Event of the month

April 2017: Earth Day

On Sunday, April 22 people around the globe will celebrate the world we live on and learn more about how we can work to protect our environment. For the mining industry, this means both extracting raw materials in sustainable ways and producing raw materials that are essential for environmentally friendly technologies. In the EU, all mining endeavors are required to include restoration plans in the budget before they can begin.

But this Earth Day, we’re exploring the role of raw materials in one of the amazing technological advances contributing to green energy: the wind turbine. Wind energy is one of the cleanest and safest energy sources, and these machines are an incredible example of an innovative use of minerals.

In addition to several tons of copper and aluminum, these sleek structures contain up to several hundred tons of steel, which includes a number of highly engineered metals. The tower is made more weather-resistant and durable with molybdenum and zinc, electric steel in the generator optimizes conversions of motion into energy and high-tech steel bearings that connect all the parts ensure low maintenance and high performance. The steel lasts for about 30 to 40 years in a turbine, but it’s completely recyclable at the end of this application, reducing its environmental impact.

The use of wind turbines has increased by 25 percent over the past decade, and the rate of growth of wind energy is increasing. The mining industry plays a crucial role in helping this progress continue.

March 2017: FIS Snowboard World Championships

From the 7th to the 19th of March, competitors from around the world will come to Sierra Nevada in Spain to show off their skills in the disciplines of Slopestyle, Halfpipe, Big Air and more. The earliest version of a snowboard dates back to 1929, and was little more than a plank of plywood. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s the sport became increasingly popular, and equipment became increasingly advanced.

Today’s snowboards still start out with a wooden core, but they also contain fiberglass and steel. After the wood is cut and laminated, steel edges are attached to give riders more control. Then lightweight fiberglass made from raw materials such as silica sand, limestone and soda ash is added to the top and bottom. Then resin binds it all together. Stainless steel inserts are placed on top of the board, which the riders step into with their boots. And the riders we’ll see at this year’s world championships are sure to impress.

February 2017: 170th birthday of Thomas Alva Edison

This February we celebrate the 170th birthday of the great American inventor, Thomas Edison. Edison holds 1,093 US patents, plus more in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. His technological developments include the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and an electric light bulb that was practical enough for common use.

Edison’s inventions led to entirely new industries of sound and image recording. Out of all the devices we have today that can be traced back to Edison, record players are perhaps the closest to his original invention of the phonograph. To make records, metals such as silver, nickel, and aluminium are used to create masters of recordings. Those metal masters are then used to press vinyl with the ridges that produce sound.

January 2017: Automobile fuelled by gas patented 130 years ago

Karl Benz had always been a creative and skilled inventor, but in January of 1886 he successfully patented the first automobile fueled by gas. Benz continued to modify and improve his invention and changed transportation forever. His idea is still being modified today, and we see new models of cars and other vehicles each year.

The design of the car has evolved a lot over the decades and a range of different materials are used for their production. For example, high-strength steel and carbon fibre is used to improve crash protection of the vehicle and to lower the weight. Body panels, engine blocks, roofs, wheels and fuel tanks however are often made with aluminium.

December 2016: Christmas

Well over 20 raw materials are used to create a decorated Christmas tree. They are present in every stage of the process, from the sulfur in the fertilizer at tree farms, to the steel blade that cuts down the tree, to the iron and copper in the ornaments. The lights alone require over a dozen raw materials to work. Raw materials may be the last thing on your mind when you enjoy the beauty of a Christmas tree, but the mining industry is what makes our enjoyment possible.

November 2016: World Television Day

In December 1996 the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21st November as World Television Day commemorating the date on which the first World Television Forum was held in 1996.

Despite some debate about this official day, it was decided that televisions had more benefits than one would think. For example, as stated on The World Television Day website, “(Televisions are) a cornerstone of democracy and a pillar of freedom of expression and cultural diversity...”

Your television at home is made up of a variety of raw materials, some that you many not even expect. Glass is the largest component of a flat-screen TV and it’s the starting point for TV creation. Modern television also use neon, xenon and argon gases combined into phosphor gas for the cells that make up their displays. Cerium is used inside your TV to improve the color of your screen. The electronics and case feature materials such as plastics, copper, tin, zinc, silicon, gold and chromium.

October 2016: Oktoberfest

Every year from mid September to mid October, Munich hosts the world's largest beer festival with more than 6 million people attending from around the world. The event? Oktoberfest of course!

Having started in 1910, the festival has become a much loved part of Bavarian culture and visitors can enjoy an array of attractions including amusement rides, games, side stalls and traditional foods. Perhaps the most popular of all however is the consumption of Oktoberfest beer with a total of 7.7 million litres of beer being served at the festival in 2013.

Making a good quality beer is a complicated process. Balacing the minerals and the ph levels of the water used to make beer can greatly affect the taste and colour of beer. For example, dark beer cannot be brewed in Pilsen, Czech Republic and light lagers cannot be brewed in Dublin without adding the proper type and amount of buttering salts.

Generally, the water in Munich is high in carbonates which means that the smooth flavours of the dunkels, bocks and oktoberfests of the region also have a relatively low sulphate content enabling a malt flavour to dominate.

September 2016: Wine harvesting season

For winemakers in Europe, September is a very important month for this is when the harvesting of wine grapes (vintage) occurs and it is one of the most crucial steps in the process of wine-making. A winemaker will know it is time to harvest the grapes by the ripeness of the grape which is measured by sugar, acid and tannin levels.

Many winemakers use fertilisers to enhance their grape production. Fertilisers made from potash, phosphate rock, sulphur and nitrogen enable agriculture to flourish. Phosphates and potash (salts that contain water-soluble potassium) are both extracted directly from minerals. Phosphorus is important for the development of the roots, flowers, fruits and seeds. Phosphorus is mined from limestones and mudstones with a high phosphate content.

August 2016: Olympic Games Rio 2016 – Olympic medals

At last, the moment for sport fans all over the world has come. Rio 2016 is here!

To say that a lot of planning has taken place for these Olympic Games is an understatement and the work behind the design and creation of the Olympic medals is no exception.

The design on each medal celebrates the power and strength of the athletes and the forces of nature.

Strict environmental and labour laws as well as sustainability criteria needed to be met in the making of these medals which means that the 500g gold, silver and bronze medals have been made using a variety of different materials. Left over mirrors, waste solders and x-ray plates were used in making the medals which consist of recycled raw silver at 92.5% purity.

The bronze medal contains some zinc and tin as well as copper. 40% of the copper used in the bronze medals came from waste at the Mint itself. The substance was melted and decontaminated to provide material for the medals.

Image credit: Rio 2016/Alex Ferro

July 2016: UEFA Euro 2016 - Stade de France

The Stade de France is the national stadium of France, just north of Paris in the commune of Saint-Denis. It was originally built for the FIFA world cup in 1998 and has had much use since - including hosting matches of UEFA Euro 2016.

Much attention of the building was paid to enhancing the experience of the spectators. For example: the 80,000 spectators are protected without covering the playing field and all lighting and sound, which include 550 lights and 36 blocks of 5 speakers, are housed inside to avoid obstructing visibility. The tinted glass in the center reduces the contrast and distributes natural light. It filters out red and infrared radiation, how-ever, it allows blue and green lights, due to their necessity involving the health of the turf.

The elliptical shape of the Stade de France symbolises the universality of sport in France and the building itself is considered a technical marvel by many. It has been awarded a prize by the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering (IABC), recognising the unique structure.

June 2016 – Gotthard Base Tunnel opened on 1st June 2016

In 1947 Swiss engineer Carl Eduard Gruner sketched the rough design for a rail tunnel under the Gotthard Pass. Nearly 7 decades and more than 12 billion Swiss francs later, the tunnel was opened in June 2016. The Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT) runs through the Alps in Switzerland and has a route length of 57 km (35.4 mi) and a total of 151.84 km (94.3 mi) of tunnels, shafts and passages, making it the world's longest and deepest traffic tunnel and the first flat low-level route through the Alps.

High-tech ready-mix concrete was used for the tunnel construction and the 400,000 tons of cement required were delivered by rail in a carefully managed process. During the construction of the tunnel, 100% of the aggregates used had to be from recycled excavated material. This was a challenge due to differences in their relative moisture and quality. To control for this however, microwave sensors were installed in the aggregate silos and additives which were specially adapted to the varying aggregate compositions were used.

Photo copyright: © AlpTransit Gotthard Ltd.

May 2016: 700th anniversary of Charles IV’s birth, Prague, Czech Republic

Many could say that the charm and magic of Prague can be attributed to the Czech King and Holy Roman Emperor, Charles IV, born in May 1316. He stands among the most exceptional personages of Czech and European history and had a fine taste for architecture and design. It was during his reign that Prague became the Imperial seat that many are still drawn to today. It has been 700 years since Charles’ birth and the city is marking the date with a wide array of commemorative events ranging from exhibitions to historical-themed festivities, conferences, celebrations and special programmes for visitors such as themed tours and walks, including a walk on Charles bridge - the stone heart of Prague. Many will walk across the bridge, with those in mind of the famed many who had done so before since the 14th century, in the sure hope that this architectural gem of Charles IV will last for times to come.

April 2016: 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death, Stratford upon Avon, UK

It has been 400 hundred years since the beloved British playwright and poet, William Shakespeare died. To celebrate and commemorate his life and work, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK are hosting a celebration which will commence on Shakespeare’s birthday weekend, 23rd and 24th April. From theatrical performances, to a grand parade as well as the opening of the “New Place” (Shakespeare’s re-imagined last home), fans of the playwright will not want to miss this event.

Stratford-upon-Avon is the home of the Royal Shakespeare company (RSC) and although it is a small town, it has become an international centre for dramatic art, attracting the biggest names in the field. The RSC own the Royal Shakespeare Theatre which houses 1,040+ people and is dedicated to William Shakespeare. The theatre cohesively brings many styles together - gothic, art deco and modern and uses rusted steel to steel as smooth as glass.

March 2016: ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli Mission - Launch Period

Does life exist on Mars? ESA are on the mission on find out. As part of the ExoMars programme, a Trace Gas Orbiter plus demonstrator module known as Schiaparelli was sent to Mars and arrived there in March 2016. The main purpose for the mission is to search for evidence of methane and other trace atmospheric gases that could be signs of active biological or geological processes.Watch this ‘space’!

February 2016: Carnival of Venice, Italy

Every February, the famous Carnival of Venice takes place in Venice, Italy, which is world-famous for its elaborate masks.

Venetian Masks can be classified into two major groups - Commedia Dell'Arte and Carnival Masks. Both groups have particular characters, gender specifics and numerous vivid legends which surround them.

Historically and traditionally, genuine Venetian Masks are created and decorated by hand. The adornments are made of materials such as feathers, rhinestones, macram and even gold or silver leaf (to name a few). Each mask is a unique piece of artwork. They are usually made of leather, porcelain, papier mâché or with the original glass technique. .

January 2016: European Capital of culture – San Sebastian, Spain

The Spanish city San Sebastian has lately gained even more significance when it officially became the European Capital of culture in January 2016. In the upcoming months, many of the cultural events in this city will be held in the Kursaal - one of San Sebastian’s unique architectural buildings.

The Kursaal was designed by Radael Moneo and is composed of two large translucent glass cubes that represent ‘two bleached rocks’ and were intended to perpetuate geology and emphasise the harmony between the natural and artificial world.

The building won the Contemporary Architecture Mies van der Rohe Award, the most important in Europe, for “the exceptional character” of the project and its “conceptual, aesthetic, technical and constructive innovation.”