Canada's top ten agregate operations

This exclusive report looks at what has been happening over the last year at some of Canada’s biggest quarries
 Aggregates & Roadbuilding Staff
April 30, 2008
By Aggregates & Roadbuilding Staff
12Looking at this year’s Top 10 aggregate operations, the pattern established in recent years continues, with Canada’s three biggest operations all water based and in the same order as the previous year.

Three of the Top 10 operations are located in British Columbia, with four in Ontario and one each in Quebec, Nova Scotia and Alberta. The top two operations reported big production increases to pull away from the pack. Texada Quarry on B.C.’s Texada Island, now the country’s biggest aggregate operation by far, saw a 28 per cent jump in production while the number two operation, the Sechelt pit of Construction Aggregates Limited on B.C’s Sunshine Coast saw a 14 per cent jump. Significant increases were also reported by the Villeneuve Pit of Inland Aggregates,Dufferin Aggregates’ Milton Quarry and Mainland Sand & Gravel’s Cox Station Quarry. The remainder reported similar volumes or declines from 2006.
Kevin Spenst, general manager, Lafarge USWC Division, explains that in 2007 the Texada Quarry underwent a number of significant changes as well as achieving a number of significant milestones. The quarry continued its exceptional safety record with no lost time accidents surpassing five years and was recognized by the Ministry of Mines with the Stewart O’Brian award for Safety Excellence.

Record sales from the quarry for 2007 were 7.3 million tonnes, due to the addition of over 1.0 million tones of material sold to the Deltaport Project along with asphalt aggregate sales to Grace Pacific in Hawaii, and limestone sales to Cemex in San Francisco. Spenst adds that productions and sales volumes were virtually the same last year. The quarry implemented of a number of important pieces of equipment in 2007. The addition of an upgraded X-Ray system in the laboratory along with a complete quarry GPS System will ensure the quarry production meets the high specification demands in the market for years to come. Successful completion of a fleet equipment study ended with the ordering of a number of new pieces of equipment in 2007. A Caterpillar 992 wheel loader, a 777 haul truck, a D10 dozer and a Komatsu 300 excavator were all ordered in 2007 for delivery in 2008. Another feed bin was added to the shiploader in 2007 to increase the feed capacity by another 1000 tonnes/h. With the enormous amount of work in 2007, there was no time for any major capital upgrades. Crushing plants were “maxed out” in 2007 as Texada produced record levels.

13bA number of new areas in the quarry were developed for additional reserves. A new granite area was opened exposing additional sources for construction aggregates, along with a new white limestone quarry for specialty aggregates.

Spenst adds that (Texada’s) market demands in Canada have not slowed and expectations are for the current trend to continue for the next few years. The slowing economy in the U.S. has affected some large projects, but this has been somewhat offset by lack of available reserves in the immediate demand areas. At the Sechelt pit of Construction Aggregates Ltd, Canada’s biggest sand and gravel operation, mine manager Mike Latimer reports that the operation processed 5.7 million tonnes in 2007 and sold 5.1 million tonnes. There were no significant changes to the process, equipment or suppliers. For 2008, Latimer adds that the operation is shooting for 6.1 million tonnes processed for 2008 as its sister operation in Victoria (Producers Pit) has shut down and is reclaiming stockpiled material only.

Perry Newman is manager at the Manitoulin Quarry of Lafarge Canada Inc. Newman reports a difficult year in 2007 due to a number of external factors. Chief among these was the strong Canadian dollar as most of the demand for this Ontario water based operation’s products stems from U.S. markets on the Great Lakes. As Newman points out, 2007 was the first time since the quarry began operation in May 1981 that the value of the Canadian dollar has exceeded the U.S. dollar. In tandem with the exchange rate issue Manitoulin has, like many other Canadian exporters, felt the downdraft of a slowing U.S. market. In addition, the quarry’s shipments have been impacted by lower water levels in the Great Lakes, with Lake Huron at or near record lows in fall 2007. Those low
water levels translate into fewer tonnes per shipment to deal with reduced draft at some customer dock locations. Finally, Manitoulin has experienced labour challenges, with the loss of some experienced employees to the expanding base material mining industry around Sudbury. These challenges notwithstanding, Manitoulin retains its position as one of Canada’s biggest quarries with 4.4 million tonnes of production in 2007. Sustaining capital investment last year included two new pieces of Caterpillar mobile equipment, a 777F haul truck and a 14M grader, with the status quo maintained on the process equipment side.

At Lafarge Canada’s Dundas, Ont. crushed stone operation, quarry manager Ron Graham reports that recent capital additions include a Metso HP500 cone crusher, installed during winter 2007/2008. The HP500’s job will increase the yield of clear sized stone at the operation’s secondary plant and in terms of process flow, is located after a Metso Nordberg 2.1 m cone crusher and ahead of two Konica vertical shaft impact (VSI) crushers. At the
face, a new Caterpillar 992G has replaced another 992G for primary loading duty. The typical primary load and haul set up at Dundas includes a Caterpillar 992G wheel loader teamed with a 990 high lift wheel unit to load three Caterpillar 777D haulers. In terms of business level, Graham expects 2008 to be similar to Dundas’ 2007 production tonnage of 4.3 million tonnes.

Brian Puchala, operations superintendent Northern Alberta at Inland Aggregates’ Villeneuve plant near Edmonton, reports that the 2008 construction season is well underway after cold weather and snow well into April. In Puchala’s view, there has been a easing of labour shortages due to the recent slowdown in Alberta’s booming oil and gas industry, although there is still the possibility of upgrader plant construction east of Edmonton. On the construction side, the start of the north leg of the Anthony Henday Parkway will boost demand, with construction expected to start this fall. In terms of overall 2008 volumes, Puchala expects this year to be similar to or slightly lower than 2007 when the Villeneuve plant produced 4.3 million tonnes from raw material supplied by two nearby pits.

Administration manager Dan Fougere reports that the Porcupine Mountain quarry of Martin Marietta Material Inc. in Nova Scotia produced 4.0 million tonnes in 2007. On the marketing side, a close eye is being kept on U.S. as the operation’s primary market, with the strength and timing of the recovery of the
U.S. market likely to impact capital investment decisions here.

Antonio Mascarenhas, site manager at Dufferin Aggregates’ Milton Quarry explains that water management at the property is accomplished using a state-of-the-art water management system. The water management system collects surface water and groundwater to maintain dry working conditions in the Main Quarry and North Quarry. Water in the quarry is collected in dewatering sumps and conveyed to a reservoir where it is stored and eventually discharged for quarry operations or environmental mitigation. Two main dewatering sumps are used, including one in the Main Quarry and one in the North Quarry. Additional satellite sumps, channels, and culverts are used as necessary to convey water to the main dewatering sumps. The main dewatering sumps
14discharge water to the reservoir, which is located in the Main Quarry. Some of this water can be diverted to quarry operations, as needed. The reservoir is the most visible component of the water management system at Milton Quarry. Occupying an area of approximately 70 ha, the reservoir can store 5.5 m3 of water (including 1.7 million m3 in the normal Main Quarry gravity outflow operating range (306 to 309 m AMSL) and an additional 2 million m3 of reserve capacity above the Main Quarry pump outfl ow elevation of 303 m AMSL). To give some idea of the relative size of the reservoir, the total and active holding volumes of nearby reservoirs are; Hilton Falls, 1.8 and 1.0 million m3, Kelso 1.5 and 1.0 million m3 and Scotch Block 1.8 and 0.6 million m3.

14bPumping stations at Dufferin’s reservoircan provide water to quarry operations, the Hilton Falls Reservoir Tributary, and the North Quarry Recharge Well System. Duf- ferin Aggregates discharges water from Milton Quarry to the HFRT. Discharge to the HFRT is determined annually with Conservation Halton in order to maintain natural fl ows in the tributary. At the present time, the total annual discharge from Milton Quarry to the HFRT is 700,000 m3. Dufferin Aggregates operates in the North Quarry Recharge Well System around the western portion of the North Quarry. The North Quarry Recharge Well System consists of a pumping station at the reservoir, 2.6 km of water main (600 mm to 300 mm diameter),and a series of 20 recharge (injection) wells with flow control systems. The recharge wells are operated to mitigate the dewatering effect from the North Quarry to prevent any adverse effect on the water resources in the area, including private water supply wells, coldwater fisheries, and wetlands. The recharge 16system is operated to maintain the natural seasonal water levels using an adaptive management approach which recognizes the inherent variability of the natural environment. As Milton Quarry expands to the north into the approved extension lands, the recharge well system will be extended by approximately 3.5 km to provide protection to the water resources in that area.  In terms of production, Mascarenhas expects that 2008 will see a similar level of production to the 2007 total of the 3.82 million tonnes. Volumes have rebounded following poor weather in March, although the expects another good year overall similar to 2007 production of 2.0 million tonnes. Acton’s volumes are, in the long run, something of a barometer of the regional roadbuilding sector’s health as its principal products are granular road base as well as 9.5 mm and 19.5 mm coarse asphalt aggregates. In 2006, for instance, its volumes were lower for a while as the spike in oil prices triggered a jump in asphalt cement prices which in turn squeezed roadbuilding budgets.

16bCapital additions in 2007 included a Caterpillar 777F haul truck, increasing the primary haul fleet to six in order to maintain production rates from the quarry’s Phase 3 development. Another 777F will be acquired in 2008 as a replacement truck for one of the fleet’s older units. This year will also see the delivery to Acton of a second Caterpillar 990H high lift wheel loader, also as a replacement machine and, for the first time, two John Deere 844K wheel loaders. On the processing side, new equipment includes a Thor 914 mm x 45.7 m stacker. Still on operations, 2008 will be something of a milestone year for Ac- ton in terms of rehabilitation. With most of the soil already in place, this year will see the final rehabilitation on the eastern half of the quarry’s Phase 2 area.

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