The recent Symposium Mines Baie-James in Chibougamau not only brought out many of the companies looking to do business in Eeyou Istchee but also those who can offer products and solutions to many of the problems the mining industry faces, Terratech is one of these companies.
Having recently set up shop in Chisasibi, Harry Snowboy and his business partner, Cliff Summers, a Mohawk from the Six Nations Oneida Reserve, Terratech is pushing an environmentally safe polymer that could possibly transform the road network of Eeyou Istchee.
While Terratech is a multinational company that specializes in providing commercial and residential solutions for soil stabilization and road construction around the world, Summers and Snowboy have become Terratech Quebec, a brand-new Cree company.
Terratech is selling a unique polymer called T-Pro 500. This revolutionary polymer can be applied to a wide variety of surfaces to form anything from roads to barriers intended to prevent more toxic materials from seeping into the environment and is environmentally safe.
“This polymer is basically a plastic, but a plastic, in our case, that is chemically inert and so we can market it as safe for the environment. This is because there is no toxicity and there is nothing in it unlike asphalt that can leach residue into the highways, ditches or anything else,” said Summers.
Summers explained how in a recent test at a Pittsburgh petroleum plant, the polymer was laid down to see how well it could prevent extremely corrosive petroleum products from spreading in the event of a leak. Not only did the polymer meet the 72-hour mark that was essential for the plant without any degradation, when the plant ended its testing after 10 days the product’s barrier had not been broken.
“We recently attended the mining conference in Chibougamau because one of the things we want to spend some time and effort doing is marketing this product to the mining industry. This is because among the things that our product is good for is not only road construction but you can also use it for dust and erosion control and soil stabilization. In terms of erosion control, our product is well regarded,” said Summers.
Outside of the mining industry, Summers and Snowboy recently met with many of the chiefs of Eeyou Istchee to see if they might be interested in using the product for road construction in the communities.
According to Summers, this product would be ideal for the North because it does not freeze.
“A big problem with concrete in road construction or even asphalt is that in this environment there is frost-heave. This is when the frost leaves the ground, causing it to expand as heat will make the asphalt expand and cold will make it contract. And so, when the frost leaves the base of the road this causes cracking.
But, our product doesn’t freeze because it is a synthetic polymer,” said Summers.
As the product can expand and contract without any kind of cracking, this would mean that once laid down, the product does not need the endless pothole maintenance that most paved roads are plagued with.
Summers explained that the process in laying down a polymer road is incredibly simple as it really doesn’t require very sophisticated material.
“You can till it in with the use of a farmer’s rolling tiller or something like that to roll it out and actually infuse the polymer with the soil. Once it is tilled, you let it sit and then you can spray another application of the polymer and till it in and that will compact it,” said Summers.
The polymer can be used with a wide variety of aggregates such as gravel, sand, soil or even waste rock to create a road. In the case of using waste rock from a mining project to create a road, as the polymer itself is inert, there is no risk for contamination. Even with the waste rock there wouldn’t be a problem, as the polymer seals the rock in, ensuring there is no chance of contamination because the rock is encased.
The Terratech compound could be an easy sell to anyone looking to develop a road because it is so much more cost effective than laying asphalt.
While laying asphalt can cost up to $1 million per kilometre, Summers said building a road with T-Pro 500 would cost about half that price. This means projects that use the polymer are cheaper and faster when it comes to labour since polymer roads can be laid down at a two-to-three-km-a-day rate instead of the standard one-km-a-day with asphalt.
Even though Terratech is not a construction company but a product distributor working out of the Cree communities, both Summers and Snowboy are keeping their fingers crossed that their environmentally friendly product will soon be making its way down the road towards everyone in the Cree Nation.
For more info: www.terratechinfo.com