Quarrying & Mining Magazine

Need technical help? Call Mike

Mike Chilton regards himself as the Technical Help Desk for AQA members; and he’s wanting you to use him more.

After completing a mining engineering degree in home-town Sydney, Mike has added 18 years working in the NZ quarry sector including seven years as the AQA’s Technical Adviser. He’s helped dozens of members in that time, most of them via a phone call.

“Some of them are just five-minute things, where people just need a copy of a paper or a spec. Some things take a bit longer, if I need to look something up or research something myself.

“For example, I had a call asking about the steel thickness required for FOPS on a digger working under a 30 metre face – I had to look that one up. Or a ban on aggregates from a particular North Island region for a council roading job, that required deeper investigation to understand what was happening.

“Some of the inquiries are asking where they can find a particular rock type, or production data for their resource consent application. I’ve been asked about material for rip rap and the usual concrete and asphalt aggregates as well as enhanced rock weathering, thermal sand and kitty litter.”

One recent example, says Mike, was Seay Earthmoving in Taupo wanting advice on where to find remotely powered dust monitoring equipment. Mike was able to put him in touch with a supplier.

A Northland quarry wanted to prove to the local council it had been operating long enough to have existing use rights. Mike was able to get copies of the old aerial photos to prove when it had started.

“There are all sorts of inquiries, some I’ve had before, some not. I love the variety and being able to help our members when they need it.”

Issues with resource consents make up a lot of his inquiries involving more time.

“The vast majority of our members are well-prepared and put a lot of time into their resource consents,” says Mike. Often though, issues come up at hearings which see a quarry operator needing some advice.

He will sometimes spend up to about half a day helping AQA members remotely or out on site but that’s about the point where it becomes clear, the company needs more than the AQA itself can provide.

“A lot of the inquiries are: ‘Who can I talk to about this issue’? For example, a quarry valuer in the Coromandel, a geotech engineer in Hawke’s Bay, a resource consent planner in Bay of Plenty, the list goes on.”

Mike has a list of quarry consultants to which he can refer companies. He also sometimes provides advice himself through his own consultancy Aggretech. Mike only works part-time with AQA and that also includes working with the AQA Technical Committee and agencies including Waka Kotahi and reporting to the AQA Board.

He’s based in Palmerston North, so his own consultancy work – largely around quarry site design, consents and technical improvements – is mostly to quarries in the North Island.

Mike says he is managing about one specific AQA-only inquiry a month at present and says his contracted hours could see him handle one a week, particularly the sorts of issues he gets from small quarry operators.

“The reality is more often it’s the smaller members asking for help. It’s usually not a new issue, just new to the operator.”

Mike also gets people interested in joining the industry.

“I get a few enquiries each year from people who want to start a quarry or have purchased or even inherited a quarry and are not AQA members yet.”

He’s learned to spot the tyre-kickers while choosing to assist people he believes genuinely want to enter quarrying and join the AQA as well.

“I figure anything that can progress the quarry industry and the AQA, it’s worth helping.”

There are also a lot of calls from people who are approaching their oral exams for Certificates of Competence.

“Usually, it’s first timers who are scared about this part of getting their ticket. I can point them in the right direction and share resources they might not have found themselves.”

He can provide some advice as he holds an A Grade CoC but the AQA, through their involvement with MinEx, can provide mentors from time to time to assist people coming up through industry ranks.

If you think you would benefit from some mentoring and haven’t found one, contact AQA CEO Wayne Scott. wayne@aqa.org.nz; 021 944 336.

If you need help with a technical issue, Mike Chilton can be contacted at tech@aqa.org.nz, or 021 594 225.

Caption. Need technical help? Mike’s your man.

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