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Lee Valley Quarry revisited

Lee River quarry

Pictured above: The newly commissioned McCloskey crusher in action at the Lee Valley Quarry face was keeping a CAT loader and Moxy very busy.

The Lee Valley Quarry near Nelson is the largest quarry owned and operated by Taylors Contracting. Richard Silcock called in to update our last visit to the quarry two years ago.

Family owned Taylors Contracting operates a number of quarries in the South Island, the biggest and the oldest being up the Lee River Valley, south-east of Brightwater in the Nelson district.
Both greywacke and limestone is extracted from a deep seam that runs roughly east-west across this 300-metre wide, south facing quarry. Taylors has owned and operated this quarry for the past 14 years (1).
The greywacke extracted is crushed and used for road construction, road maintenance, in subdivisions and by the construction and local forestry industries, while the limestone is extracted as boulders that are used for river and coastal protection.
Most of the greywacke is crushed to MP40 NZTA specification, while the limestone, which is quite hard, has a specific gravity of 2.6.
The quarry covers around 13 hectares and the actual face is over 90 metres high and is benched at 15-metre intervals.
When I visited in August, several large excavators and loaders had been clearing the base of recently blasted rock and loading it into mobile Terex Findlay jaw and cone crushers and a screening unit, processing around 1500 tonnes of product per day.
“We opted for Terex because it met our requirements and we get good service from the supplier who also carries a good supply of spares,” says Neil McKay, the quarry manager for Taylors.
“TransDiesel has been pretty good to deal with and we’ve established a long and trusting relationship with them through its supply of Volvo dumpers.
“When we are working higher up the face we use the dumpers to transport the rock to the crushers at the base and then onto the stockpiles near the road.”
Due to demand the quarry had recently acquired a new drilling machine and a new crusher.
“That crusher is only several days old,” says Neil pointing to a McCloskey, “It’s a work in progress learning its idiosyncrasies!”

View from across the Lee River valley.

CablePrice was the supplier of the new McCloskey and Taylors also has a long working relationship with the supplier who also supplied Hitachi excavators for the quarry.
“We carry out all our own drilling and rock blasting work and, over the years, we have pretty much pioneered our own technique of extracting the larger rock, which often weighs in excess of five to six tonnes.
“Blasting using prime explosive is usually done once a week, with the rock excavated by a 30-tonne Hitachi excavator.”
There is no weighbridge at the quarry as all extracted material is weighed by a Loadrite in the loaders, the exception being the larger rock that is trucked to a local weighbridge.
In the Nelson area Taylors also operates two other quarries, one in Takaka, Golden Bay and the other near Tadmor, on the Sherry River.
The Takaka quarry is known as the ‘Number Two’ quarry and is operational, under its current resource consent, for extracting marble for the Tasman District Council’s Rivers Maintenance Contract.
The recently-acquired Sherry River Quarry extracts limestone rock, which is crushed for roading material and river rock protection.
“We move our operation around quite a bit depending upon the time of the year and the demand for the type of aggregate, so we need to have portable equipment,” says Neil.
“That’s why all our crushers are mobile and able to be transported to our various sites.”
The Lee Valley operation is now pretty much an all year round operation, whereas the Takaka quarry is only operational for three or four months over the summer period.
“We’ve got a good team of nine full-time employees in our Quarry Division and they move around as the work dictates. Over summer almost half the team work at Takaka while others do river work, but we retain a skeleton crew to carry on extracting and crushing at Lee Valley.”
Taylors is also heavily involved in the new Waimea Community Dam that is being built on a branch of the Lee River.
This significant project, which is being constructed in a joint venture with Fulton Hogan, will see a 53-metre high, 220-metre long, concrete faced and rock filled dam built to store water for residential and agricultural use across the broad Waimea Plain.
Over 430,000 cubic metres of rock will be required for this dam that, when completed, will store up to 13.4 million cubic-metres of water.
A stock pile of uncrushed limestone.

“We will be supplying all the aggregate and carrying out the blasting and drilling work for this three-year project that started back in March this year,” explains Neil.
He says that in all the years he has been involved with quarrying he’s seen a number of differing issues facing the industry(2).
“These days it is urban growth that is pushing quarries further out and away from built-up areas.
“That is having a knock-on effect and driving the cost for aggregate up, due to the transportation cost.
“People don’t want a quarry next to them in a suburban environment, but as more housing developments are built they creep closer and closer to the long-established quarries.
“Another big issue is the availability of good rock. Most of the rock, due to the amount of seismic activity over many thousands of years, is fractured in this country.
“This in turn is making it difficult to meet the new standards specified by the Transport Agency for road aggregate.
“These things are bringing further constraints to this industry, so it is important that, through the likes of AQA, we lobby government so that they better understand our issues and needs.”
Taylors is Telarc registered for health and safety and environmental control allowing them to independently monitor and assess its own compliance with regulations.
The company is also the recipient of the 2019 Civil Contractors Nelson-Marlborough Environmental Award and the Top-of-the-South Forestry Environmental Award.


FOOTNOTES:

1. The Lee Valley Quarry was set up prior to WW2 to extract limestone for cement making and has been owned and operated by a number of owners since. Taylors Contracting has owned it since 2005.
2. Neil has worked in the quarry extraction industry all his working life. He is a qualified A-grade quarry manager and also manages all the blasting work at the quarry. He has worked for Taylors for the past 12 years.

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