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Friendly competition as quarries turn to ‘super excavator’


It was going to be the ultimate in one-upmanship. The two largest quarries servicing the giant $NZD850 million ($AUD800 million) Transmission Gulley motorway project in Wellington, New Zealand – one of the most complex in the nation’s history – were each looking for a way to bring new efficiency to the job and win major business.

For some months, the Transmission Gulley project was up to 50 per cent of the two quarries’ total volume, making a competitive advantage vital.

The answer was in securing an excavator so powerful, with so much capacity and yet so cost-effective, that it would set new standards.

“I went down to Wellington Harbour to welcome my new Komatsu PC850-8EO super excavator when it arrived on the ship from Japan – and there were two of them on board,” Shane Hagai, manager of the Winstone-owned Belmont Quarry said. “I asked who owns the other one but I already knew the answer. There was only one other quarry that would order it.”

Matt Hill, the quarry manager of the Horokiwi Quarry, which operates just seven kilometres from Belmont Quarry, both equidistant from the Transmission Gulley project, chuckles at the recollection. 

“Just ask Shane who took delivery first – he’ll tell you it was him, and I reckon it was us,” he said.

In fact, the commissioning occurred simultaneously, although Hagai concedes he was held up for two days, mainly because of some signwriting he wanted done.

For five years both quarries have competed and shared most of the massive supply of aggregate to the 27km four-lane motorway, which is due for completion at the end of 2020.

Material demand has led to the quarries digging deeper into their resources of hard greywacke rock, made possible by the strength and power of their PC850s – the largest of Komatsu’s construction excavator fleet.

The  two Komatsu PC850-8EO excavators have levelled the playing field, to the benefit of their Transmission Gulley client.

Drill and blast to loosen rock has become a thing of the past for both quarries.

“We used to blast once every three months, now not at all,” Hagai said.

“Our PC850 operator can extract more rock with greater efficiency and in far greater comfort than ever before,” Hill said.

Both companies are filling their 40-tonne Komatsu dump trucks with five passes of the PC850, compared to six to seven passes with machinery they were previously using.

Fuel efficiency through a streamlined workload has been increased, compared to previous machines. 

Komatsu’s push-to-activate boom power mode has been the key to unlocking more efficient extraction.

Both quarries also share the same service arrangement, using Komatsu-appointed Machinery Specialists. The investment in the Wellington area has substantially increased Komatsu’s local footprint.

Both Hill and Hagai have been impressed that the distributor has even sent out personnel on Sundays to service the PC850s to keep them competitive.

Hagai estimated his Belmont Quarry has contributed more than 1.6 million tonnes of aggregate to the Transmission Gulley project. Hill is less specific but said it could be about the same.

“I sit in my office and watch his trucks go by,” Hagai said.

It’s a friendly rivalry –  the companies tend to lean on each other to ensure they both service the project, made difficult by extreme terrain, climate and external factors, like the 2016 Kakoura earthquake which diverted resources for some time.

“We all got together for a beer at Christmas,” Hill said.

Both quarries acknowledge that their new acquisitions have given them opportunity to better service their long-term client base at the conclusion of the Transmission Gulley project.

Wellington is uniquely placed in New Zealand, and the ability for civil and infrastructure projects to be serviced locally, reducing transports costs, is paramount for efficient future development.

According to Hill, even greater earthquake proofing measures had placed increasing demand on aggregates for new building projects. But both also are eyeing off new roadworks programs recently announced in a sweeping $NZD6.8 billion ($6.3 billion) commitment by the NZ Government.

“One of them is just up the road from here, right between us,” Shane said.

The rivalry, it seems, will continue.

Source: Komatsu Australia 

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