Creating Safer Mining Environments

According to the CDC (as of 2017), there are 13,080 active mines throughout the United States. Of those, 541 are registered underground mining operations and 12,539 are registered surface mining operations. This number does not include mines that are sitting dormant.

That’s a lot of mines, and a lot of active mining operations with countless moving pieces and parts that include machinery and human assets. Thirty-nine billion tons of material are extract from the planets crust each year. That is a vast quantity earth that is in play and actively being strewn about in more ways than one. With that poses potential hazardous issues to:

  • People
  • Equipment
  • Environment (from the soil to the air and everything in between)

So the obvious first question is, what are we doing to combat potential hazards as a byproduct of this mining activity? It’s not a common question, but it is if you’re in that line of work. And, quite frankly, the answer isn’t easy. It’s not always easy to know how things will “pan out,” so planning and preparing needs to come from a commodity that things on multiple levels. Enter Global Environmental Solutions…

The long and short of it is this: Not every mine problem can be solved with GES products but tailings dam stabilization, erosion control, stockpile capping, dust and sediment control, and coal bunker sealing can go a long way towards preventing problems.

Why is a proactive approach to “stabilizing” your mining operations inherent to a project’s success? Well, consider the incident that happened in Brazil earlier in the year.

The headline:

“Brazil dam collapse leaves at least seven dead and 200 missing”

The meat of the story:

“A dam that held back mining waste collapsed in Brazil, inundating a nearby community in reddish-brown sludge, killing at least seven people and leaving scores of others missing.

Parts of the city of Brumadinho were evacuated, and firefighters rescued people by helicopter and ground vehicles.

Considered the worst environmental disaster in Brazilian history, it left 250,000 people without drinking water and killed thousands of fish. An estimated 60 million cubic meters of waste flooded rivers and eventually flowed into the Atlantic Ocean.

Environmental groups and activists said the latest spill underscored a lack of regulation.”

Another sad fact is that, for Vale (the mining company responsible for the mess), this wasn’t the first time. Following the catastrophe, Vale was saddled with billions of dollars in fines and other associated expenses. All of which could have been largely avoided.

How can we help?

Let’s outline the main (aforementioned) points here…

Tailings dam stabilization – Tailings are the leftover byproducts stemming from mining and extracting resources, such as removing the bitumen from oilsands, or minerals such as copper, silver or gold from ores. Tailings include:

  • Finely ground rock particles, which range in proportions from sand-sized to silt-sized particles.
  • The harmful chemicals that are actively used to extract the valuable mineral or oil.
  • And, quite simply, water.

The underlying issue with this “residue” of sorts is that the rock particles and other potentially intrusive chemicals may undergo post-process chemical reactions during storage that can generate additional byproducts – which, to a large degree, are harmful to the environment – such as acid and other dissolved metals that can easily leach into waterways and destroy fragile ecosystems in the surrounding area (which, in bad cases, can spread further). These reactions happen unusually quickly in tailings because small particles have a very high surface area where reactions can take place, compared to bigger particles.

As we’ve alluded to, many substances found in tailings can be toxic.

Applications are including but not limited to:

  • Surface stabilization with spray applications of polymer
  • Revegetation using CompoMulch and DirtGlue polymer tackifier
  • Geotextile retaining walls
  • Hard surface applications
  • Dust control for pond surfaces once they dry out
  • And much more…

Erosion control

Soil erosion and embankment control is a problem for mining operations when trying to shore up the landscape surrounding the blast site, and the site in general that is subject to runoff from a storm, general rain, or seasonal change. Soil and embankment erosion control challenges are either met at the outset of a site plan, or they’re tackled as issues pops up organically.

Common solutions you’re likely to find at a mining site include:

  • Terraces / walls built of varying materials
  • Geosynthetics such as mats, grids, and cells
  • Pipeline / tunneling
  • Gravel

If you’re looking for a smarter, harder working solution, consider GES products such as our tried and true DirtGlue® polymer, which will penetrate the surface by binding with the soil to form a tough, durable, three-dimensional matrix layer of protection. Combining superior film strength and adhesive properties, DirtGlue® polymer is the ideal solution for dust control in non-traffic areas, stockpile capping and stabilizing slopes and embankments. When applied using DirtGlue® polymer as the tackifier, it will hold even in the toughest conditions, protecting against heavy rain and wind.

Stockpile capping

Uncovered stockpiles that take residence in and around mining sites can create a host of concerns. Without the proper protection, or “capping” they become subject to erosion by wind and water and can contribute to the pollution of surrounding areas as sediment laden run-off spills into roads, waterways, storm drains, or potentially even protected wetlands or other sensitive, protected areas.

Rather than taking the traditional means of capping stockpiles with a tarp, consider DirtGlue® polymer emulsion.

Benefits of DirtGlue® polymer emulsion include:

  • Fast installation/application with less fuss than having to fasten down tarps
  • Much lower cost
  • More effective, complete & seamless seal
  • Not damaged by weather
  • Longer lasting stockpile protection
  • More effective control of dust, sediment and TSS
  • Environmentally friendly solution
    • Meets National Pollution Discharge Elimination System requirements for
      erosion control
    • Meets the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency requirements for reducing
      particulate matter in the air
    • Classed non-hazardous by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration definition

Our unique formula will penetrate, saturate, and bond soil particles, creating a hard, dust-free, and water-resistant crust for lasting protection. DirtGlue® polymer is non-hazardous, water-based, contains no VOCs, and is non-corrosive, providing a solution to capping stockpiles that is highly effective and environmentally friendly.

Dust and sediment control

It’s no secret that dust and sediment run rampant in mining facilities. It’s “the nature of the beast,” to put it bluntly.

At the core of the issue, the idea is to keep the earth in place and not give it too much of a chance to whip around and wind up stuck in filters, lungs, and as a pesky top sheet to everything in its general radius. Outside of that, there are other materials that can be picked up and distributed through these wisps of dust that can compromise the wellbeing of the environment and health of life that is exposed to it.

Dust from a mining site can contain materials such as:

  • Heavy metals
  • Silica
  • Asbestos
  • Mold
  • Bacteria
  • Pollen

Common means of tackling dust include:

  • Watering the area
  • Using dust retardant products
  • Spreading gravel, hay, mulch, or grass to act as a barrier
  • Restricting movement in affected area

The best option would be to employ the benefits of one of our award winning DirtGlue® solutions to combat the issue and, for all intents and purposes, remediate the problem long-term. For extreme cases like a working mining operation, we’ve got our DustLess® solution that will take complete control.

DustLess® is an organic fluid typically used in high-traffic areas as a solution for extreme dust. It is an environmentally safe dust suppressant that eliminates the need to water, and does not dry out. Clear and odorless, DustLess® is highly refined, and proven to be non-toxic to humans, animals, marine life and plants.

Coal bunker sealing

DirtGlue polymer stockpile capping and sealing is the antidote to the oxidation and moisture that leads to spontaneous combustion in coal bunkers. Keeping coal bunkers sealed mandates an effective, reliable air-blocking system. Sealing coal bunkers is, of course, more necessity than choice. Air circulating through the coal bunkers is a precursor to spontaneous combustion, a serious danger to a power plant, its employees, and the value of the stored coal itself. The spraying of DirtGlue polymer on stockpiles or bunkers causes the formation of a thin crust much like a spray-on tarp to act as a seal against water and air. This protective seal helps prevent fire, dust, erosion and loss of BTU’s.

Benefits:

  • Eliminate air and water penetration
  • Control dust through encapsulation
  • Minimize oxidation to prevent spontaneous combustion
  • Prevent costly coal bunker fires
  • Slow coal deterioration and water absorption that can reduce BTU value
  • Get the desired results without the higher cost of nitrogen injections

Further, when it comes to the transport of mined coal we can help with transportation efforts of the resource, as statistics show that a typical 3-5% loss of coal is experienced during transport from the mine. This can be avoided by “capping” the train or truck hopper hauling the load with one of our environmentally friendly spray-on solutions.

Are you in the mining industry and looking for ways to maximize safety, minimize environmental impact, all while simultaneously increasing profits on an extracted haul? Contact us today and let’s work together to come up with the customized solution to best fit your unique situation.