A Small, Family-Owned Quarry Operation Is Partnering With A Large Dimensional Stone Company, And It Has Resulted In A Unique Addition To The Texas Aggregates Market.
By Mark S. Kuhar
Central Texas Stone & Aggregate saw a big opportunity and jumped on it.
Dimensional stone giant Cold Spring – which operates a quarry on the edge of the Llano Uplift in Marble Falls, Texas – was faced with thousands of tons of unused granite piling up. Something needed to be done with it.
Central Texas Stone & Aggregate signed a lease to begin producing high-density granite armor stone for a growing market and hit the ground running.
“Most of the rock deposits throughout the state are predominantly limestone,” said Cole Bland, vice president, Central Texas Stone & Aggregate. “Most of the high-production quarries are making limestone products. But for Army Corp. of Engineers specs, and railroad specs, limestone isn’t sufficient.
“At our existing quarry operations, we were making rip-rap, but we started to get a lot of phone calls asking if we had granite rip-rap. Granite is best for projects in seawater or navigable waterways because it has higher density and absorption resistance than limestone. After doing some research, we found one of the only sources of granite in Texas,” Bland said.
The Marble Falls area is no stranger to quarry operations. A number of companies, including Vulcan Materials, Texas Materials, Knife River, Capitol Aggregates and others have operations in the area, but the hardness of the granite deposit at the Cold Spring site – and the production challenges of working with hard, abrasive stone – conspired to make the deposit unviable for general aggregates products.
Previously lease-holders produced a limited amount of railroad ballast at the site. But Central Texas Stone & Aggregate stepped in with another idea: rip-rap. The only other sources for granite armor stone are in Oklahoma, Missouri and by barge from the Mississippi River.
“We looked at the deposit differently; we matched the demand with the supply,” Bland said. “The Army Corp. of Engineers is working on the Gulf Coast doing shoreline rehab; all of the ports are being expanded which requires rap-rap or jetty stone. Our idea was to process the unused granite blocks for that purpose. And right now the demand is way outpacing the supply.”
The company picked up a contract for its first major job – the Rio Grande Liquid Natural Gas Project in Brownsville, Texas. “It is a multi-billion-dollar plant expansion,” Bland said. “We are providing some of the granite rip rap for the job, as well as the 3- x 5-in. bedding stone that goes underneath.”
The unused granite block pile at the site tops out at around 60-ft. high, Bland stated. It is a giant dome rising up from the ground. That is where the production process starts.
“We have a large Komatsu PC650 that works at the pile, we call it our ‘knock down’ machine,” Bland said. “It has a heavy-duty steel bucket and we use it to pull down material off the pile to get it on flat ground for processing. Then, we use a Komatsu PC490 with a Rammer hydraulic hammer on it doing the primary breaking.
“For the Rio Grande Liquid Natural Gas Project we can get away with just using the primary breaker,” Bland continued. “They want to have a certain weight of stone; we are making 24- to 30-in. rocks for them. We will eventually go to a smaller machine and hammer for secondary breaking and for processing smaller pieces.”
At the site, they build their own static grizzly screens for sizing, and to pull out undesirable or non-spec material.
Komatsu WA-600 and Komatsu WA-500 loaders are used around the screen and to feed material for additional processing as well as for loading.
“We have about 30 pieces of equipment within our mining division,” Bland said. “We use both Komatsu and Cat equipment. Our local Komatsu rep is Waukesha-Pearce, and our Caterpillar rep is HOLT Cat. They are resourceful, attentive and helpful when it comes to getting parts and service.”
For the large rip-rap, material is trucked to the job site in Brownsville. “They have their own fleet of trucks that comes in and picks up,” Bland said. “We load them, weigh them and off they go.”
The length of the Gulf Coast is all viable territory for Central Texas Stone & Aggregate to expand the distribution of its armor stone business, in fact all the way up to the Texas and Louisiana border.
There is another L&G plant going in at Port Arthur, Bland said. “I’m doing my best to do a good job on our first project because we want a shot at doing others,” he said. “We plan on having the material ready to go on-site, because that’s important. We will have the product ready when they need it. Project delays can be costly, we want to offer a contractor the best opportunity to stay on schedule.”
While additional large contracts are sure to transpire, Central Texas Stone & Aggregate will make additional products as well. “In addition to the rip-rap, we want to produce rail ballast and high-density asphalt rock, if it is needed in the market. Our asphalt rock will absorb less oil, so it could be a benefit for asphalt producers.”
To make smaller-sized products, they will have to do a small amount of crushing. The company will go with a Tesab 800i portable crusher for that purpose, from McCourt Equipment.
Ultimately, Central Texas Stone & Aggregate is focused on three things: helping Coldspring achieve its commitment to sustainability by finding a reliable use for any materials not utilized in its operations; providing the State of Texas with a qualified and reliable source of granite stone products which is sure to play a key role in the infrastructure growth of the Gulf Coast; and being good stewards of the land and the hard work of the men and women that produce these important materials.