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A seachange for IQA conference

The green, serene hinterland of the Hunter Valley was home to this year?s IQA annual conference, quite a seachange from the venues of recent years, including the Gold Coast, Perth and Sydney.

Around 320 delegates attended the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley for four days of discourse, debate and new insights. Nearly 90 per cent of the delegates were from the eastern seaboard of Australia (New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland), with smaller numbers journeying from Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania. There were also overseas guests from the USA, Sweden, Malaysia and New Zealand.

Devised by the IQA?s NSW branch and its Hunter sub-branch, the conference program carried the theme of ?Tomorrow?s resources today? and explored the future challenges for quarry men and women as the quarrying industry itself adapts to an ever-changing society. Sustainability and environmental management, local community engagement and communication, recruitment, retention and workforce development, and education were all a major focus of the first day and a half of plenary sessions. For the first time, the IQA conference also introduced a ?Super Saturday? program that focused on more quarrying-specific topics such as the integration of technology into quarrying operations, improved drill and blast philosophies and management, processing innovations and new developments in plant and equipment.

The conference was well supported by industry suppliers, including Caterpillar, Hitachi and Komatsu (platinum sponsors), Volvo/CJD Equipment (registration sponsor), Orica Quarry Services (partner program sponsor) and Hyundai (golf day sponsor). Another 38 suppliers contributed to the trade exhibition.

The conference commenced on the evening of 12 October, with the Hitachi sponsored welcome function on the Plaza?s Pergola. The delegates mingled and were treated to finger food and noodle boxes whilst being entertained by stunt performers White Fire who eschewed conventional fire safety!

The next morning delegates assembled in the Plaza?s Semillon Ballroom for the opening ceremony which included a performance by the Hunter/Central Coast Wind Ensemble, comprising talented teenage musicians. Alison Davey, the Mayor of Cessnock, officially launched the conference, remarking that quarries have been essential to providing road infrastructure for the Hunter Valley wine region in recent years. This is particularly important for a region whose mining industry closed in the early 1960s and which today relies heavily on tourism.

Mark Campbell, the CEO of Holcim Australia, gave the opening day?s keynote presentation. In tune with the conference?s theme of ?Tomorrow?s resources today?, he discussed the challenges facing the quarrying and extractive industries in a time of rapid change, both locally and globally. In addition to the newly passed carbon tax legislation, and the Fair Work Act, he said the industry was also having to come to terms with the rapid changes to environmental and planning legislation by State and local governments. He stated that as more local communities become more activist, so quarries will need to act early and proactively to ensure valuable stakeholder engagement and trust.

Campbell also discussed Holcim?s longstanding commitment to safety, particularly in safe behaviour, serious injury and fatality prevention and health and wellness programs. And he reiterated Holcim?s triple bottom line on sustainable development, which has traditionally embraced the notions of ?People, Planet, Profit?.

?It?s all about finding the balanced approach to business,? he said. ?We need to focus on the inputs and the drivers, not just the outputs.? He added the industry would not prosper/profit until it could achieve this balanced approach to sustainability.

The other plenary sessions on the second day featured some excellent speakers. Professor Bill Mitchell, the director of the Centre for Full Employment and Equity at the University of Newcastle, provided delegates with an outspoken but fascinating overview of the global economy in the last 30 years and how the ?neoliberal? practices of that era led to the Global Financial Crisis in 2008. He was not afraid to argue that the private sector had proven it could not self-regulate and that fundamental financial reform is required ? in effect the re-regulation of the private sector economy. He also argued that governments will have to commit to more stimulus spending in order to ?de-leverage? their economies. He said one of the reasons the world economy is so sluggish now is that governments withdrew their stimulus spending too early and did not allow their economies sufficient time to recover from the GFC.

The afternoon plenary sessions opened with a presentation by Dallas Wilkinson, the vice president of Orica?s Operation CISMAC. Wilkinson provided a fascinating perspective of how extractive operations, including those of Orica, operate overseas, particularly in second and third world countries.

Chris Harrison, group general manager of Engineering Technology Services at the NSW Road Transport Authority (RTA), discussed the RTA?s continued commitment to road infrastructure and its maintenance program, which comprises repaving (incorporating quarry products) and funding to cover damage from natural disasters. He also provided an update of progress on the redevelopment of the Pacific Highway, a joint NSW/Federal funded program which will provide a dual carriageway between Hexham and Tweed Heads between now and 2016.

The final plenary session (and perhaps the most informative and entertaining) for the second day focused on future resource and sustainability issues, improved community engagement and recruitment/retention of staff. David Cilento, the outgoing IQA President and Metromix general manager, Geoff West, general manager of Rocla Quarry Products, and Leanne Parker, the manager of people development at Hanson, each described their interpretations of what the quarrying and extractive industries will need to do to be sustainable into the future.

After such an impressive final session, let alone an action-packed day of presentations and discussions, delegates could have been forgiven for retiring to the bar. But instead they dressed in their finery for the Komatsu Off-Site Dinner at the nearby Lindeman?s Winery. This closed off an excellent second day?s proceedings with an evening of fine wines, excellent meals and music and entertainment by the Super Supremes. It was the perfect tonic for delegates to cool their heels before returning to the plenary program on days three and four.

The plenary session on Friday morning opened with an entertaining presentation by brand guru Dan Gregory, the creative director of SMART and CEO of The Impossible Institute (Dan is familiar to most people as a panellist on ABC TV?s popular The Gruen Transfer). Dan talked the audience through the inherent challenges of selling one?s messages and products to an increasingly cynical, resistant, information-overloaded and more technologically savvy public, citing some creative campaigns he had developed for clients including the Apple & Pear Association, Nando?s Chicken and Mother energy drink that aimed to change customer perceptions about brands. Dan remarked that because fashion today assumes more importance than function, people have become disengaged from bricks and mortar and blue collar industries like quarrying. He added that people also commonly confuse quarrying with mining, little realising that 80 to 100 per cent of the aggregate that is extracted from a quarry goes back into the community, often within 100km of the quarry. Dan recommended that for the quarry industry to reverse this public perception, it will need to develop a ?righteous stand? at both the macro and micro levels that emphasise the good work that quarries do for communities. He also suggested quarries should make contributions back to their local communities (eg donating to the local school or sports club, hosting open days) to earn a community?s trust and create greater acceptance of the quarry?s function within a community. He also added that creating this kind of engagement could also in time have positive outcomes for the local recruitment of workers.

James Marshall, of Hunter Valley consulting firm Lantz Marshall, followed Dan?s presentation and talked in greater detail about the practical applications of community consultation and engagement.

The second half of the Friday morning was dedicated to concurrent technical sessions. The first session focused on quarry management, planning and the environment. Paul Mitchell, the director of EMGA Mitchell McLannan, discussed the challenges for quarries in obtaining faster processing of development applications, while senior geologist Simon Francis of the NSW Department of Trade and Investment (Resources and Energy division) outlined where rock reserves are now and will be in the future. Rob Corkery, principal of RW Corkery & Co Pty Limited, also advised quarry managers about how they could best implement environmental management in their operations.

The other plenary session was dedicated to human resources management. Tony Ingram, the manager of Boral?s Peppertree Quarry, provided an overview of the myths and legends surrounding older and mature workers and the greater skills shortage. OHS management consultant Susan Fields advised quarry operations of the factors they need to consider in promoting health and safety for ageing workers, while Leanne Parker followed on from her presentation the day before to outline how Hanson manages its ageing workforce/human resources strategy.

Following lunch, delegates broke for the afternoon to either enjoy a round of golf or view Boral?s Seaham hard rock quarry. The Hyundai-sponsored golf tournament saw 34 delegates participate on the Crowne Plaza golf course. In the team handicap, the perpetual trophy was won by Martin Tucker (Orica) and Wayne Kelly (Hanson), while Adam Betterman (Boral) and Tom Ross (Atlas Copco) were runners up. Individual awards were also presented by Hyundai, Komatsu, Locker Group and Atlas Copco.

While the golfers demonstrated their prowess on the course, 57 delegates journeyed out to Boral?s Seaham Quarry, which was first commissioned in 1992, and has sufficient reserves for up to 30 more years. Its high quality aggregate derives from rhyolite and a hard durable volcanic rock known as ignimbrite. The quarry?s annual throughput is 750,000 tonnes per annum and its product is currently being employed in a range of projects, including the Westrac facility in Newcastle, the Bulahdelah Bypass and coal terminal work at Newcastle Port.

Delegates reconvened at the resort on the evening of 14 October for the conference?s annual black tie Caterpillar Dinner. The dinner once again was host to numerous industry sponsored and IQA awards. The Caterpillar Award, made in recognition of an individual?s application of best practice in an extractive industries operation, was presented to Hamish Beattie of Fulton Hogan in Victoria, while the Rocktec Innovation Award, which recognises the excellence and innovation of a person in the industry, was received by David Bedward of Hanson. The Bradken Gold Hard Hat Award, which recognises innovation in OHS management, was presented to TG Jung Quarries, based in Coffs Harbour.

The Caterpillar Dinner also marked the transfer of Presidential responsibilities from David Cilento, IQA President for the last two years, to his successor Wayne Scott, and the exchange of the chains of that office.

The final day of the conference, 15 October ? ?Super Saturday? ? was jam packed with quarry-centric topics and presentations. Following the suppliers? breakfast, Paul Sutton, IQA general manager, opened proceedings with an overview of the IQA?s new e-learning program, which he said, far from supplanting face to face delivery of the IQA?s Professional Development Program, will support and supplement it. The new ePDP will incorporate aspects of the Institute of Quarrying UK?s education material (eg video) but the intention is to gradually ?Australianise? that material for both the Australian and New Zealand markets.

Alan Robertson, the director of Ausrocks Pty Ltd, and Carl Morandy, a mining engineer for Ausrocks, discussed the challenges of fully integrating high technology tools into the quarrying industry, while Drew Martin, principal services technical engineer for Orica Quarry Services, reported on quarry overpressure management while maintaining effective fragmentation, outlining encouraging results from trials at Boral?s Linwood Quarry, near Adelaide. His colleague Reza Ghaemi, a technical service engineer with Orica, also presented on the effects of accelerated blast timing on crusher output, conducted in trials at EB Mawson & Sons? Lake Cooper Quarry in Victoria.

Olav Kvist, the automation product line manager for Atlas Copco in Sweden, presented on GPS precision hole navigation in drilling, while John Best, the general manager of McLanahan Corporation?s aggregates division in the US, provided an overview of sand technologies in North America (see pages 18-19 this issue).

The Saturday lunchtime session saw the presentation of more industry awards. The Atlas Copco Award, which recognises the best technical paper presented at an IQA meeting, was presented to Fellow Doug Prosser for his presentation on Indigenous people as the first Australian quarry men. Two other long-running IQA members ? Rob Corkery (NSW) and Bob Jones (of Komatsu in Victoria) ? were deserved recipients of the IQA Service Award, which recognises members for their outstanding service to the IQA and the industry at large. The Ron Parrott Award, for the best exhibit in the trade exhibition, was awarded to both Atlas Copco (best large exhibit) and screen media specialist Sefar (best small exhibit).

For the afternoon sessions, delegates again broke into concurrent technical sessions. In the first technical session, Calvin Day, of Caterpillar, discussed ground engaging tools and David Hassab, general manager of SITECH Solutions, reported on real-time machine and productivity reporting. Chris Moroz, Queensland sales manager for Komatsu Australia, also reported on the introduction of the Komatsu hybrid excavator into Australia.

Other technical sessions that afternoon included presentations on sand manufacturing and processing issues by Trevor Musliah, of Bell Equipment, David Morrow, air classifiers specialist for Metso, Bruce Perry, regional specification manager of Grace Construction Products, and Andi Lusty, director of Kayasand. Other presentations on aggregate processing, lightweight aggregate products, recycled quarry products and sustainable quarrying were delivered by Steve Mellor, director of Rocktec Australia, Dr Richard Kelly, principal geotechnic engineer of Coffey Geotechnics, Ion Dumitru, Boral technical manager and Emma Benton, director of SHOES. Peter Shields, economist for Macquarie Generation, closed off the plenary sessions by discussing the likely impact of the carbon tax on the quarrying industry and related industries.

The IQA national conference concluded on Saturday evening, 15 October, with a carnival dinner, with local suppliers showcasing the best of the Hunter Valley?s food and wine. The traditional Australian Institute of Quarrying Education Foundation auction was conducted and raised $32,475. The goods put up for auction included models of plant and equipment, wines and spirits, designer handbags, jewellery, access to consulting services, service parts, fire safety kits and signed sporting memorabilia.

The night was capped off with the final presentation of industry awards. Martin Halliday, of Holcim in Victoria, was this year?s recipient of the Alex Northover Award, which recognises the best prepared portfolio of evidence submitted by a Certificate IV or Diploma student to a registered training organisation. The Volvo Travel Award, for the individual who can best demonstrate the most positive contribution to environmental care in their workplace, went to Geoff Hazell, of Hazell Bros in Tasmania.

The IQA?s 54th annual conference closed after a successful four days. The regional location for the conference – the Hunter Valley ? and the extension of the programme over four days, with the emphasis on ?Super Saturday?, were bold, but successful decisions. This model is likely to be a worthy benchmark for the Queensland and North Queensland IQA branches to follow as they begin planning for the 56th annual conference in Townsville in two years? time.?

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