Apr 30, 2024 / by IQ News Update

IQ £5,000 Emerald Challenge returns to echo first year success

IQ £5,000 Emerald Challenge returns to echo first year success - Blog post

The Institute of Quarrying is inviting applications from professionals working in the mineral products sector to secure a £5,000 financial grant. For the second year in a row IQ is running The Emerald Challenge, which was launched to support the industry in achieving its Net Zero Carbon and sustainability ambitions.

The Emerald Challenge aims to support and recognise IQ members as they develop projects and research ideas to help their organisations and the wider industry meet climate challenges. It is open to IQ technical members (TMIQ), members (MIQ) and fellows (FIQ) and is a fantastic opportunity to seek funding to develop ideas that directly contribute to the progress of an organization towards meeting global climate challenges. 

IQ and MPQC Joint CEO James Thorne explained: “It is important to us as a leading sector organisation to contribute to the essential sustainability and decarbonising solutions that will put the UK on track to meeting its objective to be Net Zero Carbon by 2050, in line with the COP27 agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for members to get involved if they have research ideas and sustainability projects covering topic areas such as decarbonisation, energy efficiency, materials efficiency/circular economy, biodiversity and habitat improvement, pollution control/mitigation and water management.” 

Amongst the judging panel for The Emerald Challenge submissions sits the IQ President, IQ Chair, IQ CEO, and representatives from the board of trustees, council, and a representative of IQ’s Education and Training team.  

The winning submission is set to be announced at IQ’s annual Fellows Lunch and Student Awards lunch event in November 2024, where the winner will be recognised and presented with an award in person for their achievement. 

This year’s deadline for application submissions is 28 June 2024.  

Inspiring and transformative winners 

Last year’s inaugural Emerald Challenge received a wealth of innovative entries, resulting in two exciting projects being awarded the prize.  
Since winning both projects have blossomed, progressing into being recognised as game-changers in their impacts.   

2023 Winner – Andrew Gall, Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) 

Pollution control and water management 

Andrew Gall, Quarry Manager, working with Forestry and Land Scotland, entered The Emerald Challenge to explore a compelling idea of his. The vision was to create an environmentally friendly and cost-effective solution for managing silt during timber haulage road construction projects, initially in Scotland's central region and potentially, internationally.   

Andrew said, “I had the idea for some time but no way of bringing it to fruition. When I heard I had won The Emerald Challenge I really had to compose myself, because it really did give me a transformative opportunity to test my idea and try to make it a viable solution.” 

On average 30 kilometres of new timber haulage road construction takes place every year within the central belt of Scotland. A major part of those works include “water management”, run off, defuse pollution and ditching works. 

Andrew’s vision was to revolutionise current methodologies and provide a low cost and effective barrier to “silt management” that is easily accessible, recyclable in nature, affordable and fit for purpose. This would replace the use of harsher and more expensive materials, plus the need for repetitive maintenance which are currently deployed.  

Its performance would be judged and monitored using simple water contamination kits such as the kits provided by “Simple Health” WATERSAFE.  The result being that the water that is being run off from quarrying works and road construction works should be safe to drink at source. 

Extensive research conducted by Andrew, including during a very wet February, has confirmed that Andrew’s ingenious filtration, Silt Sump, idea works. As a result, scale up investment interest has followed from both Civil Engineers and Ecologists in Scotland for wind farms and other projects, impressed by not only by its performance and reuse functionality, but also by its ease of installation. 

“Without The Emerald Challenge, my idea would have remained as nothing more. By winning I got the impetus and confidence to do something I passionately believed in and make a success of it. An incredible year, with the best still to come, thanks to The Emerald Challenge”, added Andrew.  

2023 Winners – Oliver Kibble, Tarmac, Thomas Clifford, GEARS 

Blasting down CO2 emissions 

A joint project between Tarmac and GEARS, The Emerald Challenge submission focussed on reducing CO2 emissions in hard rock quarries through enhanced blast fragmentation. The methodology involved the purchase and installation of necessary equipment for baseline data collection, analysis, and reporting. Objectives included measuring various parameters during a baseline blast, measuring the secondary breakage on site, designing a new blast for improved fragmentation, and then re-measuring the parameters for the improved blast.  

Oliver Kibble, Tarmac, and Thomas Clifford, GEARS, knew the potential, industry-wide, impact of the project in reducing emissions and achieving cost savings. 

“The project provided the perfect opportunity to re-think the CO2 emissions created because of blasting operations. The platform and support provided by The Emerald Challenge Award, plus Tarmac and GEARS’ collaboration has fast tracked and enriched the project,” said Oliver.  

Research and apprentice development  

It’s clear that the project has made fantastic progress, including Tarmac selecting one of their flagship quarries as the test site for the on-going project.   

There have been unexpected people benefits too. Importantly, as part of the project prize money GEARS have been able to train Oliver Kibble and Quarry Manager, Aaron Laycock, along with two of Tarmac’s Higher Apprentices Rajen Gupta and Mustafa Malek to undertake face and blast pile drone surveys to support with the fragmentation analysis of the blast piles and data collection. This footage is then processed using the FragMAP software developed by GEARS to determine how well each blast has fragmented the rock. Both Rajen and Mustafa are completing their Foundation Degree with Derby University and will aim to apply their learning as part of the project. 

“To be part of an opportunity such as this, addressing important net-zero challenges is very valuable to me as part of my apprenticeship learning,” said Rajen Gupta.  Higher Apprentice Mustafa Malek also added, “I’ve completed my first 3D model of a blast pile thanks to it. So, to be actively involved in new research like this and gain new skills is so satisfying.”  

A project gaining traction 

The project is also using bespoke digital technology, developed by GEARS, which is being deployed via their AggCAM cloud-based grading tool. The AggCAM uses ‘go-pro’ type cameras with an artificial intelligence (AI) software program that provides a dashboard for quarry management and plant operators to visually demonstrate the particle size distribution of the aggregate going through the processing plant by taking photographs every five seconds. 

The AggCAM camera was installed onto the first conveyor belt after the primary crusher. This can monitor the fragmentation with data captured continuously throughout the day. The AI and Machine Learning Software is then utilised to calculate the fragmentation sizes of the rock on the conveyor belt.  The accuracy of AggCAM will enable Tarmac to optimise the blasting on site, to ensure the desired fragmentation is achieved.  

“In addition to the fragmentation being monitored we are collecting additional data throughout the operational process. This includes electricity consumption of the primary crushing plant, telematic data of the mobile plant on site and any secondary breakage that is being undertaken each day,” added Oliver.  

The project has also monitored the impact on fragmentation when the burden and spacing for each blast design is altered to determine the optimum blast design. If the burden and spacing is optimised then less oversized material is produced. In turn this reduces the need for secondary breakage, blockages and increases the plant throughput and cycle times.  

The next stage of the project will be to convert the energy consumption to CO2 emissions for the quarry and so determine the potential CO2 and cost savings by improving the blast fragmentation.  

“The Emerald Challenge inspired us to present the idea and winning it inspired the management teams to get behind and support the research. By the end of 2024 we hope to be able to share data on the CO2 emissions.” 

Meeting industry and national sustainability goals 

As last year’s winners prove, The Emerald Challenge is both relevant and valuable. Already it has provided a catalyst to address two tangible and far-reaching challenges within the sector.  

Steve Cole is a member of the IQ Council and the founder of The Emerald Challenge, responsible for the original idea and concept. Steve says: "It’s so rewarding to witness the projects flourish after winning The Emerald Challenge. The judging panel saw their potential, but the results are exceeding our expectations. It’s abundantly evident that there’s a collective passion for fostering ideas aimed at safeguarding our environment, aligning perfectly with the UK's Sustainable Development Goals.” 

Viv Russell, IQ President, adds: “I was delighted with the quantity, quality, and diversity of entries for last year’s Emerald Challenge. It made the judging process challenging when narrowing down the applicants, but it was a pleasure to receive so many ambitious projects submitted from a range of individuals who clearly share a passion for improving the industry’s sustainability efforts. I am very much looking forward to seeing this year’s entrants for their ingenuity combined with professional knowledge to tackle key issues.” 

Information about The Emerald Challenge, how to apply, what sort of projects can be submitted, topic areas, who is eligible, and important dates are available online at: www.quarrying.org/emerald-challenge. Contact Sarah Fry (sarah.fry@quarrying.org) for additional enquiries. 

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