Which materials are best for salt mining?

Fibre reinforced plastic in the salt mining industry

 

Salt is incredibly valuable. Our body needs it to survive, and it forms the backbone of many industries. In fact, the Australian government estimates there are over 14,000 uses of the stuff.

Unsurprisingly, salt mining makes up a significant portion of Australia’s nonmetallic mineral mining industry. According to Ibis World, Australian salt production has grown over the last five years to exceed 13 million tonnes in 2015-2016. Western Australia produces around half of the industry’s volume of salt, with the rest spread around Queensland and South Australia.

However, salt is a reactive mineral and a significant contributor to corrosion and weathering of materials, which can pose significant problems to infrastructure when it comes time to harvest. Selecting the right material for construction in this industry requires a creative solution: Fibre Reinforced Plastic (FRP).

FRP is an ideal solution for the salt mining industry.FRP is an ideal solution for the salt mining industry.

What is FRP?

FRP is a composite material made from a blend of a polymer matrix (plastic) with a reinforcing material, which in this case is fibreglass. It poses a number of distinct advantages  over other forms of grating material, depending on the application. Its primary uses are in industrial flooring, access walkways, screens, nonslip surfaces, machine guards and stair treads.

In the salt mining industry, this material’s resistance to reactivity is what sets it apart from other flooring products.

What makes FRP suitable for the salt mining industry?

In the salt mining industry, this material’s resistance to reactivity is what sets it apart from other flooring products.

FRP is unreactive to all concentrations of sodium chloride, magnesium salts, potassium salts and more at a wide range of temperatures, which makes it the perfect material for this industry.

In a harsh environment, such as the kind where salts and water can mix, the maintenance, degradation and eventual replacement of flooring materials is a significant ongoing cost. Metal products give way to corrosion and rust, while other materials degrade quickly when exposed to the high levels of UV radiation solar salt beds need to evaporate the excess water.

Not only is it highly resistant to corrosion, FRP is protected against degradation from the sun due to UV inhibitors within the material. It also has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio thanks to its singular, interwoven pattern. For these reasons and more, FRP is not only a durable, but also cost-effective industrial flooring solution for the salt mining industry.

To find out about what other industries FRP is suitable for, get in touch with the team at Locker Group today.

How much water does Australian industry use?

How are industries reducing their water consumption?

 

The United Nations World Water Day is held on March 22nd. Its focus: bringing to attention the importance of freshwater and its sustainable management. Each year revolves around a specific aspect of water, and this year, the theme is wastewater.

Wastewater is a result of consumption – water that has been used as part of commercial, industrial or residential processes. In general, wastewater is no longer potable or safe to introduce back into the environment, which reduces the total amount of freshwater available.

Australia is a nation that depends on its water resources. In 2014-2015, we consumed over 17,000 gigalitres (GL) across all sectors – the equivalent of 35 Sydney Harbours, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). For reference, 1 GL is equivalent to 1 billion litres.

At Locker Group, we want to celebrate the responsible use of resources in industry. So how are different industries reducing the amount of water they use?

Reducing water consumption is important for sustainability.Reducing water consumption is important for sustainability.

Conserving water in mining

According to the ABS, the mining industry consumed over 700 GL of water in 2014-2015. This is partly due to the number of vital roles water plays in the processing of minerals and the prevention of toxins entering the environment. However, this doesn’t meant that there aren’t innovative ways for mines to reduce their consumption and discharge as much as possible.

Mines can utilise nature in the form of wetlands to ‘purify’ wastewater.

Mining Facts highlights some of the active and passive ways to treat water so that it gets recycled and doesn’t go to waste. Active treatments, such as filtration or chemical treatment to remove contaminants are common methods. Passively, mines can utilise nature in the form of wetlands to ‘purify’ wastewater – filtering water to the point where it can be reincorporated into the environment. Other solutions include using bacteria to remove harmful toxins from water, allowing it to be recycled more easily, as outlined in the Australian Trade Commission’s Urban and Industrial Water report.

On the other hand, not all water used in mines is hazardous. Using something as simple as screens or grating to catch surface runoff on floors and walkways can contribute to the reduction of water used in mines.

Reducing runoff in agriculture

By far, the industry that uses the most water in Australia is agriculture. In 2014-2015, this sector used over 10,000 GL, according to the ABS. However, despite accounting for the vast majority of freshwater use (60 per cent), the agricultural industry is also leading the charge in reducing the water it consumes. Lauren Binns, Director of Environment and Agriculture Statistical Delivery and Communication, explains.

“The largest decrease in water consumption was in the agriculture industry. Ongoing dry conditions across the eastern states meant farmers used less water for irrigation, so consumption was down 10 per cent to 10,410 GL in 2014-15. This followed an 8 per cent decrease in the previous year,” said Ms Binns.

Preventing runoff from irrigation is crucial to reducing the amount of water that gets wasted.

According to the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, most of the water used in agriculture goes towards the irrigation of crops. Preventing runoff from irrigation is crucial to reducing the amount of water that gets wasted. As in farming, this runoff often contains an excess of nutrients and particulates that, if introduced to rivers and streams, can contaminate fresh water supplies.

Strategies such as using screens or mesh are options to reducing matter in wastewater, whilst diverting its flow into retention ponds where it can be reused for irrigation is an effective way to curtail the total volume used.

The outlook is positive. Australia decreased its consumption of water by 7 per cent in 2014-2015, a trend supported across the majority of Australian sectors, reports the ABS.

To find out more, get in touch with the team at Locker Group today.

How are drones changing the construction process?

4 ways drones have improved the construction industry

 

Drones seem to be everywhere these days. From delivering packages, scaring birds away from airports – even to racing them – these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have proven their versatility and worth as an emerging technology.

UAVs have also revolutionised the construction industry in a number of predictable (and surprising) ways. At Locker Group, we’re excited to see how construction projects can benefit from the implementation of drones to provide innovate solutions.

1. Land surveying

In remote or wild areas, often the biggest hurdle in construction is simply surveying the land. Traditionally, the only method to accurately gauge an area was to do so on foot – an expensive and arduous task. Getting up in the air back then required physically putting a person up there, and the problems that come from manning light aircraft came with it. When drones arrived on the scene, everything changed and became a lot quicker and cheaper.

Drones allow surveyors to access and gain insight of property they would otherwise be unable to attain. Being able to accurately analyse an area, regardless of terrain, is a huge time and money saver in the overall process.

2. Safety of workers

UAVs provide an opportunity to monitor workers and their environment to ensure that everything is safe and up to regulation. It’s easier to routinely monitor a site via a UAV than it is to visit in person, and their ability to constantly record whatever they see provides a valuable record of a construction site in the event of an accident or mishap.

Drones provide a unique point of view in the construction industry.Drones provide a unique point of view in the construction industry.

3. Showing progress to clients

Traditionally, balancing a complicated and time-consuming construction project with the needs of the clients has been less than simple. Not only is a construction site unsuitable for tours, often clients are located a significant distance from where a project is taking place.

UAVs can be used to bridge this gap by providing an unobtrusive way to regularly feed clients and customers regular videos and images of a project without the need to don hard hats and steel-capped boots. What’s more, these “tours” can be done in real time with the option of live video streaming in order to improve the dialogue between clients and contractors.

For example, architecture projects using drones to show clients how their building fits in with the wider environment can help them decide which external facade best suits the surroundings.

4. Communicating between multiple sites

A building project has more than just one site, and a construction company usually has more than one project in the works. Successful contractors often aren’t able to stay on-site 24/7 and must rely on others to relay progress back to them.

When it comes down to it, drones aim to provide greater efficiency in the construction process.

With the use of UAVs providing a second, or even third pair of eyes, contractors, designers and architects no longer have to rely solely on others to ensure the job is progressing to plan. In mining construction, Rio Tinto’s aviation manager, Kevan Reeve, explained that drones have helped them bridge the gap between surveyors in remote locations.

“We have got our operations centre here in Perth that’s bringing that information in, and we are using the drones to increase our ability to get that information.” he said to ABC news.

When it comes down to it, drones aim to provide greater efficiency in the construction process – whether that be in the form of making sites more accessible for clients, or by improving communication between contractors and inspectors.Those efficiencies, in turn, translate to crucial savings on what are otherwise expensive projects. The construction industry in Australia alone is worth over $100 billion, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, so reducing costs where applicable is key.

To find out more, get in touch with the team at Locker Group today.

What makes a facade truly unique?

What to look for in a facade?

 

What’s in a good facade? A well done one can transform the outside of a building, giving a tired exterior a facelift or simply bringing an old building into the modern age.

Facades do more than look pretty. There are serious savings to be made in your energy expenditure bill, and by selecting ones that combat solar glare without impacting employees’ ability to see outside, productivity can be increased too.

At Locker Group, we offer a range of innovative facade designs that suit numerous applications. Below, we’ve outlined three different products, highlighting what makes them stand out solutions for any facade application.

Atmosphere

While natural lighting is good, there is such a thing as too much. Trying to work with the sun in your eyes or on your computer screen can put a halt to the productivity of even the most earnest employee. This is where Atmosphere’s perforated panels step in.

This new addition to the facade market has been specifically designed to combat solar glare yet allow workers a clear view of the space outside. Atmosphere achieves this thanks to folded steel panels that are versatile enough to meet any need. With different sized perforations on the top and bottom face, the panels simultaneously reduce the amount of solar radiation entering an office while maximising vision outside.

Reducing the amount of sunlight (and therefore heat) serves a double purpose. With less radiation entering the interior, less energy is required to cool the building. During period of peak sunlight, such as the height of summer, this can translate to serious energy savings. Simply installing Atmosphere to the exterior of a building reduces the amount of solar radiation hitting the glass by around 70 per cent. For a typical building, this can account for as much as a 40 per cent reduction in energy costs.

Pic Perf, a creative and versatile facade option.Pic Perf, a creative and versatile facade option.

Pic Perf

Your office is often the face of your company, so when it’s time for a makeover, Pic Perf is the way to go. Suddenly, a blank wall is transformed into a work of art overnight.

Pic Perf is a technique that adds a design to an existing facade such as Atmosphere. It carries the illusion of a single wall of art, creating an image from hundreds and thousands of punched holes, while still carrying out its regular functions as a facade. Despite looking like a solid wall from a distance, the perforated metal sheets retain air flow, vision and shade protection. As it combines the benefits of Atmosphere, using Pic Perf will see similar reductions in energy expenditure. It even works well as internal features.

Customisable to internal or external application with any image to suit, it’s an addition that’s designed to leave an impact.

Expanded metal

Rounding off the list is expanded metal. Designed for the prevention of the harsh glare of sunlight, this robust facade has a multitude of uses. Some of the applications suited for this product include:

  • Car park enclosures
  • Security screening
  • Plant screens
  • Balustrade panels
  • Privacy screens

In an external application, expanded metal gives an industrial look to the outside of a building when viewed up close, yet appear lightweight and open from afar.

The function and versatility of metal facades is an effective and economic option for the renovation of a building’s exterior. At Locker Group, we like to work closely with architects and designers to come up with creative solutions to construction requirements, whether the aim is to increase productivity by combating the sun, or to turn a building’s exterior into a giant logo.

To find out more, get in touch with the team at Locker Group today.

Are conveyor belts the best transport option?

Materials handling and efficiency: conveyor belts or dump trucks?

 

Most minerals travel a long distance from their point of extraction to their point of processing. Traditionally, trucks and other diesel engines have been the preferred mode of transport, but with rising petrol costs, maintenance and environmental impact, trucks have become an inefficient and costly option.

Alternatively, the use of conveyor belt systems is becoming a popular option for long-distance materials handling. Mines all over the world, including the Fabrica Mine in Minas Gerais State, Brazil have investigated the use of such systems for materials handling and found that conveyors hold a number of advantages over traditional modes of transportation.

Diesel is an inefficient and costly transport option.Diesel transportation is no longer the most efficient option.

Conveyor belts versus trucks: a question of energy efficiency

Mines have long sought to provide a balance between supplying essential non-renewable materials and lessening the environmental impact of getting them. Extraction of minerals is an energy-intensive process that currently relies heavily on fossil fuels. Advancements in technologies that aim to lessen the energy cost and resulting carbon footprint have the potential to dramatically lessen the impact mining has on the environment.

Conveyor belts have the potential to operate at 98 per cent energy efficiency and contribute much less to the energy cost of material handling.

According to a 2007 US Department of Energy study entitled “Mining Industry Energy Bandwidth”, diesel equipment is less efficient than electric equipment. Diesel transportation, such as service trucks, bulk trucks and rear-dump trucks, is highly energy intensive and accounts for 87 per cent of total energy consumed in materials handling. What’s more, according to the study, diesel transportation can only operate at a maximum 63 per cent efficiency rate.

On the other hand, electrical equipment such as conveyor belts have the potential to operate at 98 per cent energy efficiency and contribute much less to the energy cost of material handling. The added advantage is that electric systems do not generate exhaust fumes, which further lessens the environmental impact of materials handling.

Advantages of conveyors

The Fabrica Mine case study found that conveyor belt technology proved to be an effective and low-cost method of transportation. While they initially come with a high cost of investment and are less flexible than trucks, conveyor systems offer a number of distinct advantages:

  • Ability to transport over long distances.
  • Continuous production.
  • High capacity.
  • Lower environmental impact.
  • Low operation and maintenance costs.

Additionally, according to the book Evolutionary and Revolutionary Technologies for Mining (2002), in certain scenarios transport by conveyor belt systems allows for extra processing such as physical separation, prior to the material reaching the processing mills. This integration of processing and transport can further improve upon the efficiency of the system.

At Locker Group, our conveyor systems of woven wire, rolmat, spiral, plastic and plastic hybrid belts suit any conveyor application. To find out more, get in touch with our team today.

Metal has a multitude of uses in architecture and art.

The versatility of metal in architecture and design

 

Metal is a versatile medium that has an equal place in both architecture and art. In architectural design, applications range from facades to internal features and dividers to wall coverings and screens. Meanwhile, in the arts, the results of using metal can be truly stunning, creating works that can dominate a landscape.

The versatility of wire mesh and perforated metal is one of the many reasons artists use it as their preferred medium, transforming metal products into new and wholly unexpected forms such as brilliant and captivating sculptures.

 

Wire mesh and ghostly buildings

Reconstructing ancient buildings out of woven metal might seem far-fetched, but not to Italian artist Edoardo Tresoldi. Last year, Mr Tresoldi recreated an early Christian church directly on top of its archaeological site in Siponto, Italy, completely out of woven metal. This full-scale structure was created above the original site of the Santa Maria Maggiore di Siponto Church, whose basillica was destroyed in the 13th century, according to Dezeen magazine.

Mesh and light

Closer to home, designer Stone and Milnehouse took advantage of Locker Group’s transient wire meshes to bring an art installation to life on Conrad Road on the Ponds in Sydney. This major installation “Float” explores the presence and absence of water in the landscape. We worked closely with the designers to create this iconic artwork in the Pond’s community, providing a focal point to the area with the soft billowing umbrellas. The umbrellas glow at night, the colour changing with the seasons with the LED lighting responding to seasonality and rainfall.

Perforated metal taking on the form of organic coral

From bringing ancient churches back to life to creating organic-looking artworks, metal can do it all.

The imposing installation “Under Magnitude,” in the Orlando Convention Centre, looks more like enormous bleached coral than perforated aluminium. These branching, tubular structures have been made by hand-curved 1-millimetre thick strips, riveted together to create a piece that is strong enough to walk on. In all, Dezeen reports that over 4,600 strips were used to make this two-storey structure. It was designed by architect Marc Fornes and his studio The Very Many, which alongside “Under Magnitude” has created many similar surreal sculptures inspired by nature.

At Locker Group, we’re passionate about applying our architectural wire, woven and perforated metal products in fascinating and unusual ways. As far as we’re concerned, the only limit is your imagination. To find out more, get in touch with our team today.

Are open offices the best way to go?

How to improve open offices with private workspaces

 

Our work environment plays a big part in how much we enjoy our jobs. While an open office is desirable for many, and a good way to up employee satisfaction at work, it might be wise to hold off on immediately tearing down every single internal wall. As it turns out, it’s a blend of open and private spaces that really fosters innovation and productivity.

If you’ve already reduced your office space to a singular, vast room, don’t panic. There are a number of creative metal design options to create a range of internal walls to give your employees the full spectrum of open and closed workspaces.

Productivity benefits from a range of open and private spaces.Productivity benefits from a range of open and private spaces.

Open is good, but not for everything

According to Robert Walters’ workspace design survey, nearly half of respondents prefer an open workspace environment that has some form of acoustic and visual partitioning between work stations.

While people want to work in an open office, when it comes to productivity, the lines between open and private begin to blur. The British Council of Offices’ 2016 “What Workers Want” report revealed that similar numbers of employees (around 45 per cent) have no preference between open and private offices. In fact, the report suggests that when it comes to “significantly increasing productivity”, private offices come out ahead.

Gensler’s 2016 workplace survey seems to agree. For increased innovation and effectiveness at work, respondents rated private offices more highly than open ones. However, in terms of satisfaction, workers reported that the ability to choose between open and private workspaces was an integral part of their job satisfaction.

There are a number of way to introduce effective partitioning in open plan offices without the need to erect walls.

How to achieve a blended office space

The Robert Walters survey found that there is a strong preference for employees to have some form of visual and acoustic partitioning in their offices. This is the case regardless of size. In fact, employees in larger offices are more likely to seek out partitioned workspaces for privacy and retreat from the buzz of the normal office environment.

There are a number of ways to introduce effective partitioning in open plan offices without the need to erect walls. For example, metal partitioning in the form of woven wire mesh or perforated steel are practical alternatives to creating divisions in interior spaces. Wire mesh curtains are a great way to add depth to a room and define smaller, more private spaces without losing airflow or light.

To find out more, get in touch with the team at Locker Group today.

Dust is everywhere in the mining industry.

The importance of preventing dust formation in Australian mines

 

Dust is a persistent issue with Australian mine sites, whether above ground or below. Considering that May 2015 brought the first case of black lung in over 30 years and many more have followed, according to Australian Mining, it’s wise for work health and safety experts to pay close attention to the issue of reducing and preventing dust.

There are many available options for dealing with dust, minimising both the amount and the impact it has on workers in the industry, including the use of Locker Group’s mining products.

It's not just underground where dust is a problem.It’s not just underground where dust is a problem.

Dust is a persistent issue and hazard.

Navigating the regulations of dust control, providing the correct safety equipment and preventing dust formation are some of the challenges the mining industry faces. According to the Australian Department of the Environment Dust Study report, dust is an inevitable problem for almost all forms of mining. While it’s hard to correlate volume of dust with its impact on people’s health, many dusts do contain metals that have a known detrimental effect on people’s well-being and are potentially hazardous. Case in point: the 16 confirmed cases of black lung reported by Australian Mining in recent months.

Dust generated from haul roads within the mines is the biggest source of fine dust particles on most mine sites, contributing about 40 per cent of total emissions.

Dust can come from a number of sources. Blasting, handling, processing or transportation of soil and rock are just some examples of activities that generate dust. In the case of the black lung incidents, one of the surprising things about the case is that one of the more recent incidents arose in an open cut mine, which runs counter to the perception that underground mines are more dangerous for respiratory diseases.

It’s not just industrial production that generates dust. Speaking to Australian Mining, EPA acting chief executive Mark Gifford explains that roads are the most common source of dust.

“Dust generated from haul roads within the mines is the biggest source of fine dust particles on most mine sites, contributing about 40 per cent of total emissions,” he said.

Reducing workers’ exposure to dust and particulates

While the most effective way to reduce dust and keep it from going airborne is through the use of sprays, creating barriers and fences to prevent employees accessing areas that are known to generate a lot of airborne particulates is another way to control worker exposure to dust, according to the Department of the Environment.

This includes maintaining the walkways employees use to access sites. In order to reduce the amount of dust produced from foot traffic, it may be a good idea to install custom walkways that give workers an alternative to kicking up particulate matter.

To find out more about our mining products, get in touch with Locker Group today.