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Breakthrough for WA producer in Asian sand market


A newly established Western Australian quarry business has become the first of its kind to export construction aggregates to Singapore. Nickolas Zakharia spoke to Australasian Sands International director Steven Della Bona about the prospects of the young company.

While many major aggregates businesses have struggled this year with the uncertainty of COVID-19, Australasian Sands International (ASI) has managed to establish itself and secure an off-take agreement with a Singapore company within a period of 12 months.

ASI’s director Steven Della Bona is no stranger to the quarrying industry. He serves as director for his family-owned company, WA Limestone, which has operated for more than 60 years and grown to become one of the major suppliers of road construction materials for Western Australia. He is also a long-standing IQA member, former chairman of the IQA’s Western Australian branch and a former national IQA director.

ASI specialises in concreting sand from its quarry in Walkaway, WA, about 37km southeast of Geraldton, and almost 400km north of Perth. The company had secured an export agreement with Singaporean company CRG Contractors in February, just before COVID-19 hit Australia. 

“ASI was incorporated in February 2020 [after] reaching an agreement with Singaporean company CRG Contractors Pte Ltd to form an alliance to submit a competitive tender to supply 1.1 million tonnes (Mt) of concreting sand to the Singaporean Housing Development Board (HDB),” Della Bona told Quarry. 

The impact of COVID-19 had not materialised at the time of the deal, but it is clear that major economies across the world, including those in China and South East Asia, are ramping up their building activity. 

World cement consumption had risen by 2.8 per cent in 2019, largely due to the Chinese cement market, which accounted for 56 per cent of global consumption at 2.28 billion tonnes, according to The Global Cement Report.

Australasian Sands director Steven Della Bona.


According to Della Bona, nations in and around South East Asia have depleted their natural sand supplies, sparking their interest in supplies from producers such as ASI.

“Many countries in and around the South East Asian region have exhausted their natural resources after decades of extraction activities,” he said. “Demand for responsibly sourced materials has been slowly increasing over the past five years as the world becomes more focused on the environmental and social impacts of mining activities.

“Western Australia is well placed to capitalise on this growing demand for raw construction materials and ASI is leading the charge to capture this demand for the benefit of WA.”

ASI is socially and environmentally conscious about its operations, at a time when responsible quarrying practices are vital.

“Western Australia has some of the most stringent environmental, safety and social laws and regulations in the world,” Della Bona said.

“ASI’s approvals to operate request strict adherence to these laws and regulations with regular monitoring and inspection by statutory bodies charged with enforcing these laws and regulations.

“As a result of this comprehensive regulatory system, ASI’s customers can be assured of being supplied the highest quality products that are sourced using world best practice mining methods, which are environmentally and socially responsible and which enable ASI to offer a sustainable supply into the future.”

Della Bona said his company will focus on securing international supply contracts, which are increasing their demand of construction sands as infrastructure projects ramp up across the globe. 

“The contract with the HDB to supply raw construction materials overseas is the first for a WA company and ASI intends to build upon this success by securing supply contracts with other entities, both in Singapore and further afield,” he said.

To bolster this demand, Della Bona said freight costs are a hurdle the company must overcome to compete with more local businesses that supply to the South East Asian market.

“ASI has a growing portfolio of some of the best raw construction material resources available throughout Western Australia,” he said. “The biggest impediment to growing our export business to South East Asia and beyond is our physical distance from the market compared to other countries that have traditionally supplied the region.  

 “The cost of ocean freight coupled with the high cost of accessing state-owned and -operated multi-user export facilities makes it extremely difficult to be competitive on the global stage.  

“As leaders of developing countries around the world begin to place a higher emphasis on securing supply of more environmentally and socially responsibly sourced materials, it is hoped that the higher costs associated with securing such materials become
more acceptable.”

ASI’s concrete sands are uniquely washed and rinsed to remove fine particles and other contaminants.


The concrete sands from ASI are also uniquely washed and rinsed to remove fine particles and other contaminants. 

“ASI has removed the fine particles as well as the clay and other contaminants from the sand using our unique washing and rinsing process,” Della Bona said. “The blade
shape of ASI’s sand is ideal for this application as well, [making] it the perfect base for concrete.”

ASI’s high quality construction sands are freighted via the Port of Geraldton. The company’s logistics supply train successfully ramped up in late October, shipping 150,000 tonnes of its aggregates to Singapore. 

Della Bona says Singapore is a significant milestone for the company, particularly in
a time when WA is in the midst of an economic recovery.

“In winning the supply contract to the HDB with its partner CRG, ASI has broken into an export market where all others have failed in recent years,” he said. “This success is testament to the skills and experience of ASI’s leadership team. For Western Australia, it is a great achievement to be doing this as it has created additional jobs for Western Australia and generated meaningful economic expenditure at a time when we are trying to recover from the impacts of COVID-19.”

Overall, the pandemic has not overshadowed the company’s success but remained a challenge, with ASI having to ready its site for production within a short time frame to meet the first shipment to Singapore. 

“ASI was established slightly before the COVID era but it was definitely challenging,” Della Bona said. “The way that we had to prepare the site in such a short time, we went from virtually a greenfields site to producing 350 tph of material in basically six weeks.”

The export sand is loaded onto the back of a Mack truck by crane.

Having a strong team behind you is vital to the success of a business, and Della Bona believes this is why ASI has been so successful – even with Della Bona continuing to work as WA Limestone’s director. 

“It’s been quite smooth and easy,” he said about juggling his responsibilities as a director of both ASI and WA Limestone. “I didn’t have to fend off too much of my time.

“It did involve fellow director David Della Bona and I spending regular time on-site, operating equipment and working the end of the shovel to achieve the result. Regular site visits and late nights made this a true team effort but all in a day’s work for us. A family bond you could say.

“We had to go back to basics and really build this project and be directly involved – going ‘back to the tools’, you could call it. 

“The team that we have are all mining professionals, engineering professionals as well, and they’re all fully experienced and understand what’s required to achieve a result like we did here. It’s an exceptional team that can do just about anything.”

With the future looking bright, ASI is currently undergoing negotiations with more suppliers.

 “ASI is currently in negotiations with other suppliers in the Asia Pacific region,” Della Bona said. 

“The future is promising, but plenty of work is still required to secure these opportunities. The key obstacle to overcome is access to cost-effective export infrastructure.”  

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