Road Transport

Home starts wherever the quarry is

In March, I attended ConExpo-ConAgg in Las Vegas, an extravagant city that itself defies belief. I?ll report on the trade show next month but it was certainly an experience ? almost a million net square metres of exhibit space, featuring 2400 exhibitors and over 120,000 industry professionals from over 150 countries over five days. It was a challenge attending appointments on one side of the show and then having to be at the opposite end five minutes later for another! I certainly did my share of walking and had the blisters to prove it! (I know, I know, for many of you quarry stalwarts, blisters are par for the course ? and I?m just being a wussy editor!)
Las Vegas is an interesting location for ConExpo, with its eclectic, exaggerated take on ? well, everything (especially other cultural icons, eg the Coliseum, the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, Venice?s canals and some of New York?s landmarks). The rationale is that a desert location ensures ConExpo is not impacted by wet weather. And certainly visitors can?t be bored by a city with the endless legion of casinos, watering holes and attractions that Vegas has spawned. What surprised me most was the plots of old, vacant industrial sites around the city waiting to be redeveloped. The city?s growth (and therefore hunger for aggregate) continues unabated.
No matter where I went in the US I couldn?t fail to be reminded of the importance of quarrying. Indeed, I recalled an anecdote from Elaine Bartley, the wife of Bryan Bartley, the co-creator of the Barmac VSI. She accompanied her husband to the UK when he was required to assist several of his British customers with the set up of the Barmac on their processing sites. Elaine, excited by the prospect of visiting many of the UK?s historic buildings, churches and cathedrals, was dismayed when all she saw were lots of quarries. Bryan patiently explained to her that she was effectively seeing historic buildings and monuments ? or at least the aggregate that would go into building them!
For me, my excursion to the US was essentially Mrs Bartley?s trip in reverse. The magnificent monuments and structures I saw – the Hoover Dam, the Empire State Building, the Rockefeller Plaza, the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, the new World Trade Centre site – are all end products of the quarry industry?s endeavours. One can only imagine the sum tonnes of aggregate that comprise the concrete jungle that is Manhattan today. The construction of the Empire State and Rockefeller buildings were no doubt pivotal in keeping many New York quarries open in the Depression era. Even a trip up the East River took me close to the Brooklyn Navy Yard depot of the New York Sand & Stone Company, which operates several stone quarries throughout the US.
It just goes to show that no matter how far you roam, ?home? starts wherever the quarry is. The end results are there for all to see. Las Vegas and New York reinforced for me how fundamental quarrying is to the foundations of our society. The question is: What should the industry do to reinforce that understanding amongst the punters, young and old? If we can provoke that thinking amongst Mr and Mrs Public, it may unlock the secrets to the challenges facing the industry, not least in recruiting skilled labour and encouraging good corporate citizenship.

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