Quarries play a large role in the Australian building construction industry and contribute over $160 billion in revenue to the economy. As is the case with most industries, advances in technology have changed the way the mining industry operates in Australia. The ever-changing nature of both mining and construction, in terms of costs, margins and production efficiency, means that innovation plays a more important role than ever in keeping operations afloat. New testing methods and technologies for quarries in particular are helping to keep the industry performing in Australia.
Quarries mine for materials commonly used in the building and construction industries, such as concrete and aggregate materials. Due to the nature of these industries, the material produced must be strong, reliable, resistant to erosion and be suitable for creating structurally sound constructions.
Quarried materials must meet strict quality guidelines in Australia and around the world, which ensure that they are fit for purpose, and testing plays a key role in determining the suitability of these materials for use within the Australian building and construction sector.
Rock tests for determining the suitability of materials in projects such as pavement and road construction include:
- Crushing tests
- Abrasion tests
- Impact tests
- Soundness tests
- Shape tests
- Specific gravity and water absorption tests
- Bitumen adhesion tests
The types of testing required for building and construction materials have not changed significantly in recent years, however the processes and instruments utilised in these tests continue to develop as new technologies are introduced. Just as automation and the internet of things (IoT) is sweeping the globe across most industries, mining and construction in Australia are reaping the benefits of this technological wave.
As somewhat of a buzzword in the 21st century, automation represents an exciting opportunity for many industries to lower costs and increase efficiency, while also improving safety for workers and the environment. Previously, concrete and aggregate testing relied heavily on highly skilled testers to perform labour-intensive and extremely time-consuming tasks. The tests performed were hard to replicate between labs, and as a result were often somewhat unreliable. Thanks to the advent of automated technologies, these testing processes are now faster, more accurate and have the additional benefit of being easy to train for.
Water absorption, flakiness, particle grade, degradation factors and more, need to be tested for, in order to comply with Australian standards for construction materials. These tests have become significantly faster and more accurate with the introduction of automation to the industry.
Devices such as automated paste and mortar mixers, time-of-setting machines, fineness measurement, and vibration tables are able to test the strength, and other key characteristics of the material, with minimal human intervention and subsequent room for error.
Advances in automated technology have set new standards for the industry, which include:
- Automated compacting machines
- Automated determination of cement pastes
- Automated laboratory mixers
- Automated hydration and heat monitoring and testing machines
- Automated data management and alerts for testing
- Automated grading machines
As the technology develops further, we will see more automation enter the testing arena, allowing miners, as well as the building and construction industries, to reduce the significant cost that testing materials represents. A reduction in these costs will impact the overall cost of materials to the building and construction industries within Australia, which is good news for both the economy and developers alike.