Canada's ZEN Graphene Solutions (TSXV: ZEN) issued a press release this week saying that management is optimistic about the company's project to transform mine tailings into cement replacement material.
The experiment is being carried out at the University of British Columbia's Okanagan campus and it makes use of the tailings from the Albany graphite project, located in northeastern Ontario.
"Early results show promise and if successful would reduce tailings disposal costs and create a potential byproduct revenue stream," ZEN's media statement reads.
"Partially replacing cement with tailings materials could have a significant financial and environmental impact on the concrete industry" – Ahmad Rteil
The initial test carried out by researcher Ahmad Rteil involved replacing 10% and 20% of a cement mixture with ZEN's tailings material and after 28 days, the results showed the 10% replacement had a compressive strength rating of 46.1 MPa, less than a 2% difference from the control at 47 MPa. The 20% replacement had a compressive strength rating of 37.9 MPa, about 20% difference with the control sample.
Both the academic and the miner say these results are significant as most of the concrete used by the construction industry has a compressive strength requirement ranging between 20 MPa and 40 MPa.
But ZEN is not only planning to make use of the residual elements. Its experts are now evaluating the possibility of conducting research to see what happens when graphite is added to the tailings.
The hypothesis is that it is possible to create an enhanced cement material and concrete that could be stronger, and have faster curing time and increased durability. The new compound's production process is also expected to be environmentally friendlier than existing processes.
"Cement production from limestone is a significant source of CO2 emissions accounting for approximatively 8% of global emissions. Every ton of cement that we can replace with our tailings material would potentially save up to approximately one ton of CO2 emissions," Francis Dubé, Co-CEO of ZEN, said in the media brief.
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