Ornamental stone beautifies homes, yards and commercial buildings around the world while providing structural support. New technology for inspecting the rock before mining will significantly reduce the environmental impact of the industry.
While ornamental stone enhances the appearance of its beneficiaries, the
mining industry that extracts it has been left with a tarnished
reputation. The process of searching for high-quality stone wastes
resources and consumes huge amounts of energy.
To address this, a consortium of concerned stakeholders launched the
EU-funded project 'Selective and sustainable exploitation of ornamental
stones based on demand' (SUSTAMINING
Research organisations, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and
SME associations or groups joined forces to bring stone mining into the
21st century. The goal is to create zero-impact, nearly invisible mines
through the exploitation of technology.
Ground penetration radar (GPR) and electrical resistance tomography
(ERT) are being calibrated against physical samples and testing. The
data and models will be used to deliver non-destructive tools capable of
determining rock mechanical properties affecting their use as building
The team selected three quarries for field studies representing
granite, limestone and dolostone. Radar and other measurements were used
to develop digital terrain models as the basis for geophysical
Scientists conducted a first GPR measurement campaign in which GPR
was successfully used to measure inhomogeneities and discontinuities in
different rock types. Data are being utilised in the 3D geological model
under development. ERT measurements continue and will be used as a
complement to GPR data.
Samples were collected from all three quarries and subjected to two
different tests to determine mechanical properties relevant to use as
building stones. These data along with GPR data will be exploited in
future geological and geostatistical models, also serving as quality
indices for natural stone quarries.
SUSTAMINING is creating a technology- and knowledge-based
methodology and toolkit for sustainable mining of ornamental stone. The
goal is zero impact above ground and near-zero impact below. With
non-destructive technology to determine the quality of stone before
mining, waste of resources and damage to the environment will be
minimised. Technology will also decrease the time, cost and energy
consumption associated with mining to substantially enhance the
competitive position of the SMEs that typically run the mines.