How Minerals Impact the Environment


How Minerals Impact the Environment

When you think about the many benefits of minerals, your first thoughts might be about filtration, construction aggregates, animal feed additives, and other practical applications. What you might not think about is the incredible benefits to the environment that minerals provide. From energy use to stormwater runoff and renewable fuels to horticulture, there are many positive ways minerals impact the environment.

How Minerals Impact the Environment

Decreases Energy Use

Because of its unique closed-cell structure, perlite can drastically reduce heat transmission through masonry walls. Thermal performance tests show significant energy savings when perlite is used to fill cavities in concrete masonry structures. Plus, the addition can help prevent fires from spreading through a building.

Storm Runoff Filtration

Perlite acts as a natural filter to clean stormwater runoff, helping to prevent the contamination of waterways which could, in turn, hurt natural flora and fauna.

Horticulture Benefits

Perlite helps preserve the world’s topsoil by acting as a substitute for native mineral soil. Plus, when used as a soil media additive, it can help plants thrive, helping to increase to the oxygen they produce.

Diatomaceous earth, also known as diatomite and DE, is the naturally occurring fossilized remains of diatoms—single-celled aquatic algae. It is a near-pure sedimentary deposit consisting almost entirely of silicon dioxide. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of diatomaceous earth as a soil conditioner:

  • A study was conducted to see how strawberries and sweet potatoes responded to a soil conditioner made with diatomaceous earth compared to a control group that was treated with a normal fertilizer application. Strawberry root mass was increased by 100% to 200%, yield was increased by an average of 35%, and there was a higher survival rate of strawberry runners, allowing for the potential of more crops.
  • Studies also concluded the addition of diatomaceous earth as plant-available silicon improved the growing environment and quality. There was increased uptake of key nutrients during the wet period when nutrients are typically leached away from the root zone. Natural diatomaceous earth improves the moisture retention in potting mix and soil by retaining a greater quantity of water and drying at a slower rate—all without waterlogging. It creates an unfavorable environment for hard- and soft-bodied pests.

Renewable Fuel Filtration

Biodiesel is an alternative fuel source that can be used as a replacement for conventional, fossil diesel. Some feedstock choices include pure vegetable oil, animal oil, animal fats, and waste oils. Before these oils can be used as fuel, they need to be processed appropriately, and minerals like diatomaceous earth can help.

There are many steps in the physical refining process for biodiesel production, including extracting, degumming, bleaching, and deodorizing. During the bleaching phase, the oil is filtered through a diatomaceous earth filter to remove potential peroxides, peroxide former, and residual impurities.

Industrial Wastewater Treatment

A quarter of humanity faces a looming water crisis. 17 countries are currently under severe water distress. Wastewater recycling is one way cited to combat the grave issue. Diatomaceous earth and perlite—two minerals Dicalite Management Group knows well—can be used to help filter industrial wastewater.

Diatomaceous earth is used as a precoat filtration technology. It is based on the mechanical separation of solids from liquids to reduce TSS and insoluble content. The clarified liquid passes through the diatom’s intricate but porous structure while the solids are trapped in the diatomaceous earth precoat. The leftover solids are then disposed of responsibly.

Perlite plays an important role in municipal and industrial water treatment systems where it is used in conjunction with a rotary vacuum drum filter to remove solids and other contaminants from polluted wastewater. Perlite filter cakes remain porous and do not compact. Filter cakes built up under pressure release easier when perlite is used. This release facilitates easier cleaning, potentially reduces manpower requirements and costs, and increases productivity. Plus, the lower weight of perlite filter cakes may also reduce disposal costs.

Recycled Packaging

MicroLite vermiculite dispersions are applied as a coating in flexible plastic films used for a variety of packaging. Today, MicroLite dispersions are one of the very few materials in qualification for recyclable flexible packaging.

This water-based vermiculite dispersion is used to coat flexible packaging films. The high aspect ratio platelets are ideal in the formulation of nanosized layers, forming a tortuous path barrier for gases like oxygen. MicroLite’s existence in this application can create 100 to 1,000 times improvement in gas barriers. This is imperative for common films like polyethylene plastic, polypropylene film, polyester, and polyethylene terephthalate, which have poor gas barrier properties.

Dicalite’s Commitment to the Positive Impact of Minerals on the Environment

Our environmental responsibility goes beyond providing earth-friendly solutions for our customers. At Dicalite Management Group, we have many processes in place to ensure our healthy contributions to the environment.

  • Revegetation. While revegetation would occur naturally after mining, we play an active role in restoring the environment. Local plant communities have adapted to growing in diatomite soils. After mining, waste diatomite and inter burden are covered with soil to aid revegetation. These areas are first planted with various grasses, then successive plantings of diverse species of trees. Each year, we plant well over 2,000 trees in active reclamation areas, including local species of pines, firs, Incense Cedar, and oaks.
  • Dust Control. Dust production is a side effect of mining. We control the accumulation of dust by water trucks and water wagons on a scheduled and recorded basis, using reclaimed water from mine runoff and stormwater whenever possible to reduce valuable water resources. Plus, permanent roads are treated to further reduce dust.
  • Rainfall-Runoff. Rainfall-runoff in the plant and quarries is controlled in many ways. Abandoned areas are revegetated to promote water retention. Where rain runoff occurs, slopes are engineered to reduce erosion. As a final check, all runoff is collected in siltation ponds to collect any debris or suspended material. The treated water is discharged to the local water sources in strict accordance with Water Quality Permit standards.
  • Specialty Vermiculite Land Reclamation. Specialty Vermiculite leases properties for mining as well as mining company-owned properties. Many of our leased properties previously have been farmed or used for commercial timber growth. We work with landowners to reclaim all mining activities to best suit future needs. Mine reclamation involves contouring mined areas to a gentle, useable final slope, minimizing erosion on mined and reclaimed areas, and establishing permanent vegetative cover crops. For example, working with Laurens County, SC, Specialty Vermiculite mined a county-owned property. Once mining was complete, we began reclamation efforts, ultimately creating a recreation park environment for county residents. The park includes several baseball and soccer fields, as well as grassed recreation areas for leisure activities.

Choose Minerals to Make Your Positive Impact on the Environment

Next time you are looking for filtration, horticulture, energy efficiency, and other solutions that have a positive impact on the environment, turn to Dicalite Management Group minerals. Call us today at 866-728-3303 to speak with one of our knowledgable representatives who can help you find the best product for your needs.

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Our blog offers insight and information about new and exciting uses for perlite, diatomaceous earth, and vermiculite deriving from years of research and application. From passive fire resistance to mineral depth filtration, by subscribing to our mailing list, you will receive the latest information surrounding the Dicalite, Dicaperl, and Specialty Vermiculite brands and products.

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