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Stepping up into extraction

Stepping up into extraction - grant
Quarry owners Grant (left) and brother Aaron Andrews.

Grant and Aaron Andrews are a couple of young brothers that have been thrust earlier than planned into the role of quarry owners. Mary Searle Bell explains.

It’s a long story, but the short version is that, years ago, brothers Grant and Aaron Andrews did some work for Mike and Sue Earl, who had an earthmoving business and a quarry in Waikari, North Canterbury.

The Earls started contracting some 20 years ago in the agricultural and silage markets, moved into earthmoving and opened a ‘rotten rock’ quarry to supply dairy farming clients with track rock for dairy lanes, plus they had a consent to extract shingle from their nearby river.

Meanwhile, the Andrews brothers had always had a hankering for big diggers and other large machines as school boys growing up on a dairy farm. After leaving school they clocked up some serious hours behind the controls of an excavator in the Reefton mines on the West Coast, stripping overburden and extracting coal.

Later, Aaron did earthmoving work for Mike. The pair got on and worked together well. 

Subsequently, Mike had been talking to Aaron and Grant about them taking over the digger side of his business so he could focus on the quarries. The brothers were keen, but were also due to head off to the USA for a season of harvesting grain.

The US harvest was something Aaron had done several times prior – the long hours driving the massive harvesters was fun, he says, and brought in good money.

His brother Grant joined him on this occasion. They were in their mid-20s when they flew to the States with plans to come home and set up their own business. But five months into their eight-month trip, they got the sad news that Mike was involved in a fatal accident. 

They flew home and helped Sue run the business for a year, before she offered them the opportunity to buy into the business. Together, they formed a new company, named AGS Earthmoving – the AGS stands for Aaron, Grant, and Sue.

Six years on, Sue still runs the office and does all the administration work for the company, while Aaron runs the earthworks side of the business, and Grant looks after the quarry operations.

Aaron’s work has seen his team working on the Amuri Irrigation Company’s water scheme upgrade, screening, trenching and doing rehab work.

“We also helped out HEB/NCTIR following the Kaikoura earthquakes. It was a bit of a mission to get there as we had to go the long way over the Lewis Pass, through Murchison and Blenheim and then back down to Kaikoura,” he says.

“We sent four good guys up there for about 14 months in total. We started at Hawkeswood, about 30 kilometres south of Kaikoura, and went right round to Ward doing earthworks, loading dump trucks of shingle, doing pit runs for roads, and on-site works as well.”

Stepping up into extraction

Quarry expansion

In the quarry side of the business, Grant soon earned his B Grade quarry operator qualification.

When AGS formed they continued the consenting process that Mike had begun for a new lime quarry, which Grant now manages along with the original red rock quarry. 

The original quarry is on a 30 hectare piece of land to the east of the company yard in Waikari, 70 kilometres north of Christchurch, while the new lime quarry is on a farm to the northeast.

They have the royalty over the lime quarry and say the farmer is happy for them to make the quarry as big as they want to make it.  They now supply 70,000 cubic metres of material each year all over Canterbury.

“The lime is soft,” says Grant, “which makes it dissolvable on farmland and of high quality. Mind you, it also makes it difficult to crush, and requires fine tuning at the crusher.”

They supply lime and rock, and lay it if required, for farm tracks and agriculture, from North Canterbury to Ashburton to Kaikoura, and all the way across to the West Coast. 

“We recently did a big job for the council’s sea protection wall which took about 6000 tonnes of 500-1200mm rocks,” says Grant.

In addition, they also contract a team to crush shingle out of a nearby river. This is stockpiled and either used for driveways, roading projects and on building sites or sold to the public and other contractors.

Gear-wise, they have a 50 tonne crusher that they ship between the two quarries on a new transporter trailer, and two McCosley screens.  Since they’ve been in business together, they have purchased several new Komatsu machines to add to the fleet they acquired with the business.

Staff numbers are up too, with seven guys now working in the earthmoving business and another three in the quarries.

“We’ve grown over the past six years – we have new clients and more work from existing clients,” says Grant.

As newcomers, being able to embrace a challenge and unafraid of hard work has paid off for the brothers who have taken, like ducks to water, to the hard work and demanding long hours of these industries.

“And, we’re planning on continuing to grow in the coming years,” he adds.

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