David Cárdenas Flores
Corporate Manager of Deposits and Raw Materials
Cooperativa La Cruz Azul
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Insight

From High Quality Minerals to High Quality Cement

Mon, 10/21/2013 - 14:29

The current use of cement in mining applications has enabled new possibilities to reach targeted ore deposits in a faster and safer manner. During the past centuries, many mining sites suffered major catastrophes due to deficiencies in their construction plans and to low quality materials used. Today, the cement industry has revolutionized construction techniques and the material used offers new alternatives to achieve operational goals. “The use of cement in the mining industry has provided the necessary means to construct deeper and safer mines,” says David Cárdenas Flores, Corporate Manager of Deposits and Raw Materials at Cooperativa la Cruz Azul, one of the most representative cement companies in Mexico.

Cement is widely used in several industries, and cementation has become an essential element for underground mine construction; many subsurface projects would not be likely to exist without the use of this material because of unstable geological conditions found in underground mines. Nevertheless, not all cement products comply with the standards required by the mining industry. “In order to produce high quality cement you have to be sure that you are extracting the best materials in a sustainable way,” Cárdenas Flores explains. The quality starts with the meticulous selection of the quarry where the material used to produce cement will be exploited from. “The optimization of reserves and the quality of the finished products will depend on an adequate preparation of the quarries,” Cárdenas Flores adds.

The high quality cements provided by Cruz Azul would not be possible without the use of modern technologies. Cruz Azul is currently using geostatistical software for its mineral block models elaboration, this has also helped it to foresee and improve its annual mining plan and exploit quarries in a sustainable way. Cruz Azul has invested a considerable amount of its budget in geological exploration, which has enabled it to use diamond drilling, topographic 3D modeling and geochemical sampling, as well as geophysical methods to explore the subsurface deposits. “Something that really separates us from the competition is the attention we put into the first stages of the production chain,” Cárdenas Flores details. These modern methods and the company’s focus on industrial mineral extraction from its quarries have allowed it to guarantee that all the materials used in its products are consistent in chemical composition and quality.

The continuity of underground mining activities, and even the employees’ lives, rests on the mechanical resistance, plasticity, settling time, durability and impermeability of the cement products applied in the mine shafts. Cruz Azul also dedicates a lot of attention to its research and development institute where different mixtures of materials are tested so that it can constantly innovate with its cement products. “Our main ambition is to continue developing new products to satisfy all our mining clients’ needs. We are competing in a very strong industry, so we want to make sure that we are always up to date with state of the art technology and we want to guarantee that all of our products are having the impact we expect them to have,” says Cárdenas Flores.

Cruz Azul strongly believes in the quality of its products and its innovation capacity, but it also understands that mining clients need consistent proof of how its cement products will perform when put to the test. For these reasons, Cruz Azul has complemented its services by adding portable field labs which will help operators verify the quality and specifications of the products on site before they are installed. “There is little room for mistakes in the mining industry so it is of great importance to make sure that the concrete complies with the client’s specifications, because once it is installed there is no turning back,” explains Cárdenas Flores. Cruz Azul’s portable labs have provided a new advantage to mine operators since now they are also able to make sure that the products have not been affected by weathering during the transportation. According to Cárdenas Flores there is no part in the cement production process that can be taken lightly, but he highlights the special importance of the initial stages of cement production: “Just as our mining customers are looking to find the best quality ores to exploit, so are we. We want to make sure that the raw materials we use in the products we provide have the characteristic that our clients need to move their projects forward,” he adds.