Milbrae Quarries, a family-run quarrying and mining services business, has expanded on the local contract crushing market – bolstered by the acquisition of two primary mobile jaw crushers suited to large-scale quarrying and mining operations. Damian Christie reports.
Milbrae Quarries is part of a privately owned group of companies that provide specialist services in quarrying, mining and concrete manufacture and supply across New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and the Northern Territory. Its headquarters are based in Leeton, in the New South Wales Riverina district.
Established in 1969 as a small trades service business, PA Woods and Co has evolved into an important competitor in the mining services industry, providing contract crushing services to many big players Australia-wide.
From humble beginnings the company consolidated its quarrying business in 1999 to become Milbrae Quarries Pty Ltd.
“The company name ‘Milbrae’ comes from the first property that we bought near Leeton – we commenced quarrying on the site, and when we started out our office was just a telephone on a pole in the middle of a paddock,” recalled Chris Woods, the managing director of the company today. “Nowdays the Milbrae site acts as our company headquarters and is home to our mechanical, engineering, transport and drill and blast teams.
“The property’s original name was ‘Millbrae’ with two ‘L’ letters in it, but we are a race horsing family and my father, Peter Woods, insisted that we drop one letter out of it to get seven – so that’s why it has one ‘L’ in it!” Woods laughed. “A number of famous racehorses had seven letter names!”
While the business name may be short and to the point, it is attached to a very impressive organisation that has grown considerably over its three decades of operation. The Milbrae Business Group today employs more than 200 people across its businesses, and its assets include four fixed plant hard rock quarries, 20 road base pits, sand operations, a pre-cast yard, seven concrete plants and a fleet of mobile crushing plants and mobile concrete batching plants.
Having founded the business more than 50 years ago, Peter Woods now enjoys a well-earned retirement but continues to take an interest in the growth of the operations. Milbrae is actively managed by Peter’s two sons Chris and Brett. Chris is the company’s managing director, overseeing the performance of the business as well as the mining services activities while Brett primarily drives the operational side of the business. Both Chris and Brett have sons involved in the business, ensuring that Milbrae will continue well into the future.
Milbrae is a vertically integrated enterprise. Its operations begin with being able to win material via in-house drill and blast or mechanical methods, crushing and screening the material either in its fixed plant operations or via one of its 17 mobile crushing trains, conditioning material via pugmills, transporting crushed material to users via its transport fleet through to producing ready-mixed concrete and pre-cast concrete panels for end users.
Chris Woods and his regional operations manager Scott Gillieatt estimate that on the hard rock quarrying side of the business, the annual output across the four sites would be in excess of one million tonnes of blue metal aggregates, and sand and gravel.
The company’s construction materials products include:
- 5/7/10/14 and 20mm aggregates and blends, both precoated and raw.
- 5mm and 10mm river gravel.
- 20mm and 40mm road base.
- RMS-specified products such as select fill, MB20, DGS and DGB road bases.
- Rail ballast.
- Spall, gabion and beaching rock.
- Sands including river, pit and mortar sand.
- Ready-mixed concrete.
In addition to its company-owned operations, Milbrae has also built for itself a highly successful contract quarrying and mining business. “Initially we designed and built three wheel plants consisting of primary and secondary crushers, all electrically driven to service our satellite pits,” Chris Woods explained. “We would mobilise our mobile crushing train to site, crush material to build our stockpiles to use for customer sales for a period of time, and the crushing equipment would then be moved to another site.”
As a result, outside of the Riverina operations, the company has operated up and down the eastern seaboard – including northern and southeastern Victoria, the whole of New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory.
“Our largest growth area that we have experienced was contract crushing for mine operators, with beginnings in the Mt Isa area utilising the company-built wheel-mounted crushing plants,” Woods explained. “Milbrae was initially involved with several smaller mining operators, before becoming involved with Xstrata and Glencore. It was the biggest increase we had in personnel and equipment. We have conducted contract mining operations at Mt Isa Mines, George Fisher Mine, Mt Cuthbert, Handlebar Hill Mine and then up in McArthur River Mine amongst others. This experience drove Milbrae to explore mining opportunities in New South Wales, and we have since conducted work at operations owned by Evolution Mining, Newcrest, Aurelia Metals, Tronox, CMOC, Alkane Resources and CBH.”
Due to the logistics of operating remotely from its core region, the Milbrae Business Group established its own aviation service. It operates a turboprop Pilatus PC12 NG to support its operations throughout the country. Able to take aboard a complement of nine people, the aircraft can also be converted to handle cargo. The PC12 is able to operate from remote dirt landing strips commonly found in regional Australia and it has been essential in supplying parts to remote locations. “Since COVID-19 began to impact our operations, the PC12 has been critical in allowing crews to be flown directly from home locations to mine sites without transiting hotspots,” Woods added.
CONTRACT QUARRYING SERVICES
Milbrae’s growth has been impressive for a company that had humble beginnings, conducting mobile crushing for Leeton Shire Council 35 years ago. Today, it produces several million tonnes per annum output from its mobile crushing business and in excess of six million tonnes in its contract mining services division.
Milbrae regularly undertakes mobile crushing services for approximately 15 shire councils across New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, along with a number of government departments and private entities.
In addition, Milbrae has supplied product for numerous projects including:
- Australian Rail Track Corporation and John Holland specification ballast.
- Armoured rock for large water catchments.
- Heavily bound road bases for transport for NSW, including on-site incorporation of binder via pugmill.
- B80 concrete mixes for transport for NSW.
- Pre-cast panels for various private projects, including a shopping centre in Wangaratta and Quest Apartments in Griffith.
Milbrae also contributed to the Hume Highway Woomgara Alliance, in which it provided mobile crushing works on a 9km dual carriageway and four bridges. It supplied about 290,000 tonnes of blue metal granite and 490,000 tonnes of regular granite for the project, with its mobile gear crushing at a rate of up to 320 tonnes per hour (tph).
“The Riverina region is booming at the moment due to the great conditions in the agricultural industry,” Woods added. “There are a number of infrastructure projects underway, including major highway projects, feed lots, several solar farms as well as a rapid expansion being undertaken in the poultry industry, resulting in new chicken farms being opened here. We’ve seen demand for road bases and concrete double over the past year, and we’ve probably never been busier in our history.”
Any successful mobile contract crushing service is only as good as the equipment that it operates. Over the years Milbrae has used a variety of different makes of mobile crushing plant but since providing mining services, it has identified Metso Outotec as its crushing supplier of choice. The company has progressively upgraded its inventory so that Metso Outotec’s renowned line-up of Lokotrack crushers now make up nearly half of its tracked mobile fleet.
Milbrae has worked with Tutt Bryant Equipment (TBE), the national distributor of Metso Outotec’s Lokotrack and Nordtrack ranges of mobile crushers and screens, for the past seven years. The company’s Lokotrack crushing fleet comprises two 63-tonne LT120 jaw crushers, one LT106 jaw crusher, four 43-tonne LT300HP cone crushers and seven 55-tonne LT1213S impact crushers.
The Metso fleet will work in conjunction with Milbrae’s closed circuit wheeled plants to form the core of the mining services fleet into the future, Woods stated.
“Our wheeled crushing plants have proven themselves time and time again while undertaking mining projects, so we believe that the Metso tracked equipment complements the wheeled plants. The wheeled plants can undertake high volume static works, where feed material is readily available at the crushing location, such as being trucked from underground, while the tracked Metso equipment will undertake projects where flexibility in crushing location is required, such as crushing material located in large volume stockpiles, or at a moving face.”
Woods said Milbrae was drawn to the Metso line-up because it has a strong reputation for reliability and robustness. “We believe that Metso is one of the best producers of plant and equipment in the world. The early days were a little challenging but Tutt Bryant made a commitment to improve their back-up service and customer relations, and the relationship has come a long way, particularly with people like Wayne Kruger [Tutt Bryant Equipment’s technical sales representative for the Metso tracked plant] who had a hands-on crushing background. That’s always a big plus when people like Wayne have worked in crushing, it helps the sales person understand the key challenges that the customer faces on the ground.”
Scott Gillieatt reiterated Woods’ comments. “We recently had the opportunity to have three machines of similar capacity from different brands in our fleet crushing side by side on a client site, and the Metso outperformed the other machines, providing a higher and more consistent throughput,” he said. “The Metso machine was more robust, leading to Metso being our machine of choice. We also find that the parts have a longer service life, the wear is noticeably better as well, and this is coupled with the excellent service that Wayne provides.”
The most exciting development for Milbrae is that it has recently purchased two Lokotrack LT130E hybrid mobile jaw crushers, which are suitable as a primary crusher in large-scale quarrying and mining operations.
For optimised energy efficiency for crushing operations, the hybrid LT130E can run on an external electrical drive or, in locations where this is not possible, an integrated 403kW Caterpillar C15 engine and 500kVA generator power package.
The LT130E incorporates Metso’s renowned Nordberg C130 jaw crusher for large-scale quarrying applications. It is Metso’s largest standard mobile jaw crusher, with a feed opening of 1300mm x 1000mm (51” x 39”) for coarser feed material, and its heavy-duty design can manage the hardest materials. A small nip angle and kinematics ensure aggressive crushing along the whole length of the crushing cavity and for all rock conditions. The maximum output of the LT130E, in the right conditions, can be up to 1000 tph.
This large-scale unit is easy to adapt to existing processes. It is equipped with an adjustable hydraulic main conveyor and an advanced Metso intelligent crusher automation (ICr) control system. A wireless Metso ICr remote monitoring system or an interlocking cable can connect the unit to other Lokotrack crushing and screening plants. All maintenance locations are easily accessible, making daily routines easier and safer.
The LT130E can be optimised to move smoothly between sites. All the electric and hydraulic connections have quick couplings for easy disassembly. Optimised lifting points, along with user-friendly and safe hydraulic features, reduce downtime, while an easy split feature makes portability and set-up easier. For contracting purposes, the plant can be set up within a matter of hours.
The easy split advantage utilises hydraulic cylinders to lift the crusher and feeder above the chassis for transfer to a standard trailer. Like regular Lokotrack mobile plants, the chassis of the LT130E can be driven to the trailer via remote control.
As this article went to press, the two LT130Es were expected to be delivered and commissioned at Milbrae’s operations by March. The first of the units would go straight to work in Milbrae’s contract mining operations. The second, according to Woods and Gillieatt, is slated to be used at an internally owned site, allowing it to be rapidly mobilised for future mining projects.
While the LT130E has previously been trialled and demonstrated by TBE at Lima South Quarry in Victoria, these are the first units bought by an Australian quarrying producer. Wayne Kruger said this is an important milestone because “Milbrae will have the two biggest Lokotracks in NSW. Besides mobile cranes, the LT130E is the biggest piece of mobile equipment that Tutt Bryant has ever sold”.
“The LT130E fits our model for contract mining and crushing perfectly,” Gillieatt said. He added the LT130E’s automation capabilities will also enhance Milbrae Quarries’ productivity in the pit. The LT130E can be remotely programmed by an operator in a nearby loader or excavator, which in addition to raising efficiency in the pit increases safety and removes risk for operators on the ground.
“The feedback we get from clients is ‘Our people need it [remote control] on the ground, next to the machine’,” Kruger said.
“Our operators typically operate our current fleet of LT120s via remote from the excavator cabins,” Gillieatt said. “This provides an increased level of safety. We are all aware of the hazards of silica in mining, removing the need to have an operator physically walk over to the machine to change a setting greatly reduces their exposure.”
With Metso mobile gear constituting 50 per cent of its fleet, to say Milbrae Quarries has a “good” relationship with TBE would be an understatement.
While Milbrae has a mechanical and maintenance division that looks after the upkeep of all its plant and equipment, Woods and Gillieatt said that TBE’s aftermarket service is invaluable.
“Our partnership has been so successful because of the robustness and ongoing technological advances of the Metso gear,” Gillieatt said.
“We’re also really happy with the service and maintenance side of things. The servicing comes into that as a complete package. The TBE technicians are in constant contact with our own mechanical department. They’re great on the service, and their equipment is innovative and very user-friendly as well.”
Kruger said that a major selling point of the Lokotrack plant for many quarry producers was TBE’s assurance package. “We provide regular technical assistance and warranty inspections. We provide an extended warranty with the equipment – 10,000 hours or five years, whichever comes first. Tutt Bryant is also the only one that offers that type of extended warranty in the market.
“Further, we do on-site commissioning training and we’ll always provide over the phone technical support and advice.”
“Tutt Bryant Equipment and Metso are improving their support and back-up services all the time,” Woods concluded. “They are always asking for feedback about how they can improve their equipment.
“I think you would say that over the years Metso has proved to be reliable and we consider them to be the better machines in the industry.”
With that sense of optimism, it is likely that Milbrae’s LT130Es and other Lokotrack mobile plant will continue to be a mainstay of the company’s quarrying, mining and contract crushing businesses for many years to come. •