The estimated value of nonfuel mining of raw materials in the United States alone totaled $75.2 billion in 2017, according to an annual report by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Everything from aluminum to zinc falls into this massive category, but that dollar figure is dwarfed by the USGS’s estimate in that same report of the value added to the gross domestic product (GDP) by major industries that consume processed minerals: $3 trillion. To put that in perspective, the total GDP of the U.S. in 2017 was $19.4 trillion. Mining and ore processing contributed to 15.5% of the monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced in the U.S. last year.
A sampling of major industries dependent on mined and processed ore includes battery makers (cadmium, nickel), concrete manufacturers (cement), beverage bottlers (bauxite), wallboard producers (gypsum), MRI machine developers (helium) and smartphone manufacturers (a 2016 estimate of 62 metals). If you don’t believe me, google it on your iPhone.
In this issue of Geosynthetics, we take a closer look at geosynthetics and mining. Michael S. Donovan, Robert Valorio and Barbara Gebka investigate innovative “Polymer-Modified Geosynthetic Clay Liners for Bauxite Storage.” Sean O’Keefe focuses on “Geofoam for Mining and Energy: Case Studies.” “Geosynthetic Mattress Ballast Layer at an Ore-Processing Site” by Charl Cilliers and Melchior Briers examines a newly created application of a GBL at an ore-processing waste facility.
We reach out beyond mining with Richard Thiel’s reasoning for updating ASTM D7005, “Geocomposite Lamination Strength Standard Test Method: Time for an Update.” Meet one of the few engineers in the U.S. Congress who is conversant about geosynthetics and has ideas about how geosynthetics manufacturers can get the attention of other members of Congress in my article, “‘Congress’s Engineer’ Rep. Bruce Westerman Talks Geosynthetics.”
With the value of mined raw materials up 6% from 2016 to 2017, and the use of geosynthetics in mining and ore-processing applications expanding due to the materials’ qualities, their cost and their portability, it is reasonable to be bullish on the market for geosynthetics in the mining world for years to come.