Dismantling and removing rock and concrete through explosives entails a suite of costs and hazards that place a substantial burden on all mining operations.
In addition to noise and vibration, precise, high-skilled labour and expensive capital expenditure is required to perform this activity; a central part of the cost burden weighing on any operation.
Neoferma Australia promises a revolution in mining through its Ecobust Expansive Controlled Demolition Agent, a technological innovation that works to perform complex demolition jobs in a safe and relatively “noise-free” manner.
So what is it, and how does it work? The Australian Mining Review spoke with Neoferma Australia Director Brian Heighes to gain some deeper insight into this remarkable product.
Ecobust is designed to break apart rock and concrete. It is a non-toxic powdered mixture of natural minerals that when mixed with water and poured into pre-drilled holes, expands at an incredible force of over 20,000PSI.
Based on the principle of chemical expansion within a confined space, the application of Ecobust can break apart the majority strength of rock or concrete. The chemical reaction generated by Ecobust is controlled, taking from four hours to a day to develop the expansive pressure that breaks the rock depending on the size and type.
Importantly for mine operators, Ecobust breaks apart concrete and rock without generating the noise, vibration or dust associated with other means.
Ecobust comes in three product types; the selection of which is dependent on the core temperature of the target rock or concrete.
Type 1 is for rock and concrete with a core temperature of 20-35o, type 2 for 10-25o, type 3 for 5-15o.
Matching the correct type of Ecobust to its temperature target ensures the most effective results.
An attractive feature of Ecobust is the ease and simplicity of its use. Tightly controlled, complicated and expensive labour procedures are not required to effectively apply Ecobust across a range of applications.
The basic procedure is as follows:
The worker drills a hole into the target rock or concrete using a core drill, rock drill or substitute with a 38mm diameter drill bit for maximum results. A version of Ecobust is available for 70mm drills. Holes are drilled 8mm to 400mm apart, or closer together for harder rock and reinforced concrete. Different types of rock and concrete require different drill patterns, and Neoferma supplies these in its extensive drill guide.
Once the temperature of the rock or concrete is known, then the correct Ecobust can be selected. Exactly 1.5l of clean cold water is poured into a bucket and mixed with a 5kg bag of Ecobust.
The powder is mixed with a mixing paddle until the powder has dissolved to create a slurry.
The worker then pours the slurry into the drilled holes, covers the holes with a tarpaulin or the like, to prevent accidental damage in the case of a blow-out. The product can continue to expand for up to 72 hours, and can be left unattended while the rock or concrete begins to break apart, whilst subsequent holes are drilled further along the bench allowing for continuous work.
The applications of Ecobust to the field of mining are manifold. To begin with, Ecobust will be of particular use for mine site development and maintenance. The work of pipeline construction, tunnelling, excavation and grading can all utilise Ecobust to remove and breakdown rock barriers. What’s more, Ecobust is suited for application in sensitive locations such as dams or towers where conventional explosives might pose a hazard to the integrity of nearby infrastructure.
Ecobust is also perfectly designed for quarrying. Instead of planting explosives into the rock, all that is required is to drill holes at regular sections, fill in the holes with slurry, and let Ecobust do its work. Whether its marble, granite, basalt, limestone or sandstone, Ecobust can break apart any form of rock into manageable, processable sizes.
Even mine sites that employ blasting techniques will find some benefit with Ecobust. The slurry is useful for the post-blasting process to breakdown the aggregate waste into more manageable sizes, which can then be more effectively processed and disposed of.
A recent video from the popular Discovery Channel program Gold Rush demonstrates its versatility and application in the mining field. The clip, a link to which is featured below, shows a team of gold prospectors trying to break apart a large boulder that stands in the way of a particular zone of interest. Traditional methods of breaking down the rock were not feasible, and as a last resort, the team decides to try out Ecobust. The team mixes the material into a slurry, drills into the rock, and fills it with the Ecobust slurry.
A fascinating aspect of the video is that the prospectors had never used Ecobust before. They simply read the instruction manual and did the job themselves, all within a single afternoon. They leave for the evening, and let Ecobust do its work. The next morning, the prospectors return to find the boulder cracked apart, and their pathway to gold unblocked. It’s a fascinating demonstration of how easy and effective Ecobust is, and the results are incredible, illustrated by the surprise and joy that overcomes the prospectors when they see the results.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Ecobust is the way it can be used to fix a variety of problems that might not readily be associated with a demolition product. For example, miners across Australia have utilised Ecobust as a ready solution to the concrete residue that builds up at the bottom of the barrel of a concrete mixer.
The simple application of Ecobust can easily break apart the residue, and return the mixer to its full capacity. It is also useful to break down rocks that get stuck in conveyor belts and crushers, a common problem that confronts many mine sites.
In effect, Ecobust provides the controlled demolition of rock and concrete safely and silently, and as such can serve as a replacement for explosives in the applications discussed above. The benefits for mine operators are manifold.
Firstly, because the product is non-hazardous, there are no toxic vapours, waste or harmful chemicals associated with its use. The end result is a non-toxic powder that can be simply washed away and is biodegradable. In this way, companies don’t need to spend money on complicated and cost prohibitive worker safety regimes, or costly toxic waste removal and disposal mechanisms, which otherwise accompany the use of explosives.
Secondly, the traditional practice of blasting and the general cacophony of mining operations means that dangerous noise and vibration generation is an unavoidable by-product of mining and mineral processing. Mine sites must abide by strictly enforced worker safety and environmental regulations in order to operate and keeping to these regulations can be a costly proposition.
For one thing, mine sites must construct elaborate and expensive noise and vibration monitoring systems to ensure that they are abiding by regulations and not putting their workers at risk.
If a mine is positioned near a residential zone, the regulations are even more stringent. Noise and vibration monitoring stations must be positioned in the field to ensure that the operations of a mine do not transcend acceptable thresholds.
With Ecobust, the problems of noise and vibration associated with traditional demolition evaporate. The use of Ecobust means the surrounding environment and community relations will not be affected, and the regulatory cost burden on mines decreases dramatically.
Thirdly, the use of Ecobust expands worker productivity. Because the controlled agent expands gradually over time and can be left to its own devices, workers can move from job to job without having to carefully funnel their attention to one job at a time. This means more jobs can be done within a reduced amount of time.
Additionally, because standard health and safety regulations applied to explosives do not apply to Ecobust, drilling and breaking can become a continuous process. There is no need to stop and clear a blast area. Furthermore, workers do not require a license to deploy this product.
Fourthly, the use of Ecobust improves the mineral extraction process. Explosives destroy the mineral within being extracted, so for instance if you were quarrying marble the area around the explosive core hole would be destroyed, similarly with iron ore. While that may seem insignificant, it is a loss of revenue. What’s more, maximising the yield from a quarry is difficult if you cannot blast within a defined distance from the property boundary, again due to the environmental impact from explosives. Ecobust allows the quarry owners to recover 100% of the material on site.
The use of Ecobust in confined spaces is also permissible. It is safe to use this product in areas where sparks and flames are not allowed.
Neoferma distributes Ecobust across Australia and throughout the Middle-East and India. The company has a highly-efficient distribution system. Orders can be filled immediately from its warehouses and delivered anywhere throughout Australia and internationally.
What is perhaps most remarkable about this product is the way it combines simplicity with power. Anyone can use this product; the safety precautions are minimal and companies don’t need to shell out substantial reserves of capital to employ highly-skilled technicians capable of handling the dangers and complexities of explosive material.
Blasting apart rock, splitting quarries or preparing a site for mineral extraction once required expensive demolition agents. With Ecobust, you can split the Earth with a drill and bucket of slurry. It’s an impressively simple technological development that promises new solutions for companies confronting a range of challenges across the mining and quarry sectors.