Quarrying & Mining Magazine

Reducing dependence on fixed plant

Blackhead now operates the largest fleet of Metso mobile crushing and screening equipment in the country as it changes its production strategy. Edited by ALAN TITCHALL.

IN JULY LAST year Mimico supplied Blackhead Quarries with a Metso Lokotrack LT106 mobile jaw crusher along with an LT200HP mobile cone crusher and an ST3.5 mobile screen for its Balclutha quarry.

An additional ST3.5 and an LT7150 mobile Barmac VSI (impact) crusher were supplied a few months later.

The quarry operator says that, at a time of increasing infrastructure expenditure in the Otago region, being able to produce large quantities of quality aggregate in a more flexible way allows the company to respond to market fluctuations, which is important for sustaining future business.

The company also deploys some of its Lokotrack mobile crushers and screens in contract crushing operations around the Dunedin area and is now looking to purchase another LT106 for a new job that will deliver half a million tonnes of aggregate for a major road building project.

Set up in 1986, Blackhead Quarries is a joint venture between Palmer & Son (founded in 1880) and Fulton Hogan and operates a number of quarries in the region surrounding Dunedin.

The Balclutha Quarry, located about 80 kilometres south-west of Dunedin, is the largest producer of aggregates in the South Otago area and supplies around 30 different products.

The operation mostly produces road and construction materials as well as manufactured sand. A significant part of the quarry’s production also feeds the concrete plant next door. Demand tends to be seasonal – the Clutha district council, for example, has an annual road sealing season, and there are periodic maintenance gravel contracts.

Until recently, Balclutha operated an aging fixed crushing plant that required material to be transported up to five kilometres from its primary source to the facility.

Mimico’s Garth Taylor discusses mobile Barmac set-up with quarry manager Craig Upston at Balclutha quarry.

Craig Upston, quarry manager at the Balclutha quarry, is an industry veteran and, having been with the company for 25 years, is a third-generation employee.

“The shape of the product is critical for our customers – if we don’t get it right it will be rejected,” he says, and moving from fixed to mobile plant was a matter of future-proofing the quarry, he iterates.

“We were planning to replace our older Barmac with a new one, and because the market for Balclutha’s product has a lot of ups and downs, being able to move the crusher around to different sites creates better business flexibility.”

The quarry was originally opened some distance from the town of Balclutha, but with the growth of the town bringing suburbia closer to the quarry, the issue of dust has become more of a problem.

By eliminating the fixed plant that was close to the road and moving to tracked crushers, quarry staff can choose where crushing occurs, says Upston. And the reduction of truck movement and decommissioning of the fixed plant has made it much easier for the company to manage dust.

It was Upston who first proposed putting a new Barmac on tracks and then, in five years’ time, adding a tracked cone and jaw crusher. As it turns out, the company’s management loved the idea and acquired all three Lokotrack versions in the same year.

“We already had a lot of Metso gear and had a great run with the crushers, so it made sense to keep on dealing with the same company,” he says.

The move to tracked equipment was also driven by the need to quarry without access to electricity. Additionally, if the quarry had to relocate, it would be easy to move the equipment elsewhere.

“If you bolt it to the ground there is no flexibility,” says Upston.

“All the mobile plant is self-powered. We don’t have any three-phase power at the new quarry face, so mobile, diesel-powered crushing and screening is the only way to go.”

Tony Hunter, general manager of Blackhead Quarries, is a fifth-generation descendant of one of the company’s original founders.

About staff in the end

Tony Hunter, general manager of Blackhead Quarries, is a
fifth-generation descendant of one of the company’s original founders, and now has overall operational responsibility for all of the company’s quarries.

Technology aside, Hunter sees his people as the company’s
greatest asset.

“There are all those buzzwords people use like safety, productivity and profitability, but it all comes down to people,” he says.

“We have a 25-year club here, comprising more than a quarter of our staff, which means a lot of experience.”

The business is like a big family that has existed for five generations, he adds.

“It’s an inter-generational thing we have here, and as much as we get covered in dirt and dust, it’s a lot of fun and a very good life.”

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