Industry News

Study tour provides new insights into sustainability, repurposing

In 2017 Stephen Raines received the IQA’s Excellence in Innovation Award. This entitled him to further his professional development abroad. Raines recalls the highlights of his study tour earlier this year from the last working site in Hong Kong to Shanghai’s ground-scraper hotel.

I was the recipient of the IQA’s 2017 Excellence in Innovation award. It was sponsored by Trimble Loadrite, which provided $5000 towards a study tour.

As I have participated in the extractive industries for most of my working life, my particular interest is in minimising the impact of mining activities on the host community and in the rehabilitation and reuse of end of life quarries. At the time of receiving the award I was working for Hanson Kulnura Quarry and I reside in the Mountain Districts, close to the site.

As an active member of my neighbourhood, I am often made aware of the impacts of mining on a community. My home is in an area with the highest concentration of quarries anywhere in Australia. The opportunity to visit sites with “industry best practice” in Hong Kong and southern China and the Shimao Wonderland InterContinental Hotel, which is exemplary of reuse and rehabilitation, is aligned with my particular areas of interest.

Last active site

We were hosted in Hong Kong by the Institute of Quarrying’s Hong Kong branch. On 26 February we attended the head office of K Wah Construction Materials Ltd at Skyline Tower, Kowloon. The meeting was attended by Chan Hong Man (Alliance Construction Materials Ltd), Raymond Ng (Multi-Way), Ross Chow (Alliance Construction Materials Ltd) and Ng Heong Chen (K Wah Construction Materials). We enjoyed a dim sum (the Cantonese term for yum cha) lunch with our hosts and were provided with an itinerary for site visits prepared by Tracy Tsoi.

The next day, on 27 February, we toured the Lam Tei Quarry, the last working site in Hong Kong. No new quarries are permitted in Hong Kong. It produces 30 per cent of the aggregates for the Hong Kong market. Metso crushers are used to produce about one million tonnes (mt) of aggregate per year.

The site is also occupied by a batching plant and was very busy. Rehabilitation of the site is being rolled out sequentially. Due to the “no new mines” policy in Hong Kong, attracting a quarrying workforce has become problematic and a majority of the workforce is over the age of 50. The last active quarry also utilises Hong Kong’s scarce natural resources by receiving surplus rock from local construction sites and processing it into aggregates.

The rehabilitation at Lam Tei is extensive and many people are employed specifically for the task. A computerised warning system is used and the results are commendable. The quarry has three years left to run and the benefit of incurring the cost of rehabilitation during the revenue period was emphasised by our hosts.

As part of its rehabilitation plan, Lam Tei Quarry’s final landform will be lowered by 20 metres and will blend with the surrounding environment. It will have a self-sustaining ecosystem.

En route to Lam Tei, we passed the famous Anderson Road Quarry that is now a huge apartment precinct. A condition of its approval was that it was handed over as a site ready for development.

Best practice innovations

On 28 February, we drove across the border to China to visit the Hui Dong Quarry, at Huizhou in the industrial Pearl River Delta region in central Guangdong province. The region is becoming gentrified with wealthy citizens from northern China purchasing holiday apartments to escape the winter.

The sheer volume of construction materials consumed in China is impressive. The country respectively relies on 25mt of limestone and 18.7 billion tonnes of aggregate per annum, and constitutes about 65 per cent of the world’s cement production and 55 per cent of its steel production.

Hui Dong Quarry is exemplary of modern quarrying in China. The very onerous conditions now imposed on quarries in China are challenging. We were joined on the tour by Li Kuen (Bingyang County Fu Neng Mining Co Ltd), a quarry owner/operator who has been given a timeframe for compliance to the new conditions and was at Hui Dong Quarry to inspect the benchmark principles of new dust, noise and amenity regulations.

{{image4-a:r-w:300}}Hui Dong Quarry has “real time” monitoring that can directly notify the EPA in China of dust and noise levels. The quarry manager is informed via an app on his phone and responds immediately to remedy any elevated levels of dust and noise.

The crushing process at the quarry occurs under a dome with state of the art dust suppressant initiatives. Man-made trees of steel and polymer line the roadside to improve the amenity of the quarry. Ng Heong Chen (of K Wah Construction Materials) was very proud of this development and he admits that he has raised the bar high for other participants in the quarrying industry.

The dust suppression technique includes crushers under domes, misting on covered elevators, covered stockpiles and covered work areas. When you stand within metres of a working crusher, the dust is negligible and it is difficult to believe you are in a quarry. The noise was baffled and it successfully minimised the noise to comply with very stringent noise regulations.

Transportation of the construction materials is on an almost unimaginable scale. Barges with a 5000-tonne capacity, and carrying payloads of 3000 tonnes per hour, are used to transport the materials from Huizhou to Hong Kong.

Thirteen barges, crewed by 10 to 12 people, run continuously every day, with each completing an eight- to 10-hour turnaround for the 80km trip from Huizou to Hong Kong.

The hosts at Hui Dong Quarry provided an excellent overview of the modern quarrying industry in China and were generous with their time.

‘Quarry wonderland’

We completed an inbound tour of China privately before undertaking the second stage of the study tour visiting an extreme quarry transformation. The Australian extractive industry sector is relatively young and I am certain the future will provide many opportunities for inventive reuse and rehabilitation.

I was privileged to visit a $USD555 million ($AUD818 million) project – the Shimao Wonderland InterContinental Hotel in Shanghai, which has been built within an 88m deep abandoned quarry. It was the highlight of the trip.

A documentary film of the vision, design and implementation of the project, which took 12 years to complete, is on a continuous loop in the foyer of the hotel and three of the ex-quarry workers provided some of the commentary.

The 377-room hotel, aptly labelled a “groundscraper”, has healed a wound on the landscape and allowed closure on a sad period in history for the people of Shanghai. The quarry was mined during Japanese occupation in the 1930s and the work conditions were harsh.

The abandoned quarry was known as a scar, or an open wound, and the community has rejoiced at the transformation.

The hotel structure is renowned for being a “fight against gravity”. It is also purported to be the world’s first underground hotel, although I would challenge that assertion, as there is an underground hotel in Coober Pedy, South Australia.

The Shimao Wonderland InterContinental Hotel generates its own power using geothermal and solar energy and is the “greenest” hotel ever built. It is a destination hotel and has an amusement park included in the precinct.

Two levels of the hotel are underwater and all the rooms have artificial intelligence so you can ask for the curtains to be opened or the lights to be turned on – provided you are fluent in the local language!

The resort had only been open for two months at the time of our visit and the general manager told us it was enjoying 80 per cent occupancy. Room prices range from $USD600 to $USD1000 ($AUD884 to $AUD1473 per night) – more than four times the rates of other six-star hotels in China.

It seems the quote from the famous movie Field of Dreams – “If you build it, they will come!” – has validated the concept of The Law of Attraction.

China’s construction industry seems limitless and it was heartening to see that it can be progressed in a manner that has positive impacts for the community but treats the environment seriously.

Excellence in Innovation Award

The IQA’s Excellence in Innovation Award, sponsored by Trimble Loadrite, recognises an individual’s contribution to excellence and innovation in the quarrying industry.

The contribution can be for innovation in design, production, operations, automation, plant design, maintenance or processes as a single event, or for a longer-term contribution.

Applications are judged for originality, consultation, personal involvement level, transferability, evidence of a measured outcome, impact or influence and cost-effectiveness.

Stephen Raines and his team at Hanson Kulnura Quarry won the award for developing a solution – the Reverse Rite Laser Light – to improve the loadout practices in dim light and at night. The laser module was used to assist haul truck operators with aligning haul trucks to the face front-end loader.

It would cast a bright green line on the ground that would enable the trucks to reverse along a clearly visible line, while reducing the need for the front-end loader operator to make movements to dump the bucket.

The module helped to reduce the load and haul cycle from 18 to 16 minutes, enabled each haul driver to complete up to 3.5 round trip loads per hour and enabled Hanson Kulnura to meet its goal of crushing between 8000 and 10,000 tonnes of material every 24 hours.

Dale Cameron, the Australian regional manager of Trimble Aggregates & Onboard Weighing, said his company was proud of its long association with the IQA, its ongoing sponsorship of the Excellence in Innovation Award and the opportunity to further Stephen Raines’ professional development.

“We are committed to supporting the Australian quarry sector through the development of technology to improve productivity, site visibility and ultimately, profitability,” he said.

“Innovation in our industry helps to define an evolving ‘best practice’ and remains an essential component to the long-term sustainability and profitability of the business in Australia.

“The Innovation Award seeks to recognise companies and individuals that continue to embrace innovation and challenge traditional methods of production, operation and rehabilitation. We are excited to provide industry professionals like Stephen with the opportunity to travel the globe and gain first-hand experience of the industry and techniques used abroad.”

The next recipient of the Excellence in Innovation Award will be announced at the IQA’s annual conference in Geelong from 1 to 3 October.


Leave a Reply

Send this to a friend