Praise for smooth operation

Supply of cement by Holcim to a logistically challenging construction site has drawn praise from project partners. The company worked closely with Firth Industries and Brightwater Engineers Ltd, supplying cement for the construction of a new coal handling and processing plant at Solid Energy's Stockton mine, on the South Island's West Coast.

The remote location, 40 minutes north of Westport, and the large delivery volumes required the involvement of a cement supplier with significant logistics management capacity.

Brightwater Engineers awarded Firth the contract to supply the concrete. Firth installed a mobile Goughs batching plant with a capacity of approx 35 cu m per hour. Holcim was selected to supply cement for the plant.

Stockton is New Zealand's largest opencast coalmine, located on a coastal mountain plateau. With stunning views south to Aoraki Mt Cook and a sweeping vista across the Tasman Sea, the plateau is a location that can inspire the soul on its many clear days. As the Holcim team discovered, Stockton can also be exposed to poor weather. In addition to the logistical challenges, the teams struck a particularly poor period of weather for the main pour.

"The mine is 1000 metres above sea level and enjoys an interesting microclimate," said Dominic Sutton, Firth's Area Manager, Canterbury/West Coast. "Essentially macro levels of rainfall, snow, wind and sub-zero temperatures!"

Firth was required to supply concrete for a single continuous pour of 700 cu m for the base of the main processing plant. Significant planning was required for the pour as interruptions to supply would have been unacceptable. Spare equipment and parts were on hand for any unexpected breakdowns. All the aggregate was stored at the plant with cement brought onto the site during the pour.

The distance from Westport to the Stockton site and the altitude gain placed great demands on Holcim staff and equipment, making the continuous pour a significant challenge. According to Dominic, " This pour is likely to have been the biggest single pour ever undertaken on the West Coast."

On the day of the pour Holcim dispatch staff and drivers ensured a supply of cement was maintained in coordination with construction requirements. Firth manned the plant with its most experienced staff to ensure all went to plan. With everyone from Truck Drivers, Engineers and Plant Supervisors to a Regional Manager to cook the sausages, the pour began. Holcim provided 22 hours of uninterrupted supply, despite extremely unpleasant weather throughout the night.

Dominic went out of his way to thank Holcim for the support provided during this challenging operation.

"We are very grateful for the way in which the supply of cement was managed during the pour. The planning and professional manner of Holcim's dispatch staff and drivers enabled us to concentrate on the task of producing the high standard of concrete required for this job." With several more months of supply required at the mine, Holcim and Firth staff can expect to face more of the Stockton Plateau's changeable weather conditions and challenging logistical demands.