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The hunt for airport asphalt

Quarry finds out how Hunter Quarries was able to supply 170,000 tonnes of highly technical materials for the Newcastle Airport upgrade project.

Downer EDI Works had been tasked with upgrading the Newcastle Airport’s runway, a “game-changing” project that aims to directly connect the Hunter and northern NSW regions to the rest of the world.

The project was designed to make the airport’s runway eligible for Code E status, which allows it to accommodate long-range, wide-bodied aircraft.

To support these larger planes landing and taking off all day, every day, Downer required 170,000 tonnes of highly specific asphalt aggregates.

Hunter Quarries, a local quarry that specialises in road base and asphalt aggregates, was tasked with supplying it.

Hunter Quarries general manager, Dylan Nagle told Quarry the asphalt aggregates needed to meet GHD airport runway specifications. The materials supplied included Barmac Manufactured Sand (BMS) as well as premium asphalt aggregates in 7mm, 10mm, 14mm, and 20mm sizing to fulfill the project’s AC14 and AC20 mix design requirements.

To deliver this material, the company needed to mobilise a previously moth-balled plant within just one month.

“We operate two quarries that are side by side,” he said. “One of these quarries was operational on an as-needed basis if the main quarry didn’t have the capacity.”

“That quarry’s lifespan was coming to an end, and we were focusing on the newer quarry for day-to-day operations.

“Because of the amount of aggregate required for the airport project, and due to how specific the technical requirements were, we felt the best way to support the client was to dedicate the entire quarry to that project.”

The technical team set an extensive testing regime in a short period of time. Image: Hunter Quarries

Significant electrical and structural enhancements were made to increase plant capacity, ensuring efficiency in production and delivery. Despite the short lead time, Hunter Quarries managed to mobilise its workforce promptly to guarantee the on-time delivery of all products meeting project specifications. The technical team set an extensive testing regime in a short period of time, to ensure adherence to the site specifications.

“Our technical team were very busy running tests on the material. Changing the screens on a plant, takes a good two to three hours per change, but it’s important to make sure you’re providing the right material.

“Leveraging the synergies within the Hunter Construction Group, our materials underwent comprehensive testing by Hunter Civilab, contributing to the project’s success with minimal lead times.

“Our technical team also learned about new testing methods and the benefits of ongoing communications with the client.”

Hunter Quarries supplied the material with no significant non-conformance reports to date. Image: Hunter Quarries

Hunter Quarries and Downer scheduled weekly meetings to ensure that any issues were quickly identified and relayed. The enhanced communication helped build a strong connection between the two businesses and allowed all stakeholders to plan around any delays.

The previous runway measured 3500m by 45m, and Downer’s team integrated 7.5m wide shoulders to enhance its capabilities. All extension and reconstruction activities were diligently carried out during nightly curfew hours, ensuring minimal disruption to Defence operations and local access to the Hunter region.

The airfield has now been upgraded to accommodate Code E aircraft, such as Boeing 777s and Airbus A350s. The upgrade opens up Newcastle Airport to direct international flights to Asia and the Pacific, marking a significant advancement in regional connectivity.

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Hunter Quarries supplied the material with no significant non-conformance reports to date.

Nagle said the successful completion of this project not only elevates the infrastructure at Newcastle Airport but also contributes to the region’s economic growth by fostering international connectivity.

“Hunter Quarries remains committed to playing a pivotal role in projects that enhance community well-being and regional development.” •

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