The Geelong Football Club’s home stadium and modern convention centre were a grand backdrop to this year’s IQA annual conference – which highlighted the industry’s progress and people, and debated its future challenges. Damian Christie reports.
Almost 400 delegates attended the IQA’s 62nd annual conference, in Geelong, from 1 to 3 October, 2019. Most of them were from Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and New Zealand.
There were more than 40 exhibitors across 50 booths this year, offering expertise in earthmoving equipment, crushing, screening and conveying solutions, drill and blast applications, environmental, surveying and planning applications, and finance, consultancy and education.
Among these were the platinum sponsors in Caterpillar Australia, Komatsu Australia and Hitachi Construction Machinery Australia, and official partner program sponsor Orica Australia. Other sponsors included CJD Equipment, CK Prowse & Associates, Epiroc, Finlay Screening & Crushing Systems, Highway Tractors, Michelin, Liebherr Australia, Terex Jaques and Weir Minerals.
The venue for the conference was GMHBA Stadium, home of the Geelong Cats Australian Football League club. This venue, first opened in 1921, has in recent times undergone significant refurbishment by the club, the City of Geelong and the Victorian Government.
As a result, the delegates and exhibitors were spoiled by fantastic modern conference centre facilities and services.
The pre-conference activities on Tuesday, 1 October saw 105 delegates visit quarries at Boral Deer Park and Barro Point Wilson. That evening, the Hitachi welcome function was held in the Captains’ Room at GMHBA Stadium, overlooking a floodlit football oval.
The conference was opened on Wednesday, 2 October by City of Geelong Mayor Bruce Harwood. He said the Geelong region is one of the largest contributors of limestone (it is expected to account for 43 per cent of Victoria’s limestone supply to 2050) and the quarrying industry has never been more important to its economic stimulus, given the city of Geelong will in 15 to 20 years hit a population of 400,000.
In line with the Mayor’s remarks and the conference’s overall theme of “The Future of Quarrying”, the keynote speaker was one of Boral’s non-executive directors in Dr Eileen Doyle, who provided a crystal ball about where Boral – and the broader industry – stand in relation to new technologies and the advent of the “digital” quarry.
She explained that some of these ideas and thinking were based on recommendations from Boral’s Transformation Strategy Taskforce.
It comprises of 21 emerging leaders from within Boral who considered the quarry of the future to be focused on maximising the value of resources through improved productivity, waste minimisation and cost optimisation.
Dr Doyle, whose executive and non-executive experience has included the CSIRO, Bradken, OneSteel and Port Waratah Coal Services, warned that the future of quarrying is not guaranteed.
She said that even allowing for the very high standards that the industry sets itself, it will have to further evolve and innovate in line with an ongoing regulated environment, increased safety standards, unending infrastructure demand, high community expectations and the growth and competition of other sectors.
Further to these challenges, Doyle suggested the industry would have to show it has strategies to satisfy community and environmental expectations.
She said digital disruption – which is being implemented in some of Boral’s extractive operations, such as Peppertree Quarry in Marulan, New South Wales – would improve safety and environmental outcomes and reduce labour costs.
Connected technologies (eg Internet of Things), robotics and automation would make the industry more efficient and productive and enable quarries to make faster decisions and customise their processes to better service their customers.
Doyle’s advice in her closing remarks was that quarrying businesses and industry groups need to broaden their scope by embracing technology and alternative materials, in addition to lobbying for improved access to more resources.
She agreed with the suggestion that, given quarries are competing for land use in large pockets of extractive materials, there should be scope for coopetition – ie co-operation to grow the market while competing for a market share. For example, companies might share resources via super quarries.
The national outlook
BIS Oxford Economics executive chairman Robert Mellor was the other notable speaker on the first day.
He briefed delegates on the national economic outlook to 2024, advising that the industry will experience some “pain” in the next 18 months as downturns occur in the residential and engineering construction segments.
Mellor’s good news, though, was that residential construction would still be Australia’s fastest growing sector in the period 2020 to 2024, and non-residential construction will be at sustained activity levels.
Residential building starts, which are expected to dip to 160,000 per annum from 2019 to 2021, should return to 206,000 starts per year from 2022 to 2024.
Population growth will also be a major factor in non-residential building and engineering construction infrastructure because burgeoning communities will require more facilities for health, education, roads and rail.
Rail work, worth $7.5 billion per annum in 2019-20, will more than double in the next five years and road infrastructure is expected to rise by as much as 40 per cent on current stats (>$27 billion per annum).
Mellor predicted the states that will most benefit from the upturn will be Queensland and Western Australia (mining in those states will feed off growth in the rail and road segments), followed by Victoria and New South Wales.
His advice to industry members was to be patient in the downturn and to be ready for the upturn from 2022 to 2024.
Other presenters on the first day included VicRoads’ quarry products technologist Dr Sven Scheppokat and Sean McCormick, Alex Fraser Group’s general manager of recycling. Scheppokat discussed the latest advancements in field skid resistance testing of road surfaces in Victoria and Tasmania, which included a pendulum tester of
sample tiles in the laboratory, and a SCRIM truck outdoors.
McCormick discussed Alex Fraser’s contribution to the construction materials sector through its recovery of up to 50 per cent of Victoria’s glass waste materials per year.
The company has in the past six months opened its first sustainable supply hub – comprising a recycled technology asphalt plant, a bespoke 875m2 glass recycling plant and its regular C&D recycling plant – which processes up to one million tonnes of C&D materials per annum and more than 500,000 tonnes of recycled asphalt (see Quarry 27(7), July 2019: 30-34).
Another highlight of the first day was the “Legends of the Industry” panel which quizzed four stalwarts on the industry’s future.
The panel featured former IQA President John Malempre, Dale Elphinstone AO, executive chairman of Elphinstone Group, McLeod Rail owner and CEO Mary Thompson, and Ron Kerr, Honorary CEO of the Construction Material Processors Association.
The quartet discussed the industry’s challenges in winning community acceptance. Kerr stated that quarries are a valuable asset to every community; the industry has to better communicate and prove its economic value. Its members also need to support each other on a collective, more collegial level.
Malempre talked up the environmental benefits of quarrying, saying the industry needs to talk more about the end uses of quarries, and how they can be adapted to provide an end community benefit, like parklands, real estate and even sporting grounds.
All too often, inactive sites are proposed as landfills when there are other value adds.
Thompson observed that quarries have, due to regulatory demands, become so well hidden and distant today that the average person has never seen one nor understands their contribution to modern living standards.
She added that she was also concerned that careers in the extractive industry are not being adequately promoted in schools.
Elphinstone was passionate about the promotion of safety but critical of safe work regimes which he said have “regulated commonsense” out of the workplace. He was strongly of the opinion that workers should practise safety in all facets of their lives.
Elphinstone recalled many years ago he surveyed his workers about the number of lost time injuries (LTIs) incurred at work and the number of injuries that occurred at home.
The survey found that household injuries were eight times higher than the LTIs. This led Elphinstone to conclude that if people are encouraged to take more care of their health and show commonsense at home, that can translate to better workplace outcomes.
The first full day of the conference concluded with the traditional Komatsu Gala Dinner, which was held in the Barrel Hall at the iconic Mount Duneed winery and function centre, in the picturesque Barrabool Hills, 15 minutes south of the Geelong CBD.
A highlight of the night was the performance of Japanese Drumming Melbourne, complete with vigorous artistes and Taiko drums!
Having honoured industry legends on day one, the conference on Thursday, 3 October, looked to the future with a “Youth of the Industry” panel.
Three “rising stars” – Dean Rickards (a site co-ordinator at Boral Montrose), Ben McGrouther (a production engineer at Boral Deer Park) and Jess Sargent (Hanson transport supervisor in Melbourne) – recounted their positive industry experiences and shared their ideas for change management.
The trio impressed the largely grey-haired audience with their articulate, frank and humorous views of a sustainable future for the extractive industry.
In keeping with the morning’s theme of youth, inclusion and diversity, the IQA’s Women in Quarrying (WIQ) national co-ordinator Tegan Smith and CEO Kylie Fahey presented on the continuing success of the WIQ network.
Fahey reported that more women are attending IQA events for the first time through WIQ meetings and initiatives.
This update segued into Komatsu Australia CEO Sean Taylor’s keynote speech. Taylor, who is a member of the Male Champions of Change strategy to encourage more women into leadership roles, expressed disappointment that industries had not accorded diversity with the same prominence as safety.
He argued diversity needs to be elevated as part of building an innovative culture.
Taylor was optimistic that the construction industry can make progress, eg through lifting percentages for more graduates and women seeking trade apprenticeships, and by promoting its “breathtaking” range of experiences.
He added that collaboration between governments, construction companies, aggregates producers and OEMs (like Komatsu) would raise productivity in the end to end construction sector.
Taylor also outlined Komatsu’s “Say Again?” awareness program for its workers which aims to eliminate gender stereotypes in people’s language.
He explained the program is not designed to embarrass people but to encourage them to think more carefully about what they say to each other. He likened “Say Again?” to safety – ie you wouldn’t let something unsafe go unnoticed, so why let a work colleague be undermined?
The other presenters that morning included: Dominic Crowley, on behalf of the Office of the Victorian Commissioner for Better Regulation Anna Cronin; Simone Reinertsen, of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR); Michael Cramer, of Accent Environmental; and Elisa de Wit, partner at Norton Rose Fulbright Lawyers.
De Wit’s presentation about the financial dimensions to climate change risk stimulated some lively discussion among some quarters of the audience who did not agree with some of her examples of climate change science.
Nonetheless, her message was that large corporates, SMEs and family-run companies should perform due diligence on climate risk.
This may mean developing plans that encompass more sustainable ways of sourcing and processing aggregates (in accord with stakeholder expectations along the supply chain) but will minimise the prospect of financial hits to businesses for non-action.
Due diligence was also emphasised by the NHVR’s Reinertsen in her presentation on the safety obligations of quarries under the National Heavy Vehicle Law.
Quarries with their own transport fleets or which sub-contract their aggregates delivery must ensure they have efficient safety management systems to minimise public risk.
The post-lunch sessions featured supplier and technical presentations on blasting, fines recovery and tailings dewatering technologies, and high, dual frequency and multi-frequency screening techniques.
Dr Matthew Thurley, principal scientist for Innovative Machine Vision, outlined his findings from using 3D imaging to more accurately measure particle size distribution across a processing circuit.
The afternoon session concluded with the Australian Institute of Quarrying Education Foundation’s (AIQEF) live auction. Numerous items were put up for grabs, including cases of Clyde Park wine, an Epiroc drill rig model, a signed 2019 Geelong team guernsey, and consultancy packages from Groundwork Plus and Michelin.
There were also eight items available for bids online, including a gabion rock fire pit, a teppanyaki lunch/dinner, and diecast and Lego models. The AIQEF raised $14,680 at the live auction and $858.50 from the online bids.
The IQA convened its annual general meeting later that afternoon. One of the major items on the agenda was the proposal for a new governance structure for the AIQEF, a motion that was passed unanimously.
There were other significant motions that were endorsed. For example, in future annual general meetings, all levels of IQA members will be entitled to cast a vote. Previously, only corporate members could vote in AGMs.
The conference concluded on Thursday evening, with delegates and their partners dressing in their finery for the Caterpillar-sponsored black tie dinner at Pier Geelong, the iconic, 160-year-old, two-storey weatherboard building on the Corio Bay waterfront.
Apart from first-class meals, delegates also enjoyed the gourmet chocolate bar which provided some devilishly rich delicacies!
The dinner marked the change of IQA President. After two years, Clayton Hill stepped down from the role and passed on the presidential chains to his successor Shane Braddy.
The IQA’s 62nd annual conference certainly provided delegates with plenty of learning opportunities and engagement with their peers.
The decision to bring the event forward by a day – running from Tuesday to Thursday – also enabled IQA members to enjoy the best that Geelong could offer or to meet with their Victorian offices, customers or suppliers on Friday, 4 October.
The IQA’s 63rd annual conference will be part of the joint Construction Materials Industry Conference (CMIC 20) with Cement Concretes & Aggregates Australia. CMIC 20 will be hosted at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre in the “Sunshine State” from 9 to 10 September, 2020.
2019 IQA Awards
Over the course of the conference, the IQA presented its annual awards that recognise the outstanding achievements of individual members and quarrying operations. This year’s recipients were:
- Alec Northover Award (sponsored by AIQEF) – Andrew Hauser.
- Excellence in Innovation Award (sponsored by Trimble) – Alasdair Webb, Holcim Dubbo Quarry.
- Gold Environment Award (sponsored by Groundwork Plus) – Holcim Petrie Quarry, Queensland.
- Gold Hard Hat Award – Holcim Nerimbera Quarry, Queensland.
- Quarry Manager of the Year (more than 10 FTE, sponsored by Metso) – Chris Geeves, Holcim.
- Quarry Manager of the Year (less than 10 FTE, sponsored by Metso) – Frank Pedretti, Boral.
- Supplier of the Year – Peter Laskey, Kinder Australia.
Further coverage of the 2019 IQA Awards recipients will appear in Quarry in 2020.