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Proposals invited for council quarry

Blakebrook Quarry, located northwest of Lismore in New South Wales, has been the site of extractive activities since 1979. The operation – along with Tuckombil Quarry in Alstonville – is part of Lismore City Council’s Northern Rivers Quarry and Asphalt business unit, which supplies products including aggregates, roadbase, metal dust, fill material and drainage rock to local markets.

According to the council, the quarry has an estimated basalt resource of 13.6 million tonnes, approval to extract at a rate of 600,000 tonnes per annum until 2039 and an annual turnover of around $12 million.

Lismore City Council commercial services manager Phil Klepzig said that while Blakebrook Quarry was a profitable business, the council was currently undertaking a review of all of its commercial assets in a bid to improve returns and reduce risk. As part of that, the council last week initiated an expressions of interest (EOI) process to investigate alternative options for the quarry’s operation.

“This is part of a greater push for Lismore City Council to become financially sustainable,” he stated. “We need to look at all our operations and see where we can save money and improve efficiency.”

Asphalt review

Klepzig noted that the quarry’s ageing asphalt plant had been a key driver in the council’s decision to issue the call for EOIs.

Last year, it was reported that Lismore City Council had been hit with a $300,000 road resurfacing bill after asphalt product supplied by Blakebrook Quarry was found to be defective. Klepzig later told Quarry that the asphalt plant’s age had likely been a major factor in the product’s inconsistencies.

At the time, the council had been using a mobile asphalt plant that it had leased in the 1980s and purchased in 2000. In a recent statement, the council acknowledged that that plant was “no longer viable”, adding that it was now using a plant it had leased until August this year.

Klepzig explained that before committing to any large capital expenditure for new plant, the council wanted to “put all options on the table” – which potentially included dropping the asphalt operation.

“Around 30 per cent of our business depends on the asphalt plant,” he said. “[Blakebrook Quarry] could continue to operate without the asphalt plant … but profitability would be affected.”

Klepzig said replacement of the plant remained a possibility. Specifications from the council’s tender document indicated that the plant would need to have an operating capacity of 80 tonnes per hour with warm mix capability, and that other equipment – including cold feed and reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) bins, a 15 to 20-tonne filler silo, bitumen tanks, a pugmill mixer and a drum dryer – would also be required.

“[We] need to determine future action, which could include a range of options from not having an asphalt operation through to purchase of a new plant, with a multitude of options in between, including ongoing arrangements with other parties,” Klepzig said.

“Proposals could range from the purchase of more efficient machinery right through to sale of the business … This EOI process is essentially a fishing exercise to see what interest is out there and what ideas people can come up with.”

Lismore City Council will hold an optional pre-tender site inspection this Wednesday, 10 February. The EOI period closes on 2 March, 2016.

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