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Aggregates business kicks goals in reconstruction program

One of New Zealand’s newest quarrying and aggregates companies has recently opened a new quarry close to the centre of Christchurch, giving it the capability to supply a full range of products for the region’s post-earthquake reconstruction program as well as other major infrastructure projects.

{{image2-a:r-w:200}}SOL Quarries Ltd’s Yaldhurst Quarry, located behind Christchurch Airport, began selling product in June 2016 after a two-year consent application and development process.

It hit the headlines straight away with the announcement that recently retired New Zealand All Black legend Richie McCaw was a shareholder, who – along with high-profile entrepreneur and philanthropist Michael Watt – had joined company founders (and former schoolmates) Simon Apperley and Ben Dormer.

Apperley and Dormer started in the aggregates and quarrying business in 2011, with the establishment of SOL Shingle, supplying aggregates in North Canterbury.

They founded the company after both returned from working and studying overseas. Apperley worked in the US construction industry while Dormer studied at Cambridge and played rugby.

“We came back to Christchurch post-earthquake, and were looking for business opportunities,” Dormer said.

“My brother Pete runs Dormer Construction in the region, and I didn’t want to step on his toes, so Simon and I looked for a business that would be complementary to that.”

WA480-6 wheel loaders

The WA480-6 loader has an operating weight of about 25 tonnes, with a breakout force (depending on the bucket used) between 189 and 249 kiloNewtons and a bucket capacity between 3.8m3 and 6.1m3. It is powered by a water-cooled, four-cycle, six-cylinder Komatsu SAA6D125E-5 diesel engine, with net horsepower of 223kW at 2000 revolutions per minute.

It offers low fuel consumption and is equipped with a dual-mode engine power select system, a large capacity torque converter, an automatic transmission with shift timing select system, and variable displacement piston pump and closed centre load-sensing system. There is also the option of a lock-up torque converter that offers increased production efficiency, reduced cycle times and optimum fuel savings.

Depending on application, the loader has a bucket width of 3170mm to 3190mm, and a bucket weight starting at about two tonnes. The operating height fully raised is about 6175mm for stockpiles and 6025mm for excavating.

The loader, as standard, features a ROPS/FOPS cab, four-forward and four-reverse transmission, a two-spool valve for boom and bucket controls, an electronically controlled suspension system, an electric engine shut-off system, a hydraulic-driven fan with reverse rotation, lift and bucket cylinders, main monitor panel with an equipment management monitoring system, two PPC finger-tip controlled levers, wet-disc type service brakes 26.5-25-20PR tubeless tyres and rims, and engine pre-cleaner with extension.

Other optional features include bolt-on type and tip type bucket teeth, a bolt-on type cutting edge, joystick steering, scales and printer for load measuring and rear radar and rear camera.

‘By accident’

They purchased a number of consents in the North Canterbury region, and through SOL Shingle have access to about 2.5 million tonnes of material, supplying sand and aggregates to councils, contractors and builders in the region.

They also quickly established a relationship with Komatsu NZ – as Dormer puts it “almost accidentally” – after picking up a couple of Komatsu machines as part of the resource consent purchases.

“There was a Komatsu machine that came with
one of these consents, but it didn’t really suit our needs,” Dormer said.

“We spoke to Wayne Hawtin at Komatsu NZ in Christchurch about disposing of it.

“As a result of that conversation, we purchased a WA380-6 loader for tailing out and stockpiling at our North Canterbury operations – and the relationship developed from there.”

Three years later Apperley and Dormer established SOL Screening & Crushing (SSC) to cater for significant industry demand for mobile screening and crushing services throughout North and South Canterbury.

In setting up SSC, they also purchased Paul Smith Earthworks’ mobile operations, and with that the rights to produce all aggregates for Downer’s nine-year South Canterbury maintenance contract.

As part of this purchase, Dormer and Apperley picked up a Komatsu BR380JG-1 jaw crusher.

“We’ve found this to be a very flexible and versatile machine,” Dormer said. “We are using it at Yaldhurst,
as well as in our mobile operations, and also for crushing concrete on demolition sites around Christchurch.”

SSC also operates soil and sand screening operations throughout Canterbury, along with concrete crushing.

Since that first Komatsu WA380-6 purchase, the SOL Group has standardised on Komatsu loaders across its operations, with a fleet that includes four WA470-6 loaders purchased as low-hour used units out of Komatsu’s Australian used equipment division.

Two of these units are used in its mobile SSC operations in North and South Canterbury, with the other two operating in the new Christchurch quarry at Yaldhurst. Two new
WA480-6 loaders have also been purchased for use
at Yaldhurst.

With its Komatsu fleet, SOL Group has all servicing carried out by Komatsu NZ.

“We wanted to standardise our maintenance activities as much as we could,” Dormer said. “We find that’s
a good way to keep everything as simple as possible, and all under control. Their servicing and support has been very good.

“We also find the online KOMTRAX remote monitoring system is very helpful to our operations. We can easily view equipment hours, we always know exactly where each item of plant is, and when the next service is due.

“It’s just a matter of logging in whenever we want, and it’s all very user-friendly.”


Quarry venture

The SOL Group of companies’ latest venture, the SOL Quarries operation, has access to about six million tonnes of material – giving the quarry operation a projected life of 10 to 15 years, depending on demand.

“The chance to develop this operation was a real opportunity for us considering the predicted demand for aggregates, gravel and sand for the Christchurch rebuild, along with some major local road projects,” Dormer said.

“Having said that, it’s a fairly contested market, plus we operate under a number of environmental constraints – including a requirement that we can’t dig deeper than a metre above the water table, and a need to return the quarry area to its original condition using clean fill once the resource is exhausted.”

Dormer said Canterbury’s existing consented quarries would be “stretched over the next 15 years” and the shortage would be compounded by tight rules for gravel extraction from the Waimakariri and other Canterbury rivers.

“Our resource is a good mix of alluvial rock from the former course of the Waimakariri River, plus pit material, all sized at 130mm and under, which gives us an excellent blend that allows us to meet most requirements,” Dormer said.

“We started production here in mid-June 2016, basically producing our core products – AP65, AP40, AP20, M4 – along with raw materials from our pit run, such as sand and soil. We can also take clean fill and turn that around as clean fill dump material.

“Our clients include local civil and road contractors, developers, local councils and the like.

“Christchurch’s post-earthquake rebuilding program, plus a couple of major Transit NZ infrastructure projects coming up, mean there is a very high demand in the region for quality material.

“That upcoming work and the demand for material was a key factor in us deciding to establish this quarry.


“Our intention is to build up the SOL Group of companies as another alternative supplier of aggregates, sand and gravel in the Canterbury region.

“We are very much the new kids on the block, and our aim is to produce good quality products, look after our clients and work with the local construction industry,” he said.

And how did an All Black great become involved in the quarrying business?

“I’ve known Richie since we played together in a Canterbury Crusaders Colts team 15 years ago,” Dormer said.

“He’s taken a 10 per cent stake in the business as a way to get more hands-on business experience in his post-rugby career.

“Richie sees joining SOL as a chance to learn about running a business, and seeing the very rigorous resource consent process that we’ve gone through over the past couple of years has been quite an eye-opener for him.”

Source: Komatsu Australia

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