Giovanni Bellei Barbieri
Director General
Maccaferri Mexico

Reducing the Environmental Impact of Mining Activity

Mon, 10/21/2013 - 10:39

Both open pit and underground mining can cause extensive environmental damage to the surrounding area, including erosion, loss of biodiversity, and soil and water contamination. Fortunately, the level of technological advancement with which mining processes are applied today can greatly reduce the environmental impact of a mine. Maccaferri is a specialized service provider for the mining industry that has based its environmental and occupational safety solutions on technological innovations. The company has over 130 years of experience in the development of engineering applications for environmental control. The company is responsible for the invention of gabion and the earliest use of this product for environmental purposes was in 1893, when Maccaferri built a gabion to push back the waters of the Reno River, which had flooded the Italian Bologna region. After more than a century, the company maintains its relevance by developing new products while maintaining its status as the world’s leading provider of gabion.

Giovanni Bellei Barbieri, Director General of Maccaferri Mexico, explains that this focus on innovation has enabled the company to respond to the mining industry’s needs with a series of original and customized solutions. “Maccaferri offers technological solutions that make our customers’ operations safer and more efficient. We do this all by getting young technical specialists to think differently and more creatively. We assure our clients that the risks they confront can be mitigated, and we back this up with a range of patents and norms that guarantee the functioning of the equipment while providing the best cost-benefit ratio. We are proud that our stabilization systems have been copied, as it confirms our belief that we are providing the mining industry with the top equipment and safety solutions,” he details.

Maccaferri has built an extensive catalogue of geosynthetics products, mesh walls and gabions customized for the mining industry. The company offers geotextiles designed to improve the performance and durability of haul roads, soil reinforcement systems for operational areas and retaining walls, rockfall protection nets and wire, dewatering tube systems, and erosion control products for tailings dams, among other solutions. These products are made to be resistant and efficient. For example, the company has a modular, permeable and flexible Terramesh System which can be used to build retaining walls with a green face, by incorporating vegetation to the front. Their practicality does not sacrifice their effectiveness, for they have been certified by the Highway Innovative Technology Evaluation Center as durable for 75 years. Maccaferri’s products and design software have enabled the construction of vertical dump walls with a height of 23 meters.

Maccaferri’s Industry Division combines the company’s focus on technology, quality and innovation with a continuous strive for cost reduction. This aspect is particularly important given the rising cost of production and the vulnerability to metal prices that mining companies are experiencing. Additionally, Bellei Barbieri states that Maccaferri’s customers save in money, material and maintenance in the long term thanks to the company’s solutions. “Mining companies in Mexico and globally at times look at their operations from a profit viewpoint rather than with a long-term perspective, therefore overlooking this kind of technology. Now is the time for companies to be open to new technology, to improve the industry and make it more effective. This is where Maccaferri comes in by offering an industrial improvement solution rather than a consumer product,” he mentions. “It is vital for Maccaferri to create guaranteed long-lasting and highly durable products that can be installed in places where regular maintenance is impossible. Safety is a fundamental matter for our company, we are always looking out for our employees’ wellbeing. One of our flagship products is our innovative shotcrete fibers for primer coating, implemented inside mine tunnels or galleries to prevent problems such as collapses. It is important to be innovative in mining, as companies work in different challenging environments,” he affirms.

Bellei Barbieri expects demand for Maccaferri’s products to rise. “The Mexican mining industry is evolving quickly and Mexico continues to stand out as one of the strongest mineral producers in the world. Safety technologies will continue to play an important role in mining operations. Maccaferri works in many sectors, but for the mining sector our goal is to provide technology that will help mining companies to increase safety in their operations,” he details. In order to respond to Mexican demand, the company is looking to produce more of its products in the local market, thus enabling a faster delivery of its solutions and more control over its supply. “Maccaferri intends to continue increasing local production in Mexico and move away from imports. We consider imports to be necessary only at the beginning of a business’s life, but with time products must be locally sourced and developed,” Bellei Barbieri states.