Q&M talks with quarry manager Richie Sutherland who only started in the industry six years ago and has progressed into the role of operations manager for one of the HWR group of companies in Southland.
Are you a Southland ‘local’?
I’m a local to Invercargill; I was born down here and, apart from a couple of stints in Australia, it has always been home. I went to James Hargest High School in Invercargill and at the end of 2020 I got married to Christene.
In 2015 You started with International Specialty Aggregates (ISA), which has been operating in Southland since 2002.
It more happened out of luck than anything else; my Mother Pauline was the ISA General Manager at the time and I suppose that always helps. I was moving back home after a few years in Sydney and there happened to be someone that was finishing up with ISA just as I was looking for a job, so I started stacking 20kg bags of pebble there.
You hold a New Zealand National Certificate in Extractive Industries (Mining Administration Surface Extraction B Grade) Level 5.
I achieved this in early 2020, most of my classes were held up in Dunedin. It was a great way to learn about other quarries and network with other members of the industry.
You are currently studying towards an A Grade COC. How is this going and how tough is it?
This has been going well, I knocked off most of the papers in 2022, with only two left to sit. The toughest part was the ‘explosives’ side, I’ve never had anything to do with it, so it was definitely the challenging one, but great to learn more about the other parts of the industry.
You work with a unique aggregate exported to the swimming pool industry. What makes the handling of this material any different from, says limestone?
We have an alluvial quarry with a high clay and silt presence in our raw material, so we are extremely dictated by weather as operating conditions become unsafe very quickly.
Our stone is Quartz which is very hard so therefore hard on gear, and with our required end specification being such a fine pebble we definitely put wear parts to the test.
What worksite activities and duties do you currently perform?
I would like to think it the same as any other quarry manager reading this and ‘steering’ the ship. We have two extractive sites and one processing site, so I oversee the operations on these. Liaising with contractors, meeting export deadlines, quality control, Health and Safety training and compliance with staff, future planning and development.
You were involved in a very impressive YouTube clip with Equip2 – what was that about?
Roped into it I think. It was after ISA purchased a MWS Wash Screen off Equip2 a couple of years back. They do a profile on quarries for their quarterly magazine so their marketing team was told “you’re going to ISA, take sunglasses”. The YouTube clip has proved to be a great way for people to actually find out about us and more importantly what we do, as we are an exporter and sort of off the map.
Are there any jobs you particularly like and dislike doing?
I enjoy analysing production data to tune and dial in plants, making sure that we’re getting peak performance out of our machinery. We crush down to a 1-2mm pebble, so it is very easy to get things wrong and turn that product into sand. There’s nothing really on the dislike side, all jobs in this industry are just part of the quarrying package.
We understand you are extremely passionate about ‘product quality’?
Our product is very highly regarded in the swimming pool sector. I attended the Gold Coast Pool Show in 2022 and was lucky to talk to and hear this from the pool builders themselves. If you’re not passionate about what you do, then you’re never going to achieve the high standards required.
Our quality control begins at the extraction face, is monitored through the three processing plants that have been analysed and tuned for our customers specific requirements. We are even down to the point of having a 30 gram tolerance in a 20kg bag of pebble.
When did you become Associate of the New Zealand Institute
I believe I became an associate in 2017 and then upgraded to a member in 2021. I am probably not as active as I could be, but it is definitely something I want to get more involved in when the time is right.
What do you think this industry offers that others maybe don’t?
Everyone as a kid spent time in a sand pit; now we get paid to do it. It’s a big kids’ playground. Digging holes and shifting Earth just has a certain appeal to it. It’s a fantastic industry with some great characters in it.
We all have our little part of the industry, and we all compete with each other to make ends meet, but there’s not too many people in this industry that wouldn’t offer advice or guidance to a fellow quarryman when it’s required.
Where would you like to end up within the industry in 10 years time?
I’m lucky enough to have a lot of opportunity in front of me within the HWR Group. Exactly what that looks like will be found out in due course.
I’d definitely like to be more involved with the IOQ at some stage and in some capacity. I enjoy guiding and mentoring some of our younger employees, trying to fully engage them in the industry and all that it has to offer so continuing along that line.
I need to get a better understanding of the ‘hard rock’ side game as I’ve only been involved with alluvial operation so maybe exposure to other operations. The Board of Examiners is on the to do list. And the pipe dream one is to sell more of our sand to golf courses and ultimately play more golf!
We hear you are keen on the golf course and football field?
I have always been heavily involved in sport; I find it’s a great way to unwind from the day job and spend time with mates. With my football I’m old and broken enough now to be going down the grades and being a bit more social about it.
With Golf, on the other hand, I enjoy the mental challenge of the game, provided the ball goes where its meant to. A ‘scratch handicap’ by the end of the year is the target there. Q&M