Concrete Canvas® is used for a wide range of erosion control and weed suppression applications. (photo: Concrete Canvas)
Concrete Canvas® is used for a wide range of erosion control and weed suppression applications.
22.03.2021, 14:22

Why Miners are Benefiting from Geosynthetic Cementitious Composite Mats

Construction, United Kingdom, Mining


The mining industry has always been a place where technical innovation has been pushed to improve results and productivity. These innovations can be as simple as improved safety equipment to protect workers and powered machinery to reduce the physical stresses of the work, all the way to three-dimensional mapping technology to enhance the efficiency of work and reduce waste. Along with others, these innovations have provided a variety of benefits to the mining industry.


Geosynthetic Cementitious Composite Mats (GCCMs) are another innovation that have been used in the mining industry and have resulted in various benefits. In this article, we will look over some of those benefits and highlight some of the mining projects around the world that have used GCCMs.


Firstly, some may be unfamiliar with GCCMs, so it's probably worth providing a brief explanation of what they are. This is a unique class of material developed by the UK company Concrete Canvas Ltd. Peter Brewin and William Crawford, the company founders, conceived the idea during a project at university which led to the invention of inflatable concrete shelters. The material itself was invented to provide a thin concrete outer layer to the inflatable structures.


GCCMs differ from traditional concrete in several key areas. The most crucial difference is that no mixing of materials is needed on a project site. Arriving as a ready to install roll, GCCMs only need to be cut to size, secured in place, hydrated with water and then left to set. So, what benefits does the use of GCCMs bring to the mining industry?


Another of the most significant benefits of using GCCMs is the speed at which they can be installed compared to traditional poured or sprayed concrete. When working in the mining industry, this can be hugely important. The disruption of a construction or renovation project can cause issues to a mining site's operational efficiency, which can impact both the business overall and its clients.


For this reason, it's essential to complete projects as quickly as possible while also maintaining high safety standards. GCCMs can be installed at rates of over 200sqm per hour, which is up to ten times faster than traditional concrete. Furthermore, because it is usable just two hours after hydration, operations can resume much quicker than when having to wait for poured or sprayed concrete to cure fully.


As anyone who has been to a mining site will know, these can be challenging areas to complete projects in. As GCCMs do not require onsite mixing or special tools to install, it makes them very easy to use in challenging conditions and on restrictive sites.


Two of the most common uses for GCCMs are providing slope protection and channel lining. On mining sites, these slopes and channels can often be very steep and located in hard to access areas. For this reason, having a solution that can be installed with minimal requirement for specialist resources and personnel is vital. On sites like these, the mixing equipment for poured or sprayed concrete often aren’t able to reach the project site.  On a steep slope, for example, even if equipment can be positioned close enough to the site, the degree of the slope can cause it to run off before setting in place and can lead to rebound, causing mess and potentially even damaging sensitive equipment on the site. Another factor to keep in mind about ease of installation is that GCCMs can also be installed in wet weather conditions.


Another benefit for the mining industry, which is more important than ever before, is the environmental impact of GCCMs. Businesses in all sectors have been forced to confront their environmental impact over the last ten years. More effort is being made now than ever before to improve businesses' efficiency to help the planet. While concrete is the most commonly used construction material worldwide, it is not the most environmentally friendly. Along with the material itself, installing concrete on a site requires a large number of workers and machines to mix and then distribute the concrete. As a result, the cumulative environmental impact of this can be significant.


In comparison, GCCMs have a much lower impact on the environment. As mentioned, no mixing equipment is required on site, and a lower number of workers can handle the installation. Furthermore, Concrete Canvas GCCMs are low mass and a lower carbon concrete solution, which uses up to 95% less material than traditional concrete. This means that up to 200sqm can be covered by just one pallet of Concrete Canvas GCCM, where it would take two full mixing trucks to cover this area with poured or sprayed concrete. For the mining industry, this means they can work more efficiently and also reduce their environmental impact from manufacturing right through to transportation and impact of installation.


There are many examples of GCCMs being used on mining sites around the world. In Canada, the Eagle Gold Mine used Concrete Canvas GCCMs for erosion control and to line two channel slipways. The environmental conditions experienced on the site and the steepness of the channels in some sections would have made this project near impossible to complete with traditional solutions.


The Brockman 4 Mine site in Western Australia used GCCMs to line a slope at a Run of Mine as they needed a solution that would stop water from penetrating the slope and causing it to become unstable. As Concrete Canvas GCCMs are waterproof and could be simply unrolled down the slope and then secured, it was ideal for the project.


Overall, the use of GCCMs on mining sites has expanded over the last ten to fifteen years, and it's clear to see why. It can take time for an industry to adopt an innovate new product or technique as people are understandably comfortable using what they know. However, the clear benefits of GCCMs over traditional concrete makes their specification an easier decision and can open up more possibilities for projects in the mining industry.  


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