A neglected Maryland quarry gets a site overhaul, an equipment upgrade and begins to realize its true production potential.By Mark S. Kuhar
Tucked into the hills north of Baltimore, Patuxent Materials, Inc.'s Blue Mount Quarry, in White Hall, Md., began its useful life in the early 1900s, producing railroad ballast. As the years went by, activity at the site slowly decreased. Except for some occasional crushing, and periodic production of topsoil and ball-diamond mix, very little material moved out the gate.
That all changed in 2006, when Patuxent Materials purchased the quarry. But it took most of 2007 to get the site back in shape to become a prime-time producer of construction materials.
"We started by upgrading the site to accommodate a modern crushed stone operation," said company President Skip Gardiner. "We put in a new haul road, and we had to replace a wooden deck with concrete on a bridge that provides access to the main part of the quarry. We also had to protect a trout stream that runs through the property."
The site improvements included re-engineering the power grid for electric service at the site, and cleaning up years and years of accumulated materials. "This place was a mess when we got here," said co-owner and Vice President of Operations Dave Kirchner.
"You name it, and it was here, including old cars, piles of dirt and other kinds of debris."
None of the plant components at the site were worth saving, and all of it was sold at an auction prior to Patuxent taking over. The operation literally started with a clean slate.
Blue Mount Quarry produces a trap rock and a schist material, both of which are very hard. Blasting is contracted out to Dyno-Nobel, which maintains a permanent on-site presence. "We blast about once or twice per month," Gardiner said. Although the site is rural, there are homes in the near vicinity of the plant. "We typically don't have any problems with community response to our blasting," he said. "We drill smaller holes and rely on smaller shots, and that has worked out well for us. We try to get along well in the neighborhood."
Because the blasted material is hard, sharp rock, a Caterpillar 365C excavator is used at the quarry face. "It's a tracked machine, so we don't have to worry about the stone tearing up tires," Gardiner said. The 365C loads two Caterpillar 770 rigid-frame haul trucks, which cycle between the quarry face and the primary.
The quarry also uses two Caterpillar 980H front-end loaders for loading over-the-road trucks, and as a back-up for the 365C. The Cat rolling stock was purchased new from local Cat distributor Alban Tractor.
Setting up a new crushing and screening operation always brings with it challenges and opportunities. Patuxent drew upon its experience in recycling and contract crushing to create the most efficient equipment configuration for the site. They were helped in no small part by Russ Coverdale with Warfordsburg, Pa.-based equipment distributor Mellott Enterprises.
"We only had a narrow footprint within which to set up the new plant, so we had to keep everything as compact as possible," Gardiner said. "Our choice for a new primary jaw crusher was Lippman-Milwaukee. We have used their equipment before, and have a good relationship with company President Bob Turner. We have been very pleased with the crusher's performance."
A Teledyne (now Breaker Technology, Inc.) pedestal breaker is also used on oversized at the primary.
The company bought a Metso 300S secondary cone crusher from Mellott, which also fabricated a custom-built dump hopper for the primary, and supplied radial stackers for the plant as well. A Cedarapids El-Jay 54-in. cone crusher, to which oversized is recirculated, and other ancillary equipment and technology, including an Extec portable crushing plant, are also in use at the site.
The plant, which is totally dry production, uses a variety of screen media, including stainless steel, punch plate and other media from companies such as Buffalo Wire and Mellott Enterprises.
A Nesco Dustpro 407 dust-suppression system has been installed on the plant to keep the air clear, and a water truck is used on haul roads to keep the road dust down.
All of the changes and upgrades at the Blue Mount Quarry site have resulted in a very efficient operational blueprint. The plant maintains about 400 tph, according to Gardiner. Current aggregates products include stone dust, crusher run, #8 stone, #57 stone and #2 stone. They are currently operating one shift at the plant. Key personnel include quarry Operations Manager Matt Andrews. It is estimated that there are more than 20 million tons of material still to be removed from the site.
"If we do a half-million tons, we'll be here about 40 years," Gardiner said.
Maintenance is an important part of any quarry operation, and Patuxent Materials takes it very seriously. The plant has a service truck on-site and on-call in the event of any equipment breakdown. The company also built a service garage, where equipment maintenance goes on throughout the year,
"We replace our own jaws, switch out our own screens, and do whatever else is necessary to keep the plant running," Gardiner said.
"If a major rebuild is required, we can send equipment to our main shop down in Crofton (Md.)."
A new 70-ft. Weigh-Tronix scale with a wheel wash was installed to facilitate loadout. "We try to keeps the roads clear outside of the gate, which keeps the community happy," Gardiner said.
Beating the Recession
Patuxent Materials, Inc. purchased the Blue Mount property just as the recession was starting to weigh the economy down. But the timing was right for the company, as the plant came online just as a need for greater production had begun.
"The one thing that we have in our favor is our diversity," Gardiner said. "Our company is involved in aggregates, recycling, contract crushing and the delivery of construction materials. If one of our segments is down, another is usually strong, and that works in our favor. We also buy from other quarries, but if we're not getting the best price, or the material is not available, we can buy from ourselves. And that is a nice situation to be in."