November 1, 2008
by Kerry Clines, Senior Editor
Will the demand for building materials increase or decrease?
With all the doom and gloom in the news today, it’s hard to keep a positive attitude about the economy. There are differing opinions on what will happen to the aggregates markets next year, but nearly all predict a continued slowdown in the demand for building materials. That doesn’t, however, mean there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.
The National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association’s eDigest & Washington Watch newsletter published on Oct. 1 reported that the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released figures showing that an estimated 662 million metric tons of total aggregates were produced and sold in the United States in the second quarter of 2008, a decrease of 15 percent compared with that of the same period of 2007. The estimated production for the first six months was 1.09 billion metric tons, a 16-percent decrease compared with the same period of 2007.
The USGS estimated that 635 million metric tons of crushed stone were produced and sold during the second quarter of 2008, a decrease in production of 14 percent compared to the same period of 2007. The agency estimated that U.S. output of construction sand and gravel in the second quarter was 275 million metric tons, a decrease of 18 percent compared to the same period of 2007.
In the Oct. 2 newsletter published by the Association of General Contractors of America (AGC), News & Views, Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist, said the upheaval on Wall Street is delaying or stopping projects all over the country, even some that are already underway. “Developers who had lined up construction loans from Lehman Brothers have found the check wasn’t in the mail this month,” he said, “forcing contractors to front the money – if they can find it – or walk off the job. For projects that contractors expected to start this fall, the developers are finding the lending window has been shut for now, or the revenue assumptions for the finished development no longer look valid.”
Simonson added that many states are forecasting less income and sales tax revenues and more social welfare spending. As a result of that, and the necessity of a balanced state budget by the end of the fiscal year, construction projects would be delayed, scaled back, or cancelled. Simonson said he doesn’t expect state and local revenues to bounce back right away, but that a “stimulus” package to appropriate funds for public works could resuscitate construction.
A new research report published by Global Industry Analysts, Inc. says that not all the news is bad, however, especially on the global front. The report, Building Materials: A Global Outlook, states that increasing industrialization and rising living standards in developing countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America will be key factors for growth in building materials, as will rising income levels and government initiatives to encourage construction of energy-efficient buildings.
It also notes that despite slow economic recovery and sluggish residential construction activity in the United States and North America, demand for cement and concrete additives will continue to increase based on wide application, but at a slower pace. The market for aggregates will be propelled by rising urbanization, growing population, commercial/industrial construction, and renovation activities.
For more details on the research report, go to www.strategyr.com/Building_Materials_Industry_Market_Report.asp.
MSHA reviewing communications/tracking systems
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is continuing to review emergency communications and tracking systems with promising technologies for application in underground mines. According to a report on the administration’s Web site, resources have gradually shifted from exploring the availability of new technologies to focusing on evaluation and testing activities for MSHA approval.
The report said MSHA’s Technical Support Directorate is reviewing products and proposals from manufacturers and distributors of emergency communication and tracking systems and is assisting interested manufacturers in obtaining approval. It is also working with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Communication and Tracking Partnership to assist interested parties in arranging field tests of the systems.
One such field test, performed by Axcess International, Inc. in cooperation with Foundation Telecommunications Inc. and Architron Systems Inc., provided a live demonstration of Axcess Micro-Wireless IDs. The sensor was attached to mine personnel who were then tracked as they moved throughout the mine’s tunnel. The system provided real-time location information for miner tags following a simulated mine cave-in.
According to the report, as of Oct. 1, 2008, MSHA was processing 36 approval applications for communications and tracking technology. Since the beginning of 2006, it has issued 61 new or revised approvals for communications and tracking products. The administration said significant approvals issued in September include an L3 Technologies and Innovative Wireless Technologies Wireless Mesh Communications System, a Subterracom Wireless Text Messaging and Tracking Device, and an Active Controls Technology Tracking Tag.
The report also said that MSHA has observed 50 tests or demonstrations of 29 different communications and/or tracking systems at various mine sites; has met with representatives from 64 communications and tracking system companies; and has had discussions with various vendors regarding 176 different proposals for the development of communications/tracking systems. The administration is currently working with NIOSH to develop industry guidance for MINER Act-compliant communications and tracking systems, which will be published by the end of 2008.
A complete list of MSHA-approved communications and tracking products, as well as a description of MSHA-approved communications and tracking technologies, can be found at www.msha.gov/techsupp/commoandtracking.asp.
Mine rescue team equipment rule
On Nov. 14, the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) final rule amending its existing standard for mine rescue team equipment at mine rescue stations serving underground mines becomes effective, according to a report in the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Administration’s eDigest & Washington Watch newsletter.
The final rule requires that mine rescue stations:
* Be equipped with 12 self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), each having a four-hour capacity;
* Maintain supplies for the SCBAs with sufficient amounts to sustain each team member for eight hours;
* Have two extra, fully charged oxygen bottles for every six SCBAs; and
* Be equipped with four gas detectors appropriate for each gas that may be encountered in the mine (type of detector is up to the discretion of the mine operator).
MSHA estimated the cost of the rule to be $250,000 for metal/non-metal (M/NM) operators.
EPA issues revised stormwater permit
According to a report in the National Stone, Sand & Gravel’s eDigest & Washington Watch newsletter, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the final National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System general permit for stormwater discharges from industrial activities – the Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP). It became effective on Sept. 29 when it was published in the Federal Register and will expire in 2013.
The permit applies to aggregates, ready-mixed concrete, and asphalt operations in Alaska, Idaho, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories where the EPA remains the permitting authority. This MSGP replaces the existing general permit issued in 2000 that expired Oct. 30, 2005, and was administratively continued for covered facilities.
For Sector J, Non-Metallic Mineral Mining and Dressing, which addresses aggregate operations, a covered facility must meet pH limits of 6.0 to 9.0, a Total Suspended Solids limit of 100 mg/L, and, for sand and gravel mining, a Nitrate plus Nitrite Nitrogen limit of 0.68 mg/L. A covered facility must also monitor stormwater discharges from construction, exploration, and reclamation activities; inactive and active aggregate sites; mine dewatering composed entirely of stormwater; and uncontaminated groundwater seepage.
The steps facility operators must take to be eligible for the general permit, which include submitting a notice of intent, installing stormwater control measures to minimize pollutants in stormwater runoff, and developing a stormwater prevention plan, are outlined in the Federal Register. Changes from the previous permit include electronic filing of notices of intent and monitoring reports; Web-based tools for locating water bodies and determining impairment status; and updated monitoring, inspection, and corrective action schedules.
According to the report, companies that want to be covered by the new permit must certify that they meet the requisite eligibility requirements, must install and implement control measures to meet effluent limits, and must develop a stormwater pollution prevention plan describing control measures used to achieve the effluent limits.
Electronic versions of the final permit, fact sheet, and notice of intent forms are available at http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater/msgp.cfm.
Gus Edwards becomes NSSGA executive vice president
On Sept. 8, R.A. “Gus” Edwards, III, succeeded Dave Thomey as executive vice president of the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA). Edwards, a 12-year veteran of the association, had been serving as vice president for Communications and Community Relations.
NSSGA President and CEO Joy Wilson said, Edwards “brings a talented portfolio of experience to this position, including running a U.S. Senate office and a U.S. House of Representatives office, serving as a senior executive in two presidential administrations, and participation on a number of boards of directors. He will help coordinate and drive the NSSGA team focus on implementing our budget and project goals, assuring our fiduciary, human resources, technical communications, and member services responsibilities are carried out as planned.”
“These are challenging times,” said Edwards, “and in this new role, I consider it a privilege to be working with our members and staff on keeping the aggregates industry strong and healthy well into the future.”
Vulcan celebrates 50 years
As part of Vulcan Materials Co.’s celebration of its 50th anniversary, the company produced a book about its history. The full-color, 144-page book, A History Written in Stone, chronicles the history of Vulcan from its earliest days to the present.
Company employees will receive a complimentary copy of the book, but members of the general public can receive a copy of the book by making a tax-deductible contribution of $25 or more to Vulcan’s Adopt-a-School Fund. All contributions will go towards improving the educational experience for children in one or more of the many adopted schools the company is currently partnered with in the U.S.
Modern dance performed among the rocks
Thousands of people gathered in central Minnesota for a unique modern dance performance set among the rocks in St. Cloud Quarry, a granite quarry operated by Martin Marietta Materials Co.
The Merce Cunningham Dance Company performed “Ocean” on a specially built stage 150 feet below ground level, at the bottom of the quarry. The piece is rarely performed because of its need for a large venue in which the audience is surrounded with 150 musicians. The quarry provided a perfect setting for the dance, providing a beautiful backdrop and great acoustics.
“Placing art in natural, spectacular settings opens people up to new experiences,” said Philip Bither, performing arts curator at the Walker Art Center, one of the sponsoring organizations, in an interview with the Star Tribune. “It’s part of what contemporary art has tried to do through the last century – getting people to look at their everyday lives as magical and intriguing art. That setting takes your breath away.”
For three nights, spectators were ferried on buses down a specially constructed road to the bottom of the quarry. All three performances were sold out weeks in advance and got rave reviews from critics who came from as far away as New York and Los Angeles.
“We’re supposed to be breaking rock this time of year,” Mark Johnson, Martin Marietta’s regional vice president told the newspaper. “So this is a new step for us, but the industry is trying to be more open about showing people what we do.”
Kerry, did you see if we could get a photo of this? We may want to hold this until next month to get one – Therese
The oldest rocks on Earth
On the eastern shore of Canada’s Hudson Bay, in the Nuvvuagittuq greenstone belt, lies a pinkish-brown tract of bedrock that scientists say contains the oldest known rocks on Earth. According to an article in Reuters, scientists believe the rocks were formed 4.28-billion years ago, not long after the planet was formed.
Johnathan O’Neil of McGill University in Montreal believes the rocks may be remnants of Earth’s primordial crust, which formed on the planet’s surface as it cooled following the birth of the solar system. “Maybe it was the original crust, and before that there was no stable crust on the Earth,” O’Neil said in a telephone interview with Science magazine. “That’s a big question.”
Scientists, who describe the discovery in the journal, said studying the rocks can give clues about what the planet was like early in its history and what the temperatures are.
Vulcan Materials Company received the City of Huntsville’s Air Pollution Control Achievement Award for making significant plant and mobile equipment improvements to reduce particulate and diesel exhaust emissions. “We’re delighted to receive this award,” said Joey West, Vulcan’s Huntsville plant manager, in a press release, “because it recognizes our strong commitment to environmental stewardship. I want to thank and congratulate my fellow employees at the Huntsville Quarry because it’s through their efforts that we are able to operate our business in a socially responsible manner.”
Holcim Group has been named “Leader of the Industry” in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the fourth year in a row. The recognition rewards the company’s commitment to sustainable development. Its recycling strategy, its dialogue with stakeholders, as well as its efforts in human resources development received top scores.
Aggregate Industries’ Sloan Quarry was awarded the “Sentinels of Safety Award” in the Large Bank or Pit group by the National Mining Association and the Mine Safety & Health Administration. The award, which recognizes mining operations that record the most hours worked in a calendar year without a single lost-time injury, was presented during MINExpo. “We have worked hard to get participation from both our management team and our hourly employees,” said Sloan Quarry Operations Manager Mark Snyder in a company news release. “I am extremely proud to accept the Sentinels of Safety Award on behalf of all my co-workers for the second year in a row.”