Sometimes it’s obvious that sand is all around us, like when we spend a day at the beach or a child plays in a sandbox. It may be surprising to know that sand is also an ingredient in lots of products and materials we encounter every day. For example, if you’re sitting in a car, enjoying the view through your crystal-clear window, or admiring beautiful countertops in the kitchen, you’re experiencing the magic of sand.
Earlier this month, Covia had the opportunity to show a glimpse into how we mine sand at our operations on Tomorrow’s World Today. Tomorrow's World Today (TWT) is an Emmy-nominated television show on the Discovery and Science Channel focused on finding ways to live more sustainably. It was exciting to be featured in the episode, and we are proud of our Team Members who helped bring Covia to TV screens.
If you missed the premiere, we’ll take you through some of our favorite moments from our TV debut, and hopefully, you’ll learn something interesting along the way.
Mining Sandstone in Guion
The first location featured in the episode was our plant in Guion, Arkansas. What’s unique about this plant is that it’s our only underground mine. It’s also one of the sites where we extract silica. Silica shows up in everyday products such as:
- Equestrian arenas
- Play sand
However, before our silica sand can be used in products like these, it must be mined and processed. In the episode, Guion’s Operations Manager, Danny Delgado, acted as the site’s ambassador educating TWT’s field reporter, Greg Costantino, and the audience on the various techniques the plant uses to extract and micronize sandstone. One of the techniques Danny discussed was blasting. At Guion, this involves digging holes 40 feet deep and then using explosives to remove the top layer of a mountainside to make it possible to go underground to extract sand. If there is a must-see moment from the episode, this is it! We encourage you to watch to see how a blast can be powerful enough to extract 20,000 tons of rock.
Fun Fact: Sandstone is commonly used in materials in homes because of its durability. Sandstone products can stand up to heavy use and challenging weather conditions, so sandstone is used in everything from paint to ceiling tiles and roofing shingles.
Mining Nepheline Syenite in Ontario (NSO)
Covia’s NSO plant is located in Ontario, Canada. It’s here that Greg meets Plant Manager Alex Vanags, who provides insight into our production of nepheline syenite. This pure stone is hard like granite and comes in a bright white color.
Producing nepheline syenite involves a large open-pit mining operation where the rock is extracted through blasting and drilling. To help educate audiences, Alex shares some of the techniques used by the site to transform the rock into various forms ready for use in products, including paint and glass. He also explains how we are able to melt our nepheline syenite at a lower temperature, which reduces the energy use and therefore emissions.
Fun Fact: Covia has been mining at this site since the 1930s.
Producing LUMINEX™ at Fort Smith
The last plant featured is also located in Arkansas, a few hours from our Guion plant. Here in Fort Smith, we produce our industry-leading product, LUMINEX. To explain how, Greg connects with Covia’s Senior Manager of Special Projects, Kayembe “KT” Tshitenge. KT takes Greg on a tour of the plant and stops in the control room for the kiln, the heart of the plant’s operations. The kiln can reach up to 1500 degrees Celsius (2700 degrees Fahrenheit) and the control room carefully monitors the sand’s temperature to ensure the sand never turns to liquid.
From here, KT explains how the plant screens off the sand to get bagged as our LUMINEX product or sent to the ball mill to be pulverized into ultra-fine powder. This ultra-fine powder is used to produce engineered stone, which is used in the production of kitchen and bathroom countertops.
Fun Fact: Silica fillers are present in many paints, improving the paint’s tint retention, durability, and resistance to dirt, mildew, cracking, and weathering.
Building a Better World for Tomorrow’s World Today
At Covia, we are committed to being more than just a leading provider of high-performance mineral and material solutions. Through the episode, we are proud to show a peek into some of the sustainability initiatives taking place at NSO. These initiatives include habitat conservation and biodiversity initiatives like turtle conservation.
These sustainability practices, plus more, are mirrored at sites across our footprint. In 2022, we received a bronze rating in sustainability from Ecovadis, one of the world's largest and most credible providers of business sustainability ratings.
It’s mind-blowing to think about all the products that sand helps create. Whether you're a manufacturer or a homeowner, you can trust that Covia is committed to operating as a responsible corporate citizen from start to finish.
Contact Covia today to learn more about our role in creating the everyday products. Also, we encourage you to check out our Tomorrow’s World Today episode, “If Isn’t Grown, It Must Be Mined.”