Cemex’s Balcones Quarry – The Largest Crushed-Stone Plant in the United States by Production Volume – Celebrated Its 50th Anniversary.
By Mark S. Kuhar
This is the first in a three-part series on Cemex’s Balcones Quarry in New Braunfels, Texas. – Ed.
Cemex recently marked the 50th anniversary of its Balcones Quarry in New Braunfels, Texas, holding an event to celebrate the facility’s milestone while looking toward the operation’s future.
The quarry takes its name from the Balcones Escarpment, a geological formation along the edge of the scenic Texas Hill Country that is rich in recoverable limestone.
Balcones Quarry began operations in 1968. Cemex purchased the quarry along with the neighboring cement plant in 1994 from Lafarge Corp. as part of a $100 million deal that included other Texas properties, according to a Rock Products news report from that year. The quarry currently processes more than 10 million tons of crushed limestone annually and supports infrastructure, residential and commercial projects across Texas.
The United States Geological Survey recently ranked Cemex’s Balcones Quarry as the top crushed stone producer in the nation in terms of volume.
Employees, including Cemex USA Regional President – Texas and New Mexico Region Joel Galassini, attended a 50th anniversary bash held by the quarry, which included a planned quarry blast.
“The Balcones Quarry has provided critical building materials for projects across Texas for decades, and it has set high standards for innovation and sustainability,” Galassini said. “The community has grown up around this quarry, and the quarry has evolved with it. We’re proud to be a member of the New Braunfels community, offering quality jobs and operating in a way that positively affects the area.
“We build your homes, your schools, your churches,” Galassini concluded. “We literally build the foundation of Texas with the materials that come out of this quarry.”
Cemex focuses on sustainability and environmentally friendly operations at the facility. In 2016, Balcones Quarry opened a state-of-the-art water recycling plant at the quarry to dramatically cut reliance on local water sources.
Cemex has also opened a Wildlife Habitat Center adjacent to the quarry to promote conservation and sustainability. The center includes about 17 acres of restored prairie, pollinator gardens and meadows planted with native plants. An education center and wheelchair-accessible produce garden are also on the site.
“Balcones Quarry is a shining example of what an operation can be when it is fully integrated into a community,” said Cemex USA President Ignacio Madridejos. “It not only supports the region with high-quality aggregates but exemplifies what Cemex strives to do in every community in which we live and operate, by being a good neighbor.”
Water Recycling Plant
One of the most important aspects of Cemex’s Balcones Quarry is its water recycling system. The state-of-the-art system decreases the building materials company’s environmental impact and reliance on water pulled from nearby sources by using 90 percent less water annually than previously used by the quarry’s wash plant.
The new, fully-automated water recycling system uses and recycles 12,000 gal.-per-min. of water to separate aggregate sand fines, which are then reclaimed from the water stream as useable sand product. The water recycling system decreases the need for additional local water and adds efficiency to wash plant operations.
“The new water recycling system at Cemex’s Balcones quarry is the first-of-its-kind in our operations and was constructed to reduce reliance on local aquifers, which are extremely important water sources for the more than two million local residents and businesses,” said Galassini. “We’re proud of the updates our team has made at the Balcones quarry, and expect a positive impact on our surrounding communities.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, New Braunfels was the nation’s second-fastest growing city among those with more than 50,000 residents, recording a population increase of 6.6 percent during the 12 months ending July 1, 2015. The new recycling system will save the equivalent of 2,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools annually.
“This project represents Cemex’s continued commitment to integrating safety and sustainability practices into our operations and to minimize our environmental footprint in the communities in which we live, work and operate,” said Madridejos. “Our team has driven day-to-day activities to ensure the safety and well-being of our employees while also applying industry-leading environmental management practices in our Balcones operations, and we’re extremely proud of their diligence.”
Wildlife Habitat Center
Another unique feature at Balcones Quarry is the Dry Comal Creek Wildlife Habitat Center. Cemex first began construction on the habitat area five years ago.
The 17-acre area includes a pollinator garden, a prairie restoration area and honeybee apiaries. Lance Griffin, director of aggregate operations for Texas and New Mexico, said the project started as a simple nature trail and evolved.
Cemex has also constructed a conference and event space on the grounds and a handicap-accessible greenhouse garden. Already, Cemex uses the space for school groups and also offers the space for use by non-profit and other organizations.
Employees hosted six Quarry Day educational events last April, guiding 650 elementary and high school students through the quarry and teaching them how the limestone produced at the quarry is essential for buildings and roads used every day. The tours ended at the Wildlife Habitat Center, where students learned about the onsite pollinator garden, prairie restoration project and other conservation efforts.
Cemex has participated in the Southeast Monarch Initiative with locations throughout the migration path, including Balcones Quarry. Efforts to restore the Monarch population include planting milkweeds, native prairie-seed mixes, wildflowers and/or other plants beneficial to pollinators in designated onsite habitats and gardens.
Cemex’s efforts to achieve environmental excellence were recently honored by Texan by Nature, a Texas-led conservation non-profit founded by Former First Lady Mrs. Laura Bush. The company was recognized for its ongoing commitment to sustainability and land preservation through the El Carmen Land and Conservation Co. LLC (ECLCC), a partnership that oversees the U.S. portion of El Carmen, a private trans-boundary nature preserve.
ECLCC is a combined effort between Cemex and J. Austin Ranches. The Texan by Nature Conservation Wranglers program recognizes innovative and transformative conservation projects in the state. ECLCC works to preserve approximately 27,000 acres of El Carmen within Texas.
“Sustainability is one of our core strategies at Cemex,” said Galassini. “We are honored to be recognized by Texan by Nature for our efforts at El Carmen. We are not only committed to restoring habitats and wildlife there but strive to extend that commitment to our operations.”
El Carmen is comprised of five different ecosystems, and its nearly 350,000 acres in Texas and Mexico are home to a myriad of plants, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. CEMEX has made important contributions to the continued scientific research, restoration, conservation, and increased population of endangered species and their habitats in this cross-border private conservation region.
ECLCC was one of six projects across Texas named as a 2018 Conservation Wrangler by Texan by Nature. Last year, Texas Parks and Wildlife honored Cemex and ECLCC for conservation efforts with the 2017 Lone Star Steward Award for the Trans Pecos Region.
Next month, in part two of this three-part feature, read about how Balcones Quarry has leveraged equipment and technology to maximize productivity.
Balcones Hosts Quarry Academy
Cemex hosted dozens of aggregates industry experts at its Balcones Quarry in New Braunfels, Texas, to help highlight best practices to improve process efficiency as part of the annual Quarry Academy educational seminar presented by Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology and Dyno Nobel.
Cemex representatives gave the more than 130 Academy participants an up-close look at the new fully automated and highly efficient aggregates wash plant at Balcones Quarry along with the facility’s new high-performance water recycle and fines recovery plant, which has decreased the company’s reliance on water from local aquifer sources by 90 percent. The fines recovery plant reclaims aggregate fines from the wash plant to a useable sand product.
“It’s an honor for us to host the Quarry Academy at the premier aggregates facility in the country,” said Cemex USA Regional President – Texas and New Mexico Region Joel Galassini. “Cemex is a leader in the aggregates industry, and we are proud to demonstrate our high standards when it comes to safety and innovation.”
During the four-hour tour, participants also watched a drilling exhibition by Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology as well as a blasting demonstration by Dyno Nobel, emphasizing innovative, efficient and safe mining technologies.
In 2018, Cemex hosted the Quarry Academy tour for the fifth time at the Balcones Quarry.