Physical sciences, Earth sciences

Sustainable stone mines

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 stones.

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 measurements.

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.

last modification: 2015-03-25 09:00:48

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