Long reach excavation work is associated largely with dredging and bulk earthworks. An excavation service proprietor tells Quarry how his family’s background and expertise in the extractive industries has enabled their business to implement long reach excavation techniques in the quarrying application.
JB Lewis Longreach Excavations & Dredging Contractors (aka JB Excavations) is a family-owned and -operated company based in Londonderry, about 64km west of Sydney, New South Wales. The company specialises in long reach excavation and dredging work, for the quarrying, maritime, construction, mining and private sectors. The works comprise of dam and channel desilting and cleaning, deep excavations, marine dredging, silt and tails management and rehabilitation. It also works closely with private quarrying operations.
JB Excavations is managed by operations manager Jason Lewis, his two sons Billy and Daniel, and daughter Kristal. While the business has traded for 10 years, the family itself has worked in other businesses servicing the Greater Sydney Region over three decades.
“My eldest son Billy and I started JB Excavations in 2012,” Jason Lewis told Quarry. “I have been working in the quarry industry all my life. I started with my father in the late 1980s in his sand and soil quarry at Yarramundi, on the Nepean River.
“From there, I started with Amatek [which became Rocla, now part of Hanson Construction Materials] in 1990, and I worked throughout New South Wales at all of Rocla’s quarries as an operator and relief quarry manager/supervisor. My son Billy went straight from school into the quarry game; he started as an operator and worked his way up to quarry supervisor, then quarry manager.”
LONG REACH EXCAVATORS
JB Excavations’ fleet consists of a broad range of machines – including excavators, dozers, graders, front end loaders, dump trucks, skid steers and tipper trucks – but the company has become renowned for its nine long reach excavators which Lewis has bought off three OEMs: Caterpillar (four), Komatsu (one) and Hyundai (four). Lewis’s most recent acquisition is the 48-tonne Hyundai R480LC-9, whose reach spans 22 metres and features a maximum dig depth of 17m. JB Excavations also has a four-metre extension arm if needed.
“Our core business is long reach excavation and dredging works, mainly in silt and tailings dams,” he said. “We also offer dry hire for our customers as long as they have an experienced long reach operator. We’ve done bridge pile dredging works for bridge demolitions, our long reach machines have also been on the WestConnex and NorthConnex tunnel projects. We also did some work on the Garden Island dredging project a couple of years ago where we had two long reach machines unloading barges of dredge spoil.
It is not as well known that long reach excavators are suitable for quarrying applications. Lewis said the long reach excavators were in high demand among his quarry clients, and the most popular of his machines. “Our long reach excavators with dredge pump attachments can free up dump trucks carting silt to the dump site and eliminate road spillage and clean-up. With our long reach and dredge pumps, we can extract 150m3 to 200m3 per hour, By pumping the silt with our set-up of one machine and operator, we’re saving the quarry operators time and money that would be spent loading and hauling the raw materials.”
In one quarry, Lewis added, his long reaches not only dredge the sand and soil, he is also responsible for processing the materials.
“For our main customer, we are extracting sand and soil, from beginning to end,” he said. “My son Billy oversees and manages the process. My contract with the operator is to extract all his sand and soil products, load, screen and process the sand in the wash plant, and create a concrete sand.”
To that end, JB Excavations offers quarry producers and other construction-affiliated customers more than just equipment hire, it can provide the expertise and personnel to undertake significant contract work. “We have up to seven permanent employees,” Lewis said, “but we use a lot of skilled contractors that we’ve worked with for a long time or, depending on the job, we can recruit more people.”
JB Excavations has previously offered crushing and screening services. Lewis said crushing and screening no longer has the prominence in his business it once had but he can procure mobile crushers and screens to undertake a job when required.
JB Excavations’ operations and services are not confined to NSW; they can be utilised Australia-wide. “We do remote and interstate work, from places as diverse as Canberra to the Northern Territory. We’ll travel anywhere the work is required,” Lewis said, fresh from a four-month FIFO contract in the Top End.
“Recently, in the Northern Territory, we had to clean out a large tailings dam, and the job was time critical due to the window of opportunity in the dry season,” he elaborated. “COVID protocols caused us some delays with being able to fly into the NT because I had to do two weeks’ quarantine in Howard Springs. But I advertised for an experienced long reach operator to start before I finished my quarantine. I found a guy who got started, and once I finished quarantine, we worked around the clock to complete the job on time and under budget.”
Lewis explained “wet” machine hire was more suitable for his niche quarrying customers, compared to “trying and buying” gear from OEMs/dealers or buying low hour machines from auctioneers. “First, we have a proven track record of getting the job done on time and on budget,” he said. “We are results-driven and we’re always looking to improve our productivity. It’s no problem buying the machines but then you must man the machine. You need to be experienced and know your game. If you don’t, it costs you more money on wasted time due to poor performance and productivity. We can offer fixed price rates by the cubic metre or the tonne for dredging, screening, crushing, processing, silt management and load and haul requirements. We can also offer our customers competitive hourly hire rates.”
JB Excavations has fortunately surfed the ebbs and flows of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lewis recognises the importance of having skilled, competent personnel in his organisation and training and growing his workforce to meet demand. He also anticipates that with current international delays in plant and equipment delivery, there may be more demand for rental plant and equipment, as well as skilled operators, from quarries and other construction companies.
Lewis is confident JB Excavations will be equipped to deal with the rise in demand. “We’re always willing to assist, whenever and wherever we’re needed,” he said. •
For more information about JB Excavations’ services, visit jbexcavations.com.au or lewislongreachexcavatorhire.com.au
This article also appears in the February issue of Quarry Magazine.