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Homegrown contractor shines in Sunshine Coast project

 

An Indigenous-owned mining, quarrying and construction contractor has purchased eight new mobile crushers and screens in the past nine months after going to work on a quarry project in its own backyard.

Black Cat Civil is a Supply Nation company based in Nambour, Queensland. It offers mining, civil works, earthmoving, road works and land development services across Australia.

The company, which has been operating since 2006, is staffed with 230 employees. Aside from its Nambour HQ, Black Cat Civil operates in hubs in Groote Eylandt, Darwin, Nhulunbuy and Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, and in Blackwater and Rockhampton in Central Queensland. The company has worked on numerous infrastructure projects, including the Brisbane Airport New Parallel Runways, the Cooroy to Curra Section D of the Bruce Highway, the North Stuart Highway duplication works in Alice Springs, the Woolgoolga to Ballina upgrade on the Pacific Highway, and the Blackwater Creek OLC Crossing remediation, near the Curragh coal mine. Black Cat Civil has also managed civil projects for the Australian Defence Force in the Northern Territory, including demolition works and bulk and earthmoving works at the Robertson Barracks in Darwin.

“We have support services but our three main divisions are in projects, mining services, and plant hire, mainly earthmoving equipment on road infrastructure and mining services contracts,” Jai Tomlinson, director at Black Cat Civil, explained. “We’ve been playing around in the extractive industries market for the past five years. We’re currently contract crushing more than a million tonnes of aggregates per year.”

In December 2020, the Sunshine Coast Council awarded Black Cat Civil an $8.5 million contract to crush, scalp, blend and screen about 350,000 tonnes per annum of rhyolite and basalt shot rock at the council-owned Image Flat and Dulong Quarries in Nambour. While Black Cat Civil had been operating in the Nambour area for nearly 15 years, it was the first time the company had netted a major job on home soil.

“This is our first contract with Sunshine Coast Council – it’s a significant contract for us to win because we’d been trying to win contracts in this region for some time,” Tomlinson told Quarry. “We’re keen to service this contract correctly and show the Sunshine Coast and the community that we’re good at our work. We’ve never had a job of this capacity before in our own backyard.”

Image Flat Quarry has been operating since 1959. A spokesman for the council’s Sunshine Coast Quarry Services has previously told Quarry that the site has a remaining life of 60 years, with up to 30 million tonnes of aggregates in reserve. Dulong Quarry has been operating since 1984, has a life span of 80 years and has about 16 million tonnes of reserves.

While both quarries feature rhyolite and basalt deposits, Tomlinson said some of the materials are being transported from Dulong Quarry and being crushed on-site at Image Flat Quarry. The source rocks are being used for road base, landscaping, rock products, drainage aggregates, maintenance gravels and asphalt applications. The end products include 300mm rubble, 100mm to 200mm stone, 40/70, 30/40 and 20mm and 10mm fines, 2.5 roadbase and crusher dust.

“Different local industries such as landscaping might use our by-products for topdressing because of the minerals in the crusher dust,” Tomlinson said. “Concreters will use it for base preparation and concrete slabs.”

RACE TO SITE

When the Sunshine Coast Quarry Services contract was awarded, Black Cat Civil had less than a month to prepare for work at Image Flat Quarry, which commenced on 4 January, 2021. Even as it was tendering for the contract, Black Cat Civil went to the quarrying market for a single source solution to the mobile crushing and screening component of the contract.

“The requirements were for a reliable, versatile processing equipment solution to primarily produce road base and aggregate yet have the flexibility to make up to 40 different products,” Jimmy Murphy, the Sandvik product specialist for Porter Equipment Australia, said.

“We provided plant designs from Sandvik’s PlantDesigner program which were produced along with scaled layouts of the overall footprint. Black Cat settled on the solution to meet their production requirements.”

Black Cat Civil purchased six mobile units for Image Flat Quarry: a Sandvik QJ341 jaw crusher, QH331 and QH332 cone crushers, QA441 and QA451 screens and a QE342 scalper.

Tomlinson said that while Black Cat Civil owns other brands of mobile crushers and screens in its fleet, it had not previously ordered mobile units from Porter. Nonetheless, he was impressed with the scale and speed of the delivery of the Sandvik units. “We had a very tight window for delivery and we needed six machines quickly, depending on which OEM or dealer could provide and service this project. We worked with Sandvik and Porter during the tender period, and when the tender was awarded, we had a short delivery time frame. The work Porter put in to deliver these machines throughout the Christmas period was outstanding. 

“The contract stated we had to be on site from 4 January, and we also shipped these large machines around, with Sandvik and the Porter Group gathering them from different locations. Our business is pretty agile and it moves pretty quickly when we make a decision, and it was great to have a supplier that shared our focus and vision and knew it had to act quickly for us to succeed. It’s formed an early solid relationship, which is why we’ve bought two more new machines out of Porter in the past two months – that averages out to one machine per month this calendar year.”

Murphy agreed that the turnaround time for the delivery of the six mobile units was quick, particularly with the Christmas/New Year shutdown period. “All the machines were in stock, a couple of them at our interstate branches. Our national branch network allowed us to turn them around, with site-specific requirements completed at our Brisbane branch. The workshop there put in a fantastic effort to meet the deadline, with the first crusher arriving to site two weeks early.”

The QH331 and QH332 cone crushers either side of the QA441 scalper (middle).

MOBILE UNITS

Murphy said that the Sandvik mobile units at Image Flat Quarry would work in a three-stage crushing circuit. The circuit starts with the QJ341 primary jaw crusher, which incorporates a 1200mm x 750mm single toggle jaw crusher with hydraulic adjustable closed side setting (CSS) that can accept up to 650mm into the chamber. Its hydrostatic drive enables reverse function for safe unblocking and the ability to restart with a full chamber, and a jaw level sensor regulates material flow to the chamber.

The QH331 and QH332 cone crushers are fitted with Sandvik’s CH430 cone chamber, which features six concave liners in one top shell and eight different bush settings. The top and bottom supported cone is tolerable to higher crushing forces and the longer, steeper chamber offers an improved product shape. Sandvik’s Hydroset system and automation offer a simplified calibration and CSS adjustment (six to 41mm) at the push of a button and while crushing. The constant liner performance maintains the feed opening, throughput and longer, usable liner life. There is no need for a backing compound during liner changes. In fact, Murphy said the absence of cure time affords quarries more opportunities to start producing materials when the crusher is changed.

The QA441 and QA451 sizing screens are fitted with Sandvik’s Doublescreen system which utilises two 3m x 1.5m high velocity screenboxes (1200mm rotations per minute [rpm] shaft speed) in the one machine. The primary screenbox acts as a fines extractor and the secondary box as a grader. Murphy said Sandvik’s Doublescreen system can produce up to 30 per cent more volumes of in-spec material than conventional incline screens working in the same footprint. The QA451 also has the benefit of a 6.15 g-force which effectively moves and separates the material.  

The QE342 heavy-duty scalping screen is being used by Black Cat Civil at Image Flat Quarry to scalp after the QJ341. It can accept up to a 600mm feed and has an aggressive rpm, a 9mm throw and adjustable screenbox angles. The scalping screen is equipped with a simple control system with single button sequential start/stop functions, fault-finding and diagnostics, wireless remote controls, extensive use of steel piping throughout and simple access outlets for maintenance. In the hydraulic system, oil change-outs are recommended at 4000 hours, subject to sampling analysis; the usual industry standard is change-outs at 2000 hours.

SMOOTH OPERATION

After nine months of operation into a two-year contract, Tomlinson reported the six units at Image Flat Quarry have been performing well.

“We’ve had no major issues with them. We’re starting to gain some traction with our throughput and achieving the goals and targets that we set for ourselves, and I can honestly say the targets we’re hitting are far better than expected,” Tomlinson explained. “That says to me the gear is performing really well. There are synergies between our earthmoving gear – which is 100 per cent Caterpillar – and the Cat engines on the Sandvik gear, which means the product is easy to maintain and service.

“It takes a team to understand how the machines work and finetune them – and there has been great communication between ourselves and Porter’s technical team to achieve maximum productivity,” he continued. “We work in directly with the Porter Group in Mackay, including Jimmy Murphy. They have been exceptional. It’s the service you’d expect but their performance and communication has been outstanding and fantastic.”

Murphy affirmed that Black Cat Civil has been pleased with Porter’s support in the previous nine months. “Black Cat Civil made a significant investment with the Porter Group in purchasing the Sandvik mobiles, and our commitment extends beyond commissioning of the plant through group emphasis on product support and life cycle,” he added.

“Having a Sunshine Coast-based resident fitter has provided quick response times to servicing requests and the right people have been in place to address troubleshooting issues. There are also facilities for application requests via phone and email, which have been of huge benefit and there have been site visits to meet and exceed customer requirements. Parts availability through our Brisbane warehouse has been advantageous in preparing for planned shutdowns.”

As mentioned, Black Cat Civil has bought two more Sandvik mobile units off Porter Equipment for other projects. A QE442 scalper, which is virtually identical in functionality to the QE342 scalper at Image Flat Quarry, is currently working at the Caval Ridge mine in Central Queensland. Another QH332 cone crusher was commissioned and, to quote Murphy, “bedded in” at Nambour before it was moved to another crushing and screening assignment in Nhulunbuy, more than 3000km away.

“Obviously in the midst of a pandemic both parties wanted to ensure diligence in having the QH332 commissioned prior to moving it,” Murphy added. “There was a real possibility of travel restrictions being in place when it reached site to produce roadbase.”

Tomlinson is optimistic about Black Cat Civil’s work at Image Flat Quarry and anticipates that work will continue beyond the original two-year Sunshine Coast Quarry Services contract. “There’s definitely an option period. The aim is to do a great job and provide a great product,” he said, “and then obviously, other project managers in the Sunshine Coast Council and across the region will recognise that and be more likely to use our products and services in the future.”

In his own dry humour, Tomlinson was reluctant to recommend Porter Equipment to other contractors and quarrying producers. “As we’re growing our business in this mobile crushing and screening space, I’m going to have to say ‘No’ to that one because I want them all for myself!” he laughed. “Our business wants them available and ready so if we talk them up too much, other people will want to use the Porter and Sandvik Groups! The real answer is ‘Yes’, I’d have no problem recommending them. The boys are great!” •

To learn more about Black Cat Civil and how it can best assist quarries, visit blackcatcivil.com.au
For more information about Porter Equipment, visit porterce.com.au 

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