Interview with Marc Mesa Capodicasa, Eco – Soil Group

Interview with Marc Mesa Capodicasa, CEO of Ecosoil Group, a Global Innovative Engineering Technology Company offering sustainable mining solutions.

Marc Mesa Capodicasa

What is it that sets Ecosoilgroup apart for a sustainable future? Which are the most prominent names who have approached you?

Our offices in Miami and London are strategically located to offer all our customers an efficient and record-time answer to all their queries, no matter the time difference!
Motivated by the need to use greener practices and be part of the inevitable movement towards sustainable mining,

we have been approached by the likes of Anglo American, Newmont, Aluminum Corporation of China, Nexa Resources, Barminco, LafargeHolcim, amongst others, to provide cutting-edge solutions that best suit their soil stabilization and dust control needs. They say that Eco-Soil Group couldn’t have done it better. The engineering team really helped these companies in determining the best fit for their dust control problem. The product, after several months of being applied, remains effective as expected by our customers. Swift communication and the quality of our products are something that our customers love. We offer amazing products that act as antidotes to dust problems in mining and road construction.

What are some best practices of dust control (mining)?

To have a successful dust control project is important to follow certain steps or best practices that will allow you to have a dustless mining environment. Between 78%-97% of dust generated in a mining operation comes from haul roads. This is why it’s imperative to control dust on your mining haul roads before you do anything else. The first thing you need to do before controlling dust on your haul road is to determine the road usage and the expected traffic volume.

Some of the questions you have to ask yourself are:

  • Which type of vehicles will be using the road?
  • What’s the average number of vehicles that will use the road per day?
  • What’s the average weight of each vehicle?
  • How many wheels does the average vehicle have?

The answer to those questions will allow you to determine the ideal path and width of the road as well as the required depth of the base material.

Let’s say the road will be used by haul trucks weighing more than 120 tons and the traffic volume is high, which is most of the cases in mining operations. In this case, the road design must be kept straight with fewer curves to allow the dump trucks to have a safe driving experience. Note that dump trucks’ maneuverability is limited so the fewer curves the road has the better.

Nowadays, many mining companies around the world are controlling dust using water which is the most inefficient and cost-intensive method to control dust. On average, mining companies use 150,000 liters of water per day. At that rate, you could fill up an Olympic swimming pool in just 16 days!

Secondly, you need to prepare the road. To increase the effectiveness and durability of your road, you must first grade the road, crown, and compact the road, build the shoulders and finally build the ditches. When grading the road, the ideal moldboard horizontal angle must be between 30 and 45 degrees.

The motor grader speed must be kept at a slow and steady pace of between 5 and 8 kph. Also, the crowning of the road surface should be between 4% and 6% of the cross slope. Less than 4% and water won’t flow to the ditches and accumulate on the surface, creating potholes, and a crown of more than 6% will cause erosion and lead to unsafe driving conditions. Drivers can feel a slight loss of control if the crown is too excessive as their vehicles want to slide towards the shoulder.

After grading and crowning the road, you must compact it at 95% of the soil’s maximum dry density. To avoid delays, make sure your equipment is working properly. After compaction, you must build the road shoulder which serves several important functions. First, it supports the edge of the roadway, provides a safe area for drivers to regain control of their vehicles, and it also plays an essential role in drainage carrying the water further away from the road surface into the ditch.

The ideal depth and width of the ditch is 30 cm. You have to make sure the ditches on either side of the road must be clear of debris to ensure proper drainage. It’s important to take into account that areas with heavy water runoff will require larger ditches. One of the consequences, when a road is not well-prepared, is corrugation or as everyone in the field refers to the problem as washboarding. This problem brings more complaints than any other from truck drivers and when it becomes severe, can lead to loss of truck control. Motor grader operators are usually blamed for this problem but in reality, they seldom cause it.

The main causes of washborading are:

  • Lack of moisture,
  • poor quality material,
  • bad driving habits and
  • a lack of surface crown.

After the road has been prepared, you’re ready to apply the dust suppressant of your choice. A lot goes into choosing the right dusting agent for your dust control project, but assuming you choose the right one, you need to know the precise application rate per square meter. When applying the dusting agent, it’s important you cover the whole road width and apply it evenly on the road surface. The best equipment to carry out a good application is a water truck of at least 5,000 liters of capacity and with a pressurized spray, bar mounted on the back.

How can we decrease the water consumption dramatically when controlling dust (helping the environment in the mining process)?

Nowadays, many mining companies around the world are controlling dust using water which is the most inefficient and cost-intensive method to control dust. On average, mining companies use 150,000 liters of water per day. At that rate, you could fill up an Olympic swimming pool in just 16 days! The problem with applying water is that its effectiveness is short-lived.

As soon as you apply it, the water evaporates, and you’ll need to do the application once again. In hot temperatures, you’d need to apply water between 6-7 times per day every single day! By doing so, your haul road operational cost will increase dramatically as well as your equipment maintenance cost. Just imagine how much fuel you’ll consume per day in this never-ending cycle.

On the other hand, water scarcity already affects every continent as water use has increased globally at more than twice the rate of population increases in the last 100 years. This is why is imperative to treat water as a scarce resource with a far stronger focus on managing its demand. Many communities surrounding mine sites face a huge challenge in this domain as many companies take up the majority of the community water supply to control dust and road maintenance.

Fortunately, there are dust suppressants available on the market that can reduce water consumption by more than 80% and in many cases by 100%. This allows the mining company to increase productivity, decrease haul roads operational and maintenance costs, and decarbonize their operations faster to achieve net-zero emissions as stipulated in the Paris Agreement.

What is the future of dust control for the mining industry and how it can help decrease the overall mine operational costs?

Even though most of the dust generation in mine operations comes from haul roads, there are other several ongoing activities within the mine pit that are major sources of dust generation. These activities include drilling, blasting, loading of coal, and overburdening material.

Controlling dust in all those activities has involved over many decades the use of products that are not sustainable in the long term and products that are not environmentally friendly. This is why I think the future of dust control for the mining industry goes through the development of ecological dust suppressants that don’t pose negative threats to the environment, animals, and human beings. It also goes hand-in-hand with the development of products with a low frequency of application.

The good news is that the development of such a product will help the mine to decrease the overall operational costs while helping the planet at the same time. Let me explain with an example how you can achieve it.

Assuming you’re using water or chloride salts, such as Magnesium or Calcium Chloride, to control dust in your mine operations, it’s fair to say your costs will go through the roof. Both methods require a huge number of products and constant road maintenance, and the frequency of application for both methods is high. If you also consider that the effectiveness of both products is very low, your cost will increase even more. The road maintenance alone will account for an important part of your budget as it has to be carried out every few weeks and, in many cases, every single week if the traffic volume is high. Alternatively, if you have a product that requires preparing the unpaved road only once before the first application and the frequency of application is at most twice per year, you will automatically decrease the mine operational costs which in turn will increase the overall profitability.

As you can see it’s a win-win situation for all the parties involved. It’s a win for the mine, a win for the environment, and a win for the mineworkers who are the most exposed to dust.

Name some fatal mistakes that companies make when controlling dust.

Controlling dust may seem like an easy task and in some aspects it’s however, many companies take it slightly and end up making fatal mistakes that cost them money, time, and in some cases some fatalities. One of the mistakes companies make is to apply water or a dusting agent without preparing first the unpaved road.

This is a very common one because they think they can save a few thousand dollars by skipping the road preparation part and going straight to the dust suppressant application. The effectiveness and durability of any dusting agent decrease significantly if the unpaved road is not well-prepared prior to the product application. Assuming the dust suppressant you’re going to apply is the right one for your specific project requirements, the time a well-prepared unpaved road can last without dust goes from months to only weeks if the road is not prepared properly.

Another fatal mistake is to assume you can alter the application rate of the dusting agent without asking first your supplier. To save money, companies apply less than the recommended application rate with the expectation that the product will last the same and cover a larger area. Not developing a dust control maintenance program is another fatal and common mistake crisis companies make. Before you develop such a program, you need to determine if you want to control dust long-term, short-term, or do partial or full-depth soil stabilization. It´s important to have your objectives clear from the beginning so you can develop a dust maintenance plan that fits your project needs.

If what you are treating is a road, you need to determine if the right solution is to control dust or stabilize the soil permanently. Stabilizing the soil would reduce almost completely the generation of dust coming from vehicular traffic. The speed at which you can see the benefits will depend on whether you are doing a full-depth soil stabilization, a topical application, or the type of material used. However, the project may not require such a scale of construction, and with a short or long-term dust control maintenance program, and taking into account weather conditions, you can see the benefits almost immediately.

A dust control maintenance program should not only include the frequency of application or the selection of a good dust suppressant product among the dozens of products that are on the market. You should also take preventive measures, such as speed limits and transit schedules of heavy loads if possible.

Where is mining progressing in the coming decade?

The mining industry is transitioning into a low-carbon operation in order to be aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement. Even though fossil fuels have helped us to improve our living standards since 1800, greenhouse gas emissions have led to global warming. In order to avoid the catastrophic consequences of global warming, countries must decarbonize their energy system by 2050.

The good news for the mining industry as a whole is that a low-emission energy and transportation system requires lots of minerals than with a fossil fuel-based economy. On the other hand, I think mining companies will have no choice but to go into frontier mining areas as mineral resources in low-risk countries are becoming exhausted or develop new technologies for processing and minerals extraction.

I think the mining sector will experience major changes one decade from now and one of those changes will be the implementation of more ecological solutions to everyday operational challenges such as material transportation and dust-related problems. On the water-consumption front, companies will move toward water conservation or re-utilization in their operations.
And last but not least, I see consolidation in the industry. Many companies were brought to their knees due to the pandemic, but others have come out on the other side with stronger balance sheets. And those companies are the ones that may take advantage of M&A opportunities.

What is the role of innovation and creativity in the mining domain?

An industry without innovation and creativity is doomed for failure and the mining sector is no different from that reality. Before you innovate you have to be creative, in other words, there is no innovation in any industry without creativity. The role of these two key aspects goes through the development of new technologies that ultimately lead to maximizing productivity in every part of the mining process.

Nowadays the productivity topic takes a more relevant focus as worldwide mining operations are 28% less productive than 10 years ago.

And to achieve a breakthrough in mining productivity we must rethink entirely how mining works, from A to Z. More often than not, innovation gets confused with business improvement. However, the way I see innovation is by doing things in structurally different ways and not by doing things we currently do faster, cheaper, and better.

Part of this confusion is why the mining sector is cataloged as a slow innovative industry. But the reality is the sector is as innovative as the manufacturing industry for example. We just have to look at it in a different way.
Up until a while ago, the mining sector was a vertically integrated business where all the processes and activities took place within a corporation. But if you take a closer look at the industry now, you notice there has been a series of corporate strategies and disruptive technologies that have led to a de-verticalization of the industry as a whole. It used to be a one-company-does-it-all and it’s now many companies integrated into the supply chain to accomplish a shared goal.

What has been the impact of Covid-19 on the mining industry in the last two years? And where do you see it going forward?

The mining industry like any other sector of the global economy has been badly affected by the Covid-19 crisis. Mining companies’ operations have suffered mainly by isolated outbreaks and shutdowns especially in markets like Peru, Chile, and South Africa.

However, unlike other parts of the economy, the mining sector’s response to the crisis has been swift, aligned, and driven by two important priorities. First, to protect at all costs the health and safety of employees and the local communities surrounding their operations. And second, by protecting the disrupted supply chain and laying the groundwork to support long-term recovery.

Even though the pandemic is posing a big challenge to the mining industry, it’s fair to say that it has also created many opportunities for mining-related companies. There are always opportunities to be found even in the worst of a crisis if you know where to look. For example, many professional service-type jobs are running remotely now, eliminating commutes and decreasing operational costs. Similarly, companies have reduced business travel which has resulted in more family time for employees and an increase in productivity. Also, many mining companies were forced to revise their business models to generate more value for employees and shareholders alike.

Up until the pandemic arrived, the industry was having concerns on the ESG front. However, with the implementation of safety and emergency measures and reductions in some operations, the sector has put more emphasis on the “S” in ESG (Social). And I think this is where the mining industry is heading towards. It’s heading into a focused-people approach.

Ecosoil Group

Ecosoil Group
We are a Global Innovative Engineering Technology Company that offers the most efficient and cost-effective solutions in soil stabilization, roads construction, dust suppression, and erosion control via 100% ecological products.
Our technologies, esoliTSS®, econTDS®, and esumTST® are specifically manufactured by the highest standard of quality to guarantee long-lasting results and to reduce the negative impact that conventional soil stabilization, roads construction, and dust suppression methods have on the environment, amongst other benefits.

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