Mauricio Silva
Director General
Concrete Canvas
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View from the Top

Concrete on a Roll Cements Infrastructure

Tue, 11/01/2016 - 15:45

Q: What are the unique technological qualities and applications of Concrete Canvas’ product?

A: Concrete Canvas originates from the UK and has launched a revolutionary new construction material called Geosynthetic Cementitious Composite Mats (GCCM), a flexible, concrete impregnated fabric that hardens when water is poured onto it to form a thin, durable, waterproof and fire resistant concrete layer. In simple terms, it is concrete on a roll. It can be extended over slopes as a way to prevent landslides or to create water channels. It is easy to use and can be adapted to any terrain. After setting the product down for a couple of hours it dries and is unmovable. Depending on the project multiple layers can be used or it can be sealed to prevent leaks. The advantage of this product is that it is able to resist up to 407kg/cm2 and it uses less water than traditional methods. While Concrete Canvas may be more expensive than regular concrete products, the benefits are greater and it can be used in emergencies.

Q: How have companies reacted to the product?

A: The first customer to adopt this technology was Goldcorp. It was a difficult process due to the high price of the dollar and because the project was located in a risky zone, in Iguala, Guerrero. Since then, we have had additional installations that have opened the door to new business ventures in Mexico. At the beginning we spoke only to mining companies but we swiftly realized that other industries stand to benefit from this technology. In Mexico, construction companies traditionally use cement and steel rods that are complimented with a cheap labor force but this product is unique to the market. During natural disasters, Concrete Canvas can deliver quality solutions in a short period of time and for a great variety of terrains. It is easy to install and it is possible to make emergency shelters or spaces within 24 hours. This product may be more expensive but the results are much greater and it optimizes structures. In Mexicali, CFE has created a geothermal plant called Cerro Prieto that has kilometers of concrete canals and we have conducted several trials with our products, efficiently transporting water for the development of clean energy.

Q: How is GCCM applied to unique and complex infrastructure like open-pit installations?

A: One of the most complex engineering constructions is the entrance of a mine. Miners have to travel in heavy trucks for several kilometers and under dangerous conditions. During the rainy season, landslides cause downtimes and this can be extremely expensive for mining companies. Instead of using cement or other materials, with the assistance of three or four people a company can install our product to secure roads and wall. For Goldcorp, we placed the product at the entrance of its mine where landslides were common. It is available in three thicknesses and it is essential to have the help of a civil engineer when deciding which product to use. In Spain, there have been studies on the viability of using it for building underground tunnels but that research is ongoing. This product is useful for temporary mine walls but it may not be the best option for tunnels, especially going through mountains and other rough terrain. The construction of temporary walls with Concrete Canvas is much faster than traditional methods.

Q: How can this product contribute to the development of infrastructure resistant to natural disasters?

A: Companies place anchors and spray concrete wherever it is needed but it wears rapidly. If the concrete gets soft, cracks begin to form, which allows vegetation to grow. Our product prevents these occurrences. Unlike spray concrete, our product has a 50-year guarantee. The high quality of the material and the installation method make infrastructure safer and durable. The correct installation will help prevent water penetration or keep plants from breaking through. In water management infrastructure, it can anchor slopes and prevent water leakage. We also have a new product that allows companies to lay down layers of concrete, creating a stronger seal. It has been proven to work efficiently in building water management and tailings infrastructure. We also are working on a residual water treatment in which we will conduct a study of one of the water tanks. As years pass, water tanks deteriorate and cracks form on the surface. Placing Concrete Canvas on top would protect and increase the lifetime of these expensive infrastructures.