THE GOLDEN BEAR PROJECT
Grass Valley, California
- Golden Bear Photos
Golden Bear Ceramics Company Inc. ("GBC"), a 100% subsidiary of Emgold Mining Corporation, has operated a pilot plant that has manufactured high quality recycled building products out of a variety of mineral and industrial wastes normally disposed of in landfills. Product prototypes have been manufactured including floor tile, wall tile, and roof tile. These products can qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design ("LEED") credits. A large market for the products is essentially being legislated into place in the U.S. (e.g. Title 24 in California). The products are aesthetically attractive, have high abrasion resistance, high breaking strength, near zero water absorption, and can be marketed in either the stone or ceramics industry. Emgold is currently seeking a source of independent financing for GBC to allow it to construct its first commercial operation in California and eventually expand on a national and global basis.
Photograph of Lex Kiln
GBC is able to reconstitute mineral wastes back into high quality recycled stone building products that appear similar to tiles produced from stone quarries. Traditional tile manufacturing equipment and processes are used to achieve this. A wide range of waste materials can be used to produce the tiles and create a pallet of natural stone colors. Feedstock can be blended together to produce other colors or to produce patterns in the tile that resemble natural rock textures. These tile products can be polished, honed, textured, or glazed to produce a variety of finishes and colors.
GBC has also manufactured prototype recycled stone roof tiles. Roof tile could be made available in a variety of colors, textures, and shapes. In addition, glazes and reflective coatings can be applied to the roof tiles to achieve additional color options. In California, "Cool Roof" coatings are being mandated on roofing products in the warmest climate regions, to reflect heat and reduce air conditioning costs. GBC roof tiles could fit well into this growing market. In addition the tile has potential to compete favorably in the asphalt shingle market and high end concrete, slate or clay tile markets.
GBC tiles can be made from a variety of mineral wastes, including tailings from metal mines, fly ash from coal fired power plants, and fines generated from aggregate quarries. This could reduce mineral wastes going into landfills and some individual projects could become zero waste generators. For waste generators, this could reduce the need for surface disposal, land acquisition costs, short and long term reclamation costs, environmental monitoring costs, and other expenses required for surface disposal of industrial wastes.
GBC expects to have several distinct competitive advantages over domestic and foreign tile manufacturers. These advantages include:
- Lower cost of raw feed materials because GBC uses readily available and low cost (usually free) mineral wastes instead of the high quality "fine" clays required to manufacture conventional ceramics or high quality quarry stone required for stone tile;
- Reduced freight costs for the feed material because the sources of waste material are readily available locally;
- Reduced freight costs for the product, because the plant can also be built near the market for the products;
- Lower energy costs because the material is already processed by another industrial application;
- A simple and robust process that is relatively insensitive to feedstock variations in physical or chemical properties;
- Flexibility to adapt to feedstock from a variety of sources so that feed material specifications are less restrictive than traditional ceramics, resulting in a stable feedstock cost; and
- The ability to certify GBC ceramic materials as being produced from 100% recycled materials, thus allowing architectural buyers/designers to claim LEED environmental credits which may facilitate their permitting and approval processes.
GBC is a wholly-owned US subsidiary of Emgold Mining Corporation.
GBC facilities are located in California. They include offices located in the Whispering Pines Business Park in Grass Valley, CA and a research and development center housed in a single 8,000 square foot light industrial building located in the Skyway Business Park in Olivehurst, California (an Enterprise Zone). The research and development center includes equipment for the testing various mineral feedstock and tile products as well as pilot plant equipment currently in storage.
GBC tile products include appealing attributes including:
Attractive natural stone appearance;
Superior physical properties;
100% recycled material content; and
Precise dimensional control.
GBC products are also superior for installation than traditional tile products because of the dimensional control in the manufacturing process and the high quality of the manufactured product. This reduces loss from chipping and breakage during the installation process.
GBC intends to focus on the potential commercialization of two main product lines initially, each incorporating feedstock that can be 100% recycled into high quality building products. These products are floor tile and roof tile. There are virtually no "green" products currently being manufactured in these markets. The "green" products that are manufactured are typically of very low quality while at the same time demanding a high unit price.
Great appearance is basically inherent to GBC stone tile. When polished, the GBC product looks, feels, and wears comparable to polished natural stone. This should allow establishment of selling prices that are very competitive for stone products and which are at a premium level compared to conventional ceramic or porcelain tile.
GBC has developed a palette of earth-tone colors, from light tan to dark brown, grey and black. It is anticipated that this range will satisfy 80% of the market for such materials. The material colors are further complemented by a variety of finishes and special effects. Demonstrated effects include anti-slip texture, sand-blasted patterns, embossed patterns, granular inclusions, and sandstone-like striated designs. Figures 1 and 2 illustrate some of the colors and styles that have been produced by GBC to date. Additional effects, colors, textures, and styles will be developed in an ongoing product development program.
Figure 2 provides an example of a sandblasting effect (leaf pattern) that has been successfully tested with the GBC tile. This method can be used in conjunction with artistic patterns and surface effect styles. It can be used to produce a non-slip surface for applicable applications.
Figure 1: Sample Palette of Tile Colors Produced To Date
Figure 2: Examples of Other Tiles Produced To-Date
Specifically, the GBC products will be marketed as manufactured stone that is made by recreating natural processes that occur in nature to make rock. The superior physical properties of GBC tile include strength and abrasion resistance equivalent to the best porcelain tile, combined with no water absorption values (less than 0.3%).
Recycled Content and Environmental Aspect ("Green Products")
A significant portion of consumers, architects, designers and governments/municipalities have a desire to be 'environmentally friendly'. In the western US, this sentiment is having a significant impact on material selection decisions and on project approval decisions, especially for commercial applications. GBC's marketing will target this fast growing sentiment in the population.
To date, GBC tile has be made from approximately 50 kinds of recycled materials and their blends. GBC recycles each feed material or combination of materials into 'manufactured' natural stone products. These products have a wide variety of earth-tone colors.
In 2010, the California is requiring all commercial and residential construction to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Credits and a market for GBC products is being legislated into place. Similar legislation is being implemented in a variety of states. GBC products can be certified as meeting LEED credit requirements by the U.S. Green Build Council.
GBC roofing products are also compatible with "Cool Roof" reflective coatings. GBC successfully incorporated third party proprietary reflective coatings with these tiles that allow the roofing tile to reflect a higher percentage of radiant heat away from the roof. These coatings increase the reflectance values from 12% for the uncoated surface to approximately 50% for coated surfaces. California's Title 24 regulations require new roofing in some areas to reflect between 25% and 40% of solar radiation. A photo of the prototype slate-type roof is shown in Figure 3 below.
Figure 3: Prototype GBC Manufactured Roofing Tile
With this in mind, third party certification of the GBC material content and process is expected to facilitate marketing along these lines. Consequently, material certification has been initiated to document its 100% recycled nature and to facilitate Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) compliance.
Many cities in California are mandating LEED Certification in order for large projects to be granted a permit. The State of California is now mandating LEED certification and the use of green building products and design in all of its state buildings, including the state university system. This requirement is now moved into the residential and commercial markets. Opportunities for projects to earn LEED credits in these large markets using GBC's products will exist. LEED certification for GBC products results from the use of recycled material, the fact that the products can be manufactured within 500 miles of their market, the fact that the products can be manufactured with less energy than conventional products, and the fact that GBC can recycle the material on a post-consumer basis.
In addition to the primary products that have been produced to date, other future products could potentially include manufactured stone pavers, bricks, and blocks. Considering the large volumes of mineral waste that have been identified and that are potentially available to GBC, products such as stone pavers, bricks, blocks and other building components represent an expansion opportunity that could consume large volumes of material (because of the product bulk). It is anticipated that the profit margins on these products would be considerably less and therefore they are a lower priority for initial product development. It may also be possible to make larger size products such as counter tops at some point in the future.
Precision in Facial Dimensions
Further, because of inherent manufacturing operations, the GBC tile product is produced to a dimensional tolerance approximately 30 times better than the ANSI standard of ±1.50%. Specifically, GBC tile is produced with facial dimension control of ±0.05%, or ±0.006" on a 12" tile, without cutting or edge grinding. The best products on the market, in this respect, have a tolerance of ±0.40% which requires edge grinding, additional handling and additional cost for rectification. This level of quality is very desirable in large installations because of the associated ease and speed of installation, as well as the aesthetics of the overall appearance.
GBC ACHIEVEMENTS TO-DATE
The following are key highlights of GBC's achievements to date:
- A feedstock and product testing laboratory was established;
- A pilot plant facility was successfully operated to produce 10,000 square feet of high quality manufactured stone tile products;
- Approximately 50 sources of raw materials were identified and analyzed for use as tile feedstock material, including physical property testing and aesthetic considerations;
- Various feedstock materials from metal mining, coal fired power plants, aggregate quarries, and biomass plants were successfully tested;
- Manufacturing techniques, equipment, and facilities were designed, constructed, and operated in preparation for commercial scale-up;
- The physical material properties of GBC tile products were defined and found to meet or exceed those of most other natural stone, porcelain and other tile products commercially available today (breaking strength, abrasion resistance, absorption, etc.);
- Stone floor, wall, and roof tiles were manufactured in significant quantities for testing and display purposes;
- A showcase installation of sample products was successfully completed in Auburn, CA; and
- Permitting of a commercial plant in Grass Valley, CA commenced (as part of the Idaho-Maryland Project).
The market for tile is well developed worldwide, and the US is the fourth largest consumer of tile in the world while it is only the ninth largest producer. The US does not have large tile production capacity relative to demand, thus it provides an excellent opportunity for GBC. In 2005, 81% of the tile consumed in the USA was imported. Other notable features and characteristics of the US tile market include:
- The US ceramic tile market consumed approximately 3.3 billion square feet in 2005 (prior to the current recession);
- The US tile market was growing at an average rate of 10% from 1994 - 2004 and 8% from 2000 - 2005. Historically, this rate has been quoted as 6%;
- Imports dominate over domestic production (77% in 2002, 79% in 2003, 79% in 2004, 81% in 2005);
- California is the largest single US regional market representing 21% of national sales in 2004;
- Western states including California, Nevada and Arizona represent 30% of the US consumption;
- There are no major ceramic tile producers in the western US (west of the Mississippi);
- The impact of domestic transportation costs is becoming increasingly significant due to rising fuel prices;
- Stone tile is becoming a popular product in the US market;
- Porcelain tile is becoming the dominant product in the US market; and
- The importance of "green" products is growing rapidly, especially in California and the western states.
This information is mainly drawn from US Department of Commerce industry statistics for 2004 or 2005. Historically over the last decade the tile market has increased on average about 6% to 8% per year. While there is no doubt that the market has decreased in the current economic downturn, the green product market continues to grow and is being legislated into existence.
GBC has been unable to identify any other manufacturers who produce 100% recycled content tile.
GBC FUTURE PLANS
Emgold initially established GBC to dispose of metal mines tailings for the Idaho-Maryland Project in Grass Valley, CA. Emgold found that GBC could work successfully with many types of feedstock, including fines from aggregate quarries, fly ash from coal fired power plants, metal mine tailings, and other mineral wastes. Emgold believes that GBC's manufacturing techniques can be applied to a variety of industries, not just metal mining, to reduce (and in some cases eliminate) the need to dispose of mineral wastes in landfills.
In addition, Emgold believes that GBC's products have the potential to revolutionize the ceramic floor tile, stone floor tile, and roof tile industries. Numerous new products may be developed once GBC is in operation and can afford additional research and development. Quarries associated with producing feedstock for ceramic tile (e.g. kaolin clay) and stone tile (e.g. granite quarry) can be eliminated or reduced. Plants can be constructed at their market, with feedstock readily available in the same area. The need to transporting feedstock and materials long distances at significant cost (and green-house gas emissions) can be minimized. In addition, the energy used to produce the tile can be decreased significantly from convention products because the mining and processing to produce the feedstock has been done by another industry. Reduction in energy, transportation, distribution and feedstock costs give GBC building products potentially a major economic advantage compared to traditional tile products.
Emgold believes GBC has potential to become a global green building products manufacturer. Emgold believes GBC needs independent financing and independent management to allow GBC to pursue growth both nationally and globally in its own industry sector. Emgold is therefore seeking financial investment into GBC to allow it to separate from Emgold, build GBC's first commercial plant, and expand GBC to realize its true potential on a global basis.
For more information on GBC please visit goldenbearceramics.com