Mauricio Silva
Director General in Mexico
Concrete Canvas
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Insight

Concrete Fabric Endures Across Range of Applications

Wed, 10/21/2015 - 17:33

Back in 2005, an innovation was made in the UK that soon began drawing attention. Concrete Canvas is a flexible concrete fabric that becomes rock hard when exposed to water to form a thin layer of canvas built to withstand extreme temperatures, fire, and water. One of Concrete Canvas’ key selling points is that it offers the resistance of concrete construction without the usual accompanying infrastructure. With a specially formulated dry concrete mix and a PVC support across one side, it is fully waterproof even when fully immersed. Furthermore, once hydrated and set, Concrete Canvas’ fiber matrix helps to prevent the creation of cracks. Mauricio Silva, Concrete Canvas’ Director General in Mexico, says that this product is rapidly becoming a chosen option for ditch lining, slope protection, and other applications in the mining, oil and gas, and infrastructure industries. Beyond its natural rapidity and cost competitiveness, compared to other concrete solutions, Concrete Canvas is available in three thicknesses of 5, 8, and 13mm. Moreover it reduces the environmental impact of concrete projects by as much as 95%.

One of Concrete Canvas’ inventors and the company’s Director, Peter Brewin, explains the flexibility available to companies when allowing Concrete Canvas to set. “Ordinarily, Concrete Canvas takes between one and two hours to dry out. However, in hot environments such as the desert, this can drop to as little as 20 minutes.” To counter this, retardants can be added to the mix to delay the drying time. Brewin adds that a “conventional Portland cement based concrete reaches 80% of its strength in 20 days. Concrete Canvas can do so in 24 hours.” With its applications and flexibility firmly established, Concrete Canvas turned its attention to international expansion. Latin America quickly became a hub, with the product deployed in projects across Chile, Peru, and Panama, while the Chilean mining industry became a particularly steady source of business. This led the company to enter the Mexican market in 2013, where the mining sector was given prime focus. “We approached the likes of Goldcorp, Peñoles, and Minera Frisco across Mexico, while also seeking to supply small companies in the north of the country,” says Silva. “To supply the mining industry requires going through many small steps to finally land a project. We started by attending mining expos as visitors to talk to mining companies about the benefits of our products. The initial feedback was positive as people were surprised at how versatile our product is.” Based on the initial interest, Concrete Canvas started to visit mines to provide concrete solutions for ditch linings and erosion control during road construction. While conventional concrete requires a large workforce and equipment to be applied, Concrete Canvas can be applied quickly using a single crane and two extra pairs of hands, according to Silva, giving it a major advantage. One of the company’s biggest successes in the Mexican mining industry has been implementing erosion control solutions for the pithead mine entrance at Goldcorp’s Los Filos mine in Guerrero. Concrete Canvas was placed over a 200m2 area stretching downhill to control water flow and soil erosion. The installation was done in 36 hours and allows Goldcorp to keep the entrance to the mine accessible even during periods of heavy rains. Silva even quips that the 36-hour installation time was actually lengthened by safety regulations and verifications. According to Silva, Goldcorp tested the resistance of Concrete Canvas and was surprised that it offered higher resistance than conventional concrete. Concrete Canvas is able to resist a maximum pressure of 407 kg/cm2 two hours after it becomes solid.

This is not the only application that Concrete Canvas aims to have in the Mexican mining industry, as explained by Silva. “In the mining industry, water management is crucial. Mine water should not be allowed to percolate down the soil due to its toxicity. Our product is a geosynthetic cementious composite mat that has a PVC underlayer, making it practically impermeable while having a high tolerance for exposure to acid and alkaline solutions. It can also be used to cover roofs where workers live, as Peñoles is planning to do at the Tizapa mine in the State of Mexico.” Additionally, Concrete Canvas can be used to cover culverts and pipes transporting water, with a resistance so high the company feels comfortable offering a 50-year warranty. Although the mining industry is a prime business driver in Mexico, Concrete Canvas has begun looking at other applications.

Silva points out one challenge that does hinder Concrete Canvas’ expansion in Mexico, namely the country’s famously tortuous bureaucratic processes. “Working with the government here can take up a lot of time. We are currently looking to get our products certified by the government so that it may be used by CAPUFE and CONAGUA for erosion control and emergencies. The product has already been approved by CFE, which could help us to get deals in the other governmental entities. The mining industry does not need this certification, which is why it was so attractive for us from the onset.”