Covia is committed to decreasing mineral and operational waste throughout our production processes. Our primary mineral waste steams include off-spec minerals, mill rejects, mine waste, and overburden. Our primary operational waste streams include metal, wood, cardboard, machine fluids, and paper. Effective and safe waste handling helps us reduce landfill expenses, comply with permits, and keep nearby communities safe—showing once again how Covia drives business value as we Do Good. Do Well. Act Responsibly.
Covia annually reviews our mineral waste disposal plans that track and account for every ton of mineral waste generated across our mines. We leverage spatial software and contour maps to generate disposal plans for periods up to 10 years in advance. These plans are updated for all mine sites every one to two years to account for changes in overall plant yield, sales volume, and other unforeseen changes. Because waste-minerals, off-spec minerals, overburden, and tailings (mine waste) are typically used for backfilling mined-out areas, its placement is carefully integrated into the overall reclamation plan for the property.
For all sites with tailings ponds or impoundments (an earthen structure designed to contain fluid material), we maintain a rigorous and thorough inspection program that includes multiple detailed inspections each year by specially trained staff, and is overseen by our Mine Planning Geology (MPG) Department. Mining engineers are responsible for inspecting process water and tailings impoundments on an annual basis.
We are developing waste management plans to cover all other operational waste. These plans will establish proper handling, labeling, and disposal procedures for the relevant waste profiles at each location. Our first goal is to reduce, recycle, compost, and reuse our industrial by-products. Once the waste management plans are implemented, routine waste storage area inspections and training will be conducted by Operations.
Covia ships the majority of our products via trains, trucks, or barges that require no packaging. To minimize our packaging waste, we order bulk supplies, and reuse and recycle packaging materials. We transport the remaining product using bulk packaging, some of which is recycled or reused. For example, we have a robust reusable closed loop packaging process for phenolic resin–flexible intermediate bulk containers (bulk bags). After inspection, these bags can be reused up to eight times.
We send scrap sand products for beneficial use where possible, including to landfills to be used for daily cover. Wood waste is sent to local businesses for recycling into mulch. In addition, we partner with waste-to-energy companies to manage non-compostable and non-recyclable waste. These services convert waste destined for landfill into fuel for steam-generated electricity.
In 2018, Covia focused on a unified approach to waste handling, storage, and disposal. This included developing and piloting waste management plans at three locations. We also unified our impoundment inspection policy and trained additional employees on how to properly inspect for erosion and other risks. We increased the use of drones to create topographic maps and volumetric estimates of tailings ponds, which improves the accuracy of monitoring and planning for mineral waste disposal. The use of drones creates great imagery and viewing of the area and its characteristics, including how the water drains on the site.
In addition, a number of our facilities have achieved zero operational waste, made possible through the efforts of our Recover, Recycle, Reuse (3R) SD Team, facility managers, and SD Coordinators. As of December 2018, 26 of our facilities achieved zero waste to landfill.
The Recover, Recycle, Reuse SD Team challenged Covia employees to create a usable or decorative item made only from recycled or upcycled materials found at their facility. Thirty-one facilities contributed submissions. The objective was to increase awareness about the importance of recycling and reusing materials to minimize our environmental footprint and preserve natural resources.
Voting took place to determine Most Resourceful, Most Creative, and Favorite. The items were available to bid on, with all proceeds from the online auction going to charities. Employees at the facility that created each item decided which charitable organization their dollars went toward.
In 2019, Covia will rollout mineral waste disposal policies and waste management plans across all our locations, which include training a local point of contact responsible for ongoing inspections and waste reporting. We plan to report on specific waste key performance indicators (KPIs) in our next Corporate Responsibility report.