With commodities prices plummeting and weak demand worldwide, the global mining industry is facing tough times, and operators are looking to slash costs wherever possible. When faced with difficult operating conditions, many industries find themselves embracing new technologies and opportunities, and the mining sector is no exception to this.
One great example that has emerged recently is the use of tensile fabric structures on mine sites around the world to provide practical and cost-effective buildings with rapid installation times and flexible designs. These tensile structures have a wide range of advantages over more typical buildings, and they can offer much more flexibility to operators who need to adapt quickly and cost-effectively to changing market conditions.
The mining industry is perhaps more in tune with the need for energy efficiency than many other sectors, as highlighted recently in an in-depth report from Deloitte. Using tensile fabric structures can realise significant energy savings, both during building construction and in operations. Superior insulation properties mean these structures require less heating and cooling, and they can even be supplied with specialist UV coatings to guard against harsh environmental conditions.
Within mine sites, there is often a need for relatively short-term buildings for operational support activities. With a tensile fabric structure such as those designed by Fabric Architecture (http://www.fabricarchitecture.com/), site operators have the flexibility to erect the building rapidly and relocate it elsewhere on the site if needed; they can even move it to another site entirely. The savings made through not having to construct an entirely new building each time are potentially significant.
The beauty of tensile structures are that they are ultimately customisable in terms of size, shape and design, along with the features incorporated into them, such as heating, lighting and power supplies. In the mining industry, where every site is different and has its own unique access constraints and physical challenges, this flexibility is hugely valuable.
It remains to be seen how the mining industry will fare in the coming period and whether global economic uncertainties and weak demand for raw materials will continue to press down on the sector. We will certainly continue to see this industry adapt to the challenges it faces, and tensile fabric structures will play a role in that.