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Seeing the extraction process at a dimension stone quarry was a new experience for many IQA members.
Seeing the extraction process at a dimension stone quarry was a new experience for many IQA members.

IQA members gain insight into dimension stone

A recent site tour introduced a number of IQA members to the world of dimension stone quarrying.

The IQA’s New South Wales Hunter sub-branch organised the site visit, which was held on Tuesday, 17 February at Gosford Quarries’ sandstone quarry and factory in Somersby, NSW.

Sub-branch secretary Greg Thomson explained that the visit had been designed to provide unique insight into the dimension sandstone industry. “Dimension stone operations are quite different compared to other quarrying operations and are fairly rare in Australia,” he said. “Site visits in general also offer attendees a chance to see how other quarries operate.”

With nine quarries and two workshops across Australia, as well as a history of sandstone quarrying that dates back to 1922, Gosford Quarries was an ideal operator to host the visit.

Quarry manager Greg Cook said Gosford Quarries had been happy to support the IQA event, agreeing with Thomson that the business was fairly unique within the IQA’s member companies, which mostly consist of aggregate quarries. “We actually cut the rock out of the ground, process it and deliver it to the customer, whereas most quarry operations make ingredients to go into a mix,” he explained.

Attendees were given a guided tour of the operation and allowed to observe the full production chain – from the extraction of raw material in the quarry to the development of the finished product in the factory.

Old and new technology for a complex operation
Attendees observed the raw materials’ transition into a finished product.
Attendees observed the raw materials’ transition into a finished product.

Cook said he had received positive feedback from the IQA members that had participated, adding that the “quirky mix of old and new” had been particularly fascinating to them.

“We use the traditional, ‘old school’ way of cutting but we’ve also introduced a lot of computers and new ways of cutting primary stone,” he said. “So we’ve got gang saws that are over 100 years old sitting next to highly computerised six-axis saws.”

Cook explained that the traditional gang saws were able to achieve a finish that could not be recreated with modern diamond saws, so the older equipment was retained in order to meet demand for sandstone with that particular texture.

Hanson quarry manager Brett Worner said that he and the other IQA members in attendance had never seen or understood the processes and associated complexities of a dimension stone operation prior to the tour.

“It was very interesting to see that aspect of the quarrying industry because we’re generally blowing rocks up and crushing them down to make concrete,” he commented. “To see the dimension stone side of quarrying and the quality of the finished product was really interesting and something we had never been exposed to.”

Worner said another highlight of the visit had been hearing about the business’ successful and extensive history – particularly the various Australian landmarks Gosford Quarries’ product had been used in, which include the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, the Parliament of Victoria building in Melbourne and Sydney Town Hall – as well as its work restoring heritage-listed buildings.

Gosford Quarries is Australia’s largest supplier of dimension sandstone with more than 140 years’ stonemasonry experience. A merger with Sydney sandstone business Sarkis Bros in May 2014 resulted in the business’ expansion to incorporate specialised services such as in-house designers, heritage consultants and 3D modelling. The diverse business now offers sandstone for a wide range of residential, commercial and civil applications, including paving, cladding, carving and profiling.

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