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Project Context and Objectives:
SUSTAMINING project marks the start of a series of development activities aiming to realise the concept of an invisible, zero-impact mine. The natural stone extractive sector, still seen as being old-fashioned and highly environment polluting, will join forces to revise this image showing that natural stone extraction can be approached with a cutting edge methodology with low impact underground and zero impact above ground.

Faced with this problem this project aims to develop technological support for the sector covering both research centers with expertise in natural stone, business associations and SMEs.
The partial objectives that arise are:

1) Development of a new methodology for selective exploitation according to demand, taking into account the quality requirements of the product on site.
2) Application of this methodology in the design and exploitation of new quarries, transforming the raw material and quality control by using non-destructive geophysical methods.
3) Definition of the methodology in order to reduce waste production and minimize sterilization of reserves.
4) Development of geostatistics methods for estimation of natural stone reserves.

Project Results:
The main work performed and the main results achieved for the second period of SUSTAMINING Project are described as follows:

To apply the electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) measurements in the three natural stone quarries selected in Sustamining Project, as well as the processing of the ERT data for perform 3D images and the implementation of a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of each studied emplacement.

To monitor Reflection seismic, Refraction seismic and MASW measurements in the three natural stone quarries selected in the Project.

To develop geological models of the study areas including the localization of karst areas and weak zones.

The geostatistical evaluation of field and laboratory data collected on the three test quarries of the SUSTAMINING Project.

The reserve estimations based on geostatistical calculations in the three test quarries of the SUSTAMINING Project.

The definition of Quality Indices for the different types of quarries of natural Stone.

Obtaining a Methodological Guide for Optimum Exploitation of Ornamental Stone.

The estimation of reserves of high quality natural stone in the three study quarries.

Potential Impact:
SUSTAMINING will provide to the SME members of the SME_AGs consortium clear and tangible results in the form of economical, social and technological benefits. Achieving of the project’s milestones will produce an improvement of the competitiveness of the natural stone sector SMEs within national, European and international markets. Implementation of the ornamental stone selective exploitation methodology will have a direct impact in reducing production costs, improving the quality of the products and optimizing waste management and reuse.

Furthermore, the expected impacts will also reach the society EU-wide in the form of a better perception of the natural stone sector as the project will provide an attenuation of the environmental issues related to this sector, mainly because of the improvement related to the reduction of impacts at the natural environment, as well as improving the safety conditions in quarries from the detection of weaker and unstable areas in quarries. The environmental benefits of the project come from a reduced exploitation surface directly related to a selective exploitation of the quarry, as well as a lesser amount of residues to be generated. Added to this, the wastes could be reused in other productive sectors such as ceramics, concrete and/or chemistry. Finally, another expected environmental benefit is the reduced carbon footprint.

As for the impact at the regulation and standardization level, it is expected that the new quality indexes to be attained in the ornamental stone will be introduced into newer European regulations, more explicitly within the relevant REGULATION (EU) No 305/2011 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL for the marketing of construction products as well as in related sectors (extractive industries, edification).

Also, new achievements are expected when coming to health and safety at the working environment as described below.

Employment, working conditions: Nowadays, about 60,000 companies, mostly SMEs, are active in the European Stone Sector employing more than 500,000 people. In the last four years, there has been a decrease of more than 10% in the number of Stone industry employees and the prediction for the near future is somehow uncertain, mainly due to the decreasing share of EU in the global market. The aim of the project is to substantially increase the economic and technical competitiveness of European Stone Sector and it is reasonable to expect that the achievement of this target will allow maintaining and most probably increasing jobs.

Environment: The process of extraction of natural stone has a high impact on the environment and is subject to increasingly strict legislation and demanding The extraction of natural stone has various environmental problems, requiring a lot of energy and generates a lot of waste due to breakage or loss in sections of the piece and therefore not optimized use of natural resources.

Social impact is associated to a better perspective of the natural stone sector from the society. This is attained both from the environmental benefits and the improvement of the market conditions.

Health and safety issues are one of the main goals of the project. Selective and sustainable procedures will reduce accidents and will improve safety at the labour level.

SUSTAMINING project is expected to significantly contribute to the reduction of the Stone Sector environmental impacts, mainly through the reduction of the quantity of stone wastes to be disposed, the rational management of stone resources and the reduction of the “total energy consumption in exploitation of ornamental stones”. The new technologies to be developed are expected to reduce the wastes generated at the various phases of the production chain minimum by 20%.

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