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Quarry expansion project a boon for local business

On Friday 19 September, attendees at an industry breakfast hosted by the Illawarra Innovative Industry Network (i3net) in Wollongong heard from Hanson project manager Scott Whittaker on the company’s plans to upgrade its existing Bass Point Quarry, located in New South Wales.

In its current form, the quarry has been supplying basalt to Sydney and local markets for more than 40 years, although the earliest quarrying activity occurred in the 1880s. In January 2014, Hanson received approval from the NSW Department of Planning to continue operating until 31 January 2044, as well as to increase its extraction rate from between 1.5 and two million tonnes per annum to up to four million tonnes per annum.

Whittaker told Quarry that the expansion was necessary for two main reasons: “Firstly, expanding the extraction area secures reserves to operate for another 30 years. Secondly, the existing crushing plant is 40 years old and it won’t be possible to maintain the structure for another 30 years.”

In addition to providing “great employee security” for the approximately 70 locals that are already employed with the quarry, Whittaker said the additional 30 years of operational life would create a number of opportunities for local businesses through the expansion project.

Elements of expansion
The proposed project scope for the quarry’s expansion involves the demolition of the quarry’s existing plant and infrastructure and the construction of a new, 650 tonnes per hour processing plant, including automated truck load-out, a pre-coat plant and a pugmill.

Hanson has already tendered the construction of the processing plant – which is the largest component of the expansion – to a selected list of companies with the intention to award the contract by mid-2015 and start construction in early 2016. Whittaker added that there may still be opportunities for additional work for local mechanical, civil and electrical contractors as well.

The project approval stipulates that the new plant must be located within the quarry pit in order to reduce its public visibility – presenting Hanson with an interesting logistical challenge.

“Most new plants are built in a large, flat, open area,” Whittaker explained. “However, we will need to use some of the existing topography as well as extract over two million tonnes from the area in which we plan to construct the plant, so the quarry team will need to be very organised over the next 18 months.”

Whittaker added that additional challenges could potentially arise from the development of the neighbouring Shell Cove marina, which would require significant changes to the landscape on the quarry’s border. However, he stated that Hanson had a close relationship with Australand, the marina’s developer, and that the companies would be working together to ensure their plans complemented one another.

Shipping option for aggregate
While Bass Point Quarry is permitted to extract up to four million tonnes per annum, the project approval also stipulates that Hanson cannot transport more than three million tonnes of this via road. As a result, Hanson is considering reintroducing shipping as a mode of transport for the remaining one million tonnes.

Whittaker explained that the quarry had used this method in the past to transport 3000 tonnes of material per trip into the depot at Blackwattle Bay. However, Hanson ceased using the ship three years ago after its maintenance costs rendered the practice uneconomical.

While he stated that road transport would always be a necessary part of the operation (as a significant amount of material is delivered to central and western Sydney), Whittaker said that for the expanded quarry, the ship might once again become an economical method of transporting product into Sydney. He added, though, that the decision on whether or not to revert to its use would depend on Hanson finalising its aggregate strategy for the city.

For now, construction of a ship loader has been factored in as a “second stage” of the project, with current plans including considerations on how the design will impact on the potential for shipping in the future.

The expansion’s project scope also includes the construction of ancillary infrastructure such as an office/laboratory, transport depot, weighbridge, workshop and a concrete plant.

Hunting for local content
Hanson’s presentation at the industry breakfast was evidence of its desire to source and support local content in the Bass Point Quarry expansion.

The long-established quarry has already formed a strong relationship with its community, with some of Hanson’s contributions including sponsorship of a range of local sporting and social clubs, and annual donations to a local public school.

Commenting on Hanson’s recent appeal to local business, Whittaker said, “A network such as i3net provides immediate access to local companies with a range of disciplines. Local contractors provide many benefits such as being more responsive and reliable and allowing better communication with more face to face time. It also makes the procurement process more efficient if we can see them all in one place and assess their experience and capabilities.”

Hanson anticipates that the different components of the expansion will be tendered separately over 2015 and 2017, with the entire project expected to reach “practical completion” by the end of 2017.

More reading
Application to dig deeper 
Quarry enjoys “dream run” with wheel loaders
Air separator impresses at Bass Point Quarry

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