The MRL Advisory Council decided on October 2, 2007, that the laboratory’s top in-state priority should be mine tailings, followed in turn by diamond deposits and incinerator ash utilization. The mine tailings project was particularly engaging because it has the potential to use the waste products of current mine operations as raw materials for industrial products and consumer goods.
In March 2008, the MRL Advisory Council laid out a basic project plan starting with outreach as follows:
- Groups and associations that should be kept aware of the project and may participate (by helping to define the current extent of the tailings problem), e.g.,
- North Carolina Mining Association
- North Carolina Aggregate Association
- North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources
- North Carolina Geologic Survey
- North Carolina Mining Commission, and
- individual mining companies.
- Groups that may help define and resolve technical issues of material definition, and/or help determine potential applications for the reclaimed tailings, e.g.,
- NCSU Material Science department
- NCSU Agriculture departments, and
- other departments with research or constituent interest in mineral products.
The MRL, as the project lead, will solicit ideas and expertise from the other groups and invite industry participation. The MRL accepted the following action items:
- Develop the tailing categories with help from the various groups named above.
- Review the tailings categories and sampling plans with representatives from the above groups.
- Publish a detailed approach to all concerned parties.
- Contact the various mining companies to get access for the sampling.
- Perform basic analysis on the tailings samples which will include size, chemistry, and mineral content.
- Publish the category analyses to all groups for comment.
- After review, schedule a meeting with professors and extension agents with NCSU Material Science and Agriculture personnel to discuss the tailing characteristics and see if any application ideas emerge.
- Review the findings of the above meeting with the MRL Advisory Council to prioritize the application ideas and receive direction on further work.
- Proceed with test work to produce product(s) for application testing.
- Schedule and execute application testing.
- Review the results with all involved groups for further guidance.
- If the initial results are positive, seek opportunities for larger scale work with mining companies as well as federal and state governments.
- Perform large scale testing and publish the results for various groups (e.g., Economic Development Councils, Chambers of Commerce, Land-of-Sky, County Commissions, etc.) to use for promotion.