 and 2016).


Vulcan Materials Company

“Mining, ultimately, is an interim use of the land,” Vulcan says. “We keep its end use in mind.” A few examples of the company’s responsible land management efforts include

  • transforming its River Rock Plant in Fresno, California, to a 300-acre island habitat for a variety of animal species (that includes one of the largest great blue heron rookeries in the Central Valley);
  • reclaiming its Broward limestone quarry in Florida with a sizable lake;
  • and converting its Parkwood Quarry in Birmingham, Alabama, to a series of lakes that provide habitat for native bird species.


Tetra Tech

“Our vision of the future is to incorporate the concepts of sustainability more fully into our daily operations and to follow the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development goal to ‘meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,’” Tetra Tech says.

To that end, the company continues to make ongoing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For example, the company set a goal to reduce GHG emissions per associate by 20 percent between 2010 and 2015. In reality, reductions were closer to 38 percent, which translated to 2.56 metric tons CO2e reduced per associate in 2015.


HeidelbergCement Group

“Our long-term success depends on sustainable business practices as well as trusting relations with our neighbors, business partners, and employees,” HeidelbergCement says. The company has ambitious goals it is trying to meet by 2020, including

  • 100 percent deployment of ISO 14001 at all plants,
  • ensuring every site has an up-to-date environmental audit, and
  • significant emissions reductions over its 2008 numbers.



Canadian resources company Teck creates a top-down incentive structure for executives to support sustainability efforts. For all executives, the company says, annual bonuses feature a weighting system of between 15 and 20 percent that accounts for each person’s achievements in conservation and sustainability.

Those efforts have borne fruit. For example, according to the company’s sustainability report for the years 2013 to 2015, the company decreased the intensity of new water it used by about 20 percent while increasing the amount of water it reused and recycled by 8 percent.


Canadian mining company Barrick seeks to work with stakeholders and shareholders to ensure its operations worldwide are mutually beneficial for all parties. “When we get this right, we create mutual and lasting prosperity for our partners, so that we can all advance, together,” the company says.

As just three examples of this principle in action, Barrick has

  • recently updated its minimum criteria for its own water conservation standard,
  • implemented updated water treatment systems at one site in New Mexico with a whole suite of cutting-edge techniques,
  • and just saw another water treatment plant in Pierina, Peru, celebrate two years of treating acid rock drainage and providing irrigation and water for livestock to nearby communities.

images by: Tobias Keller, Wil Stewart, Andrew Coelho

Blast Overpressure Versus Noise

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People often confuse blast overpressure and noise. An over-simplistic comparison is that noise is what the human ear can hear. Blast overpressure, however, is often below the range of human hearing.

The typical range of human hearing is from 20 Hz to 20 KHz. This range can of course vary significantly between individuals. Blast overpressure may often be very low in frequency, 2 Hz or less. By definition, blast overpressure is the pressure generated by a blast that is over and above atmospheric pressure.

Although blast overpressure is often below the range of human hearing, it can cause structural response that is quite noticeable to those inside a structure. It is not possible to gauge the amount of blast overpressure by what is heard outside. How many times have you been outside near a blast, heard virtually nothing, and yet still received a complaint call that was overpressure related?

There are generally five sources of blast-generated overpressure (from the ISEE Blasters’ Handbook 18th Edition):

Air Pressure Pulse – Low frequency pressure caused by rock displacement at the face (piston-like movement or bulking of the rock mass).
Gas Release Pulse – High frequency pressure caused by gases venting through the face.
Stemming Release Pulse – High frequency pressure caused by gases venting through the stemming.
Rock Pressure Pulse – Typically insignificant air pressure generated by the ground vibration.
Noise – High frequency energy from detonating cord or surface delays.


Taken from White Seismology’s newsletter

Written by Randy Wheeler, President of White Industrial Seismology


Effect of Blasting Air Overpressure on Residential Structures

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A Summary of U.S. Bureau of Mines Research

When explosives are used to break rock in a mine or construction project, the blast produces both ground vibration and air overpressure (noise).  In most cases the atmosphere selectively absorbs the higher frequencies from a blast, leaving relatively low Read more

A Neighbor’s Guide to Understanding the Effects From Nearby Blasting Operations

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Let’s address some issues that come up frequently in conversations with neighbors concerned with the effects of blasting at nearby mining operations. San Antonio and our neighboring cities along the I-35 corridor lie on the Balcones fault line, a major limestone deposit which provides limestone materials to communities lying to the east, including major cities like Houston and Corpus Christi. Quarries in this area mine the rock, crush it into various sizes and send it to areas that cannot mine it themselves locally.

The vibrations produced by quarry blasting have been a source of concern and frustration for neighboring communities as long as people have occupied homes or businesses near these active aggregate producing operations. In order to ensure that the environmental impact from blasting on neighbors and businesses is not negative, instruments called seismographs are set in the field to record the intensity of energy that is felt wherever the instrument is located. Using data from these seismographs, or seismometers, we have learned much about the effects from blasting.

It is important to begin by explaining that what people living near a quarry may feel is a combination of ground vibration and air over pressure. In a perfect world, 100% of the energy produced by explosives loaded into the ground would go in to breaking the rock. If that were the case, no energy would be felt by anyone immediately outside the quarry. However, this is not possible. That being said, a well executed blast uses as much energy as possible in the fracturing of the rock, and leaves very little to escape into the surrounding environment. It is this escaping energy that is the topic of much neighborhood conversation and concern.

Energy that isn’t used for breaking rock travels either through the remaining rock, or through the air. A seismograph records the intensity of escaping energy using a microphone to measure changes in air overpressure (that is, over normal atmospheric pressure), and a transducer to measure ground vibration.

Escaping energy from a blast that travels through the air produces a temporary increase in air pressure much like a clap of thunder or a jet engine from aircraft traveling overhead. This increase in air pressure, called air overpressure, is measured in decibals. Air overpressure travels in a wave form and much like a wind, pushes on anything in its path. However, this pulse comes and goes much more quickly than a gust of wind. It is this wave that is “caught” temporarily by surfaces in its path, like the sides of structures, before it is quickly released. Air pressure can be an annoyance even at low levels and once it reaches very high levels, can produce the potential for damage to structures. The criteria for safe blasting levels of air overpressure have been established and are well published after extensive testing and research by the United States Bureau of Mines. Air overpressure is produced where energy escapes through fractured rock and primarily travels in the direction that the rock being blasted moves. In this image below you can see the movement of rock at detonation. Air pressure increases in proportion to the amount of energy released between the fractured and moving pieces of rock. Therefore, changes in air overpressure are more discernable along this path and can sometimes be perceived miles away. There are several factors that make controlling and predicting air overpressure more difficult than ground vibration. Some of these factors include atmospheric conditions that change constantly, such as wind speed and direction, or thermoclines. These invisible thermoclines separate air with different temperatures or air traveling at different speeds. Because of this, it is universally considered optimum conditions for blasting when there is a clear cloudless sky with no wind. However, weather conditions can change very quickly and conditions that were perfect only moments before, can degrade, resulting in undesirable changes in air pressure for neighbors.

Ground vibration is produced by energy escaping through the remaining solid rock, so it tends to be more discernable behind the blast. Unlike air overpressure, the intensity of ground vibration tends to be more predictable since it travels through a more solid medium.

The human body is a very sensitive seismograph, but many people are confused by what they feel, misjudging air overpressure to be vibration, and vice versa. Because energy travels through the ground more quickly than it does through the air, seismographs and neighbors alike will perceive the vibration before the air overpressure. The greater the distance from the blast, the larger the gap in time between the arrival of the two. That is why some neighbors correctly describe feeling “two blasts”. They first perceive the ground moving, then the air moving.

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Neighbors who are unfamiliar with these dynamics of blasting cannot understand why what they feel tends to be different from one blast to another. It is not uncommon for a neighbor to feel very little on one blast, and then find another blast significantly more intense. The most obvious conclusion that can be reached is that a larger amount of explosive energy was used whenever the blasts are more perceptible. In fact, the amount of explosive energy used by rock producers is tightly controlled and selected as a result of much research. Seismic data collected from each blast is analyzed, and offers valuable information to ensure that the impact on neighbors is minimized. Despite this, factors like the weather and the orientation of the blast to neighbors, make predicting the effects difficult. That’s why conscientious operations have a blast monitoring program which offers them immediate feedback on every blast and protects them from overlooking variables that can produce undesirable results.

J.R. Heck
CEO, Firmatek Seismic, LLC

Stockpile Time Machine

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This video was produced to help a Firmatek client see the changes in her inventories between measurements. With unexpected discrepancies in her accounting of a specific product, this video and the accompanying inspection by our technicians was all she needed to accept Firmatek’s measurements as the truth, make the necessary adjustments to the books and verify the true source of the discrepancy. Our client was armed with the truth.

Our Mission: Earn trust. Pursue truth. Arm the client.

Blast Perception 101

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Over the years Firmatek Seismic has monitored thousands of quarry blasts, had many conversations with property owners, and drawn many a pictures to describe what occurs when a blast takes place.  I thought it might be helpful to post this simple video to help you understand what you may be feeling when your local quarry blasts.

Compaction and Airspace: The Keys to Landfill Profitability

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The business of landfills is air, selling empty space to be filled with solid waste, and in this industry not all air is equal. Landfills have the unique ability of being able to modify the lifespan of their product without changing the amount of product they started with.  It all comes down to compaction. Volume may be fixed, but density is not, and the more solid waste you can fit into a given volume, the more valuable that space is. That is why it is absolutely necessary to have an accurate and reliable way of tracking the change in the volume of solid waste before and after compaction. Read more

Case Study: 3D Mobile Scanning used in Reserve Calculation and Mineable Modeling

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“He inquired of Firmatek, LLC to see if there was a way to quantify his reserves and help him establish a profitable plan for excavating and updating the operation as the new mine progressed.”

In April of 2010 Firmatek performed services for a client who’d purchased a piece of property with the intention of mining it out.  By drilling core samples throughout the 500+ acre property Read more