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Hard Hat
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PORTAL: Hard Hat - 2015 Volume 4 No. 3 3RD QUARTER ISSUE
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WHY DO WE MINE?
by LOI CASTILLO
photos by RONALD VILLANUEVA




“A land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills”-Deuteronomy 8:9 We always equate progress with infrastructure development. Every time a new building is constructed, we are always excited to see it complete. We look in awe on the design of these edifices and appreciate the genius mind behind it. Truly, it can be said that it is a remarkable feat.

Even in our own small way, we save our hard earned money to construct a dwelling place and see it completed to call it our own. During the construction stage, the materials delivered to the site are the bags of cement, sand and gravel, reinforcement bars and galvanized sheets.

In the rural areas, farmers gets excited when they see equipment coming in their village to construct the road network that will eventually open the opportunities to market their produce. And when all of these constructions are completed, we have these dwellings blessed either before or just after settling in to sanctify the living quarters and at the same time, pray that it will be safe for those who will be living in it.

But did someone ever thought where these materials used for construction was sourced out?

OF THE MOUNTAINS, A HOUSE WAS BUILT
Very few people realize that the raw materials used in the construction are being mined and processed for such requirement. The raw materials that were extracted from the mountains and the rivers by the mining engineers are provided to the construction industry to complete new infrastructure projects.

These mining quarries are busy 24 hours in their operations so that it can supply the appetite of a growing population that needs road networks, housing, places of worship and office spaces.

LIMESTONE, THE BUILDING MATERIAL
The raw material used is limestone, which is a sedimentary rock composed of calcite and aragonite minerals. This type of rock has been used from the earliest civilization to its extensive use in modern times. It is a valuable resource that services the needs of a multitude of industries.

Lower-grade limestones, particularly ones with clay content, can be used in the production of cement for use in the building and construction industry.

For road construction, limestone aggregate can be directly quarried as base material. For agriculture, limestone deposits with a higher calcium carbonate content can be mined for the use of the farming sector and is marketed as agricultural lime.

The limestone quarry operations, from the time it is mined until it is rehabilitated, is under the scope of a mining engineer who makes it a point that the design and grade of the limestone requirement of the cement plant are followed.

SAND AND GRAVEL
The use of sand and gravel as commodity are for the use of the construction industry. This is mixed with other materials such as cement and aggregate materials to reinforce the strength as composite material.

Sands are mostly found in beaches and in rivers and streams, and are mostly quartz grains. The gravel, on the other hand, is composed of unconsolidated rock fragments that have a general particle size that is described as granule to boulder-sized fragments. It is an important commercial product with a number of applications for roadways.

In areas where gravelly soil is predominant, plant life is generally more sparse because of the ability of the gravels to retain moisture, as well as the rarity of mineral nutrients.

AGGREGATE
Aggregates are the most mined materials in the world which are part of the component in the construction to reinforce and add strength to the overall composite material. It is used as a stable foundation with predictable uniform properties that an edifice will require and as a low-cost extender that binds with more expensive cement or asphalt to form concrete.

The advent of modern blasting methods enabled the development of quarries to supply the requirements of the construction. These materials are then processed through crushing and milling to attain the required sizes and compressive strength. So the next time you look at the beautiful churches and buildings, think of the mining engineers who extracted it for its construction.


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TRAVAILS OF WORKING IN THE MINING INDUSTRY
by FORTS MILANES
GEOLOGIST, ONTARIO, CANADA


Mineral exploration is so dependent on mineral prices; when market prices are high so are exploration activities and when market prices are low exploration activities spiral down. Every few years the mining industry experiences this in cyclical manner. Because of the cyclical nature of the industry, geologists’ jobs are among the first to be affected.

In my twelve years of working in the mining industry in Canada I have experienced two downturns in mineral exploration. The first was in late 2008 and the second in late 2013.

The exploration downturn in late 2008 was precipitated by the housing bubble in the United States two years earlier that resulted in U.S. economic recession. I still remember I was at the airport in Thunder Bay on my way to an exploration camp in northern Ontario on the 30th of September, 2008 when I overheard a guy talking on the phone saying that the recession south of the border has reached Canada and had started to affect stocks trading. Hundreds of Canadian junior exploration companies are listed in the TSX (Toronto Stock Exchange) Venture Exchange. These Canadian junior exploration companies are at the forefront of mineral exploration not only in Canada but also in the global stage. I proceeded to the exploration camp and supervised the drilling but it was a month later that the exploration I was handling was abruptly stopped. It was then that I realized that I would not be working anytime soon. The Canadian recession lasted for a year and by late 2009, I was back in exploration works.

The second downturn started in 2013. Actually there were already signs of it in late 2012 when the consultancy company I was working with suddenly let go of me in early November 2012. Poor global metal prices were the primary cause for this downturn which persists up to this day. With the falling crude oil price which started in 2014, the Canadian oil sand industry is likewise now in the form of a downturn.

Prior to immigrating to Canada, I have spent 25 years working both in the government and private sector but I never experience serious downturn in the Philippine mining industry. Maybe because during those times, there were still few Filipino geologists that even in times of downturn the gap between the supply and demand is very narrow. Also, the bureau (MGB) is a good employer for displaced geologists particularly in the regions. In Mindanao alone, there are five MGB regional offices.

The end of exploration downturn in Canada is not yet in sight. Experts predict that the industry might recover in 2016 or 2017 but at the present a lot of Canada based geologists, me included, are out of job or working in low salaried jobs unrelated to geology to tide over this crisis.

One thing I noticed that during those times of economic recession, the health care industry is the least affected.

So for aspiring geologists who plan to migrate to other countries, it may not be a bad idea to pursue a side career in the health care industry as a fallback in times of recession.

Forts Milanes is a licensed Professional Geologist and a member of the Association of Professional Geoscientists of Ontario (APGO)










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