Servando Valdez
Mining and New Products Manager
Grupo Cementos de Chihuahua

Tough Cement Designed for Mine Floors and Walls

Wed, 10/21/2015 - 17:38

Supplying a mine is never as simple as putting forth one standardized product and selling it to every mining customer around. From health and safety to tooling and construction, the specifics of each mine differ, as do the requirements of each operator. This led Grupo Cementos de Chihuahua (GCC) to visit each mine to fully understand and provide for its cement needs. Such a strategy may seem obvious but Servando Valdez, GCC’s Mining and New Products Manager, explains that GCC broke new ground in doing this. “We were one of the first cement companies to implement this model of directly visiting mines. Thanks to its favorable results, many companies have followed suit, but being the first to implement it gave us many years to perfect the way we serve mining companies and to understand their needs,” he explains.

After 22 years working in mining operations, Valdez knows how diverse those cement needs can be. “Having stable and resilient floors is essential for a mining project’s continuity. GCC’s cements allow for pavements and floors to be built very quickly. We make it possible to repair or cement a new path during off hours, which is invaluable to mining companies as we do not interrupt their production activities,” he says. GCC uses its visits to suggest products tailored to conditions in both underground and openpit mines. In the case of underground operations, the company is able to propose cement thicknesses that can support the regular passing of heavy machinery. In openpit mining, it is vital that the soil be made sufficiently consistent to withstand the weight of operations through retaining walls or that roads be able to take the stress load of a lot of traffic. Furthermore, the repeated stress of such traffic can cause a lot of lesser cements to actually damage the vehicles, but according to Valdez, this is another reassurance GCC can provide. “Paving floors with our products protects the heavy equipment that passes over them. When floors are unstable or not smooth, tires can be punctured or wear out more easily. Sometimes, such irregularities can affect the performance of these machines through their transmissions and axles. However, all mining companies that have properly paved their roads have managed to increase their hauling productivity and reduced their maintenance costs,” reveals Valdez.

Whether building retaining walls, anchoring systems, or formwork routes, the main challenge is always the stability of the ground or the walls, which are naturally the cause of most accidents in mines. GCC has designed its products to directly mitigate such risks. Product lines like Lanzamix or Dinamix can coat areas of mines that require fast setting cement. Dry mixes are based on the company’s Fraguamax setting, while high quality aggregates can be used to stabilize almost any area inside a mine. This speed of application melded with resistance has been a major advantage, enabling GCC to make inroads in the mining industry. “Once applied, our products only take 30-90 minutes to harden and stabilize. Many customers have told us that through our products they are able to increase safety in mines and minimize the accident rate by rockfall,” explains Valdez.

One of the R&D challenges that GCC has had to face is achieving high compressive strength for its cement in all conditions found in mines. “When we refer to large slabs of rock, it is obvious that companies need to install systems other than cement. They still need to drill and install anchor systems and cables to contain rocky bodies, but, within tunnel work, our products provide the necessary stability,” says Valdez. “After installing Lanzamix in the areas they are developing, companies can immediately proceed with blasting programs without having to worry about the concrete’s adhesion, its resistance, or about rockfalls.” GCC states that the use of common cements would mean that companies would need to wait 8-20 hours for it to set before continuing to work. Lanzamix can provide a resistance of 150kg/cm2 two hours after being applied, and can achieve a resistance of up to 300kg/cm2 if allowed to set longer. This is highly relevant to mining companies, given the significant economic losses that any stoppages entail. In recent years, the mining industry has also thrown down the gauntlet to its suppliers. As scrutiny has piled up for mines to reduce their ecological footprint, supply chains have had to follow suit. GCC has been no exception and tasked its Technological Innovation Center with meeting this challenge. As a result, GCC has ensured its processes do not release noxious dust or gases. It also benefits from SEMARNAT having passed strict emission controls for cement manufacturers.