Top Operations: Cemex’s Balcones Quarry
When Cemex looked for ways to improve company performance, it turned to six core values determined by its employees.
by Kerry Clines, Senior Editor
Cemex’s Balcones Quarry is located in New Braunfels, right in the heart of Texas hill country and next door to the Cemex Balcones cement plant. The quarry has been one of the top aggregate producers in the nation for several years running. According to Lance Griffin, Cemex’s director of aggregate operations for Texas and New Mexico, a lot of that is due to the company’s core values, which were developed by employees two years ago and have been implemented across all Cemex operations.
“We have six core values that we try to adhere to,” Griffin says. “They are posted everywhere in the plant. It has been a wonderful driving tool to bring us all together.”
The core values consist of Safety, Ownership, Teamwork, Customer Centric, Innovation, and Transparency. “Obviously, Safety is #1, because we care about our employees,” Griffin explains. “They have to return home safe. Transparency is a huge one. We’re about as transparent as a company would want to be. Trying to get everyone to take Ownership is a huge part of it also. It helps to make sure everyone’s on the same page.”
The quarry property covers about 2,400 acres, with mining expected to reach depths of approximately 200 feet. The first 90 feet of the limestone deposit yields quality aggregate, while the next 30 to 40 feet is softer and grinds well, making it suitable for cement. Beneath that is another 70 to 80 feet of aggregate.
“We’re pretty much the economic engine for this area and for Texas, providing a lot of the aggregate for concrete and cement,” Griffin says. “We supply about 3 million tons of cement rock to our cement plant every year. We have a clean stone market — some local clean stone and ready-mix suppliers — but our major clean stone market is down in Houston. We rail six trains per week to Houston. Houston is tied to energy, and the energy sector is doing very well. We also supply the oilfield business.”
The quarry supplies a lot of aggregate for the Eagle Ford Shale, an energy production area nearby in South Central Texas. That area is full of clay rather than rock, so a considerable amount of stone from the quarry is used for building roadways and drill rig pads.
“We look at this market to be very strong, at least for the next 10 to 15 years,” Griffin says. “Obviously, the big push for domestic oil isn’t going to go away. Underneath the Eagle Ford Shale, there’s the Pearsall Shale, which is just as lucrative. It’s about 4,000 to 5,000 feet deeper, so they’re targeting Eagle Ford first, then they’ll go deeper to Pearsall.”
Griffin says the quarry processes about 35,000 tons a day through the primary crusher and is capable of processing more, if necessary. “We’re permitted up to 4,500 tons per hour,” he says. “We run two drills steady. We’re running 220,000 to 250,000 tons per week out of here.”
Griffin credits his employees for the high production. “The guys make it happen,” he says. “I have the best haul truck drivers; they’re consistent and fast. When they run, they look after everybody. Loader operators are more efficient in turn. The primary crusher operator makes sure that the trucks keep dumping on a consistent basis. It comes down to the Teamwork aspect. They are very proud of what they do. They are striving for #1.”
Building a better mousetrap
In addition to a hard-working crew, the operation also made capital investments to improve operations. For example, a new base plant was built in 2011. It provides commercial base for the oilfield roads and pads. The operation trades out between producing cement feed and commercial base, running cement feed twice a week. Between 600 and 700 trucks run out of the quarry every day, but Griffin says “the truck count has been as high as 1,000 per day. It’s not unusual to have a line of trucks all the way up the hill and all the way down the hill.”
The central Texas area can be very dry and dusty, so all the conveyors are covered to help keep dust down. A new double wheel wash system was built at the quarry last year to help with truck trackout. The system is 40 feet long and holds 10,000 gallons of water. Each side pumps 500 gallons of water per minute, spraying it 10 feet into the air. “We designed it in conjunction with Holt Caterpillar,” Griffin says. “Each system costs about $100,000. It has already been labeled ‘the yellow submarine’ because of its color and how much water it holds.”
A new maintenance area was built near the pit so the wheel loaders and haul trucks in the pit don’t have to drive all the way back to the shop near the entrance for servicing. As it turns out, the new maintenance area helps the quarry in other ways, too. “It helps us in environmental compliance because we can do a better job of controlling everything,” Griffin says. “The roof framework was put up totally for safety. Each bay has two self-retractable lanyards hanging from the roof structure to help keep the maintenance workers safe when working on large equipment.”
Embracing the community
“The quarry was originally agricultural property,” says Janet Krolczyk, director of environmental for the Texas and New Mexico region. It became a quarry in 1969, and Cemex acquired the site in 1994. “Cemex has made a lot of improvements since they acquired it, trying to make the site and the processing areas more efficient,” Krolczyk adds. “This has improved our environmental stewardship and community outreach.”
The town of New Braunfels sits between San Antonio and Austin, a prime location for a quarry supplying construction aggregate for the growing cities, but not so great when that growth begins to close in on the quarry. “We’re seeing a lot of residential encroachment,” Griffins says. “San Antonio is the seventh largest city in the U.S.; Austin is the fastest growing city in the U.S. Basically, everything is just growing together. We have some new subdivisions moving adjacent to our site.”
With communities closing in around the quarry, Balcones Quarry had to find a way to work with the citizens, so it joined a county environmental committee. “The Comal County Community Environmental Committee was created by the Comal County Commissioners Court in 2007,” Krolczyk says. “It includes representatives from the county, community citizens, and representatives from three mining companies. We’re one of them; the others are Martin Marietta and L’hoist. The primary focus has always been to educate the community on rock blasting. We’ve done lots of tours and lots of presentations on blasting. We’re very transparent, so it kind of relieves the bias that you’d have otherwise. It has been very successful.”
A blasting representative attends the committee meetings, puts reports up on a screen, and asks the community if they have any issues or have heard of any issues. This has drastically reduced complaints, according to Krolczyk. “We hardly get any at this point,” she says. “But it’s mainly about education — what’s in here, what’s in our pits, how the blasting is done. Over time, we’ve increased that process.”
Based on the success of the committee meetings, the quarry took its community outreach efforts a step farther with plans for a website. “It’s going to be on the county website so, again, there will be no bias,” Krolczyk adds. “The website will have information on the community citizens group, inviting people to participate, especially with new landowners coming in. We want to be more upfront, and this will tell them who to contact if they have a complaint or a concern or have a question.” The website will also include frequently asked questions, a blasting complaint form, a concern form, terms and definitions of blasting, and more.
“We use all best practices,” Griffin says. “We use Buckley Powder, which is a Dyno subsidiary. We use all electronic detonators. We use all state-of-the-art explosives. We do what they call signature holes to try to tune the blast in. We do all 3D profiling. That has helped with our community issues. We run about seven remote seismographs. We do all third-party monitoring with Vibratech — the community trusts third-party information.”
The quarry has a dedicated environmental team that includes both environmental professionals and operations personnel. “We’re all engaged — meeting with regulators and attending various stakeholder functions and events to ensure we stay in tune with the community and know what’s coming up next,” Krolczyk says. “The operation has always been involved with outreach in the community — contributing, donating, bringing in tours. We constructed a new pavilion that overlooks the quarry pit, so we can take people up there where they can see everything.”
Of all its community projects, Cemex is proudest of its participation in a community program that involves the Edwards Aquifer Authority and the City of New Braunfels Library. The Edwards Aquifer is a very pristine and important underground water system in central Texas which supplies drinking water for much of South Central Texas. Balcones Quarry is within the aquifer’s recharge zone, meaning water passes through the rocky ground and into the aquifer.
“We learned of a new program that included the renovation of the New Braunfels Children’s Library, in partnership with the New Braunfels Public Library and the Edwards Aquifer Authority,” Krolczyk says. “They’re bringing awareness to school children and their parents about the aquifer — the ecosystem and the wildlife habitat, as well as the plant species. Cemex donated $30,000 to sponsor a wall sculpture at the entrance to the Childrens Library, entitled The Springs – Presented to the Children of New Braunfels. Through that, we have also volunteered to do workshops with the children. We’re very excited about the project and proud of our involvement.”
Krolczyk says Cemex has implemented very strong environmental management and sustainability programs, but that the company still has an opportunity to enhance and expand its outreach program with the community and get more involved. “We’re also looking for ways to put in some conservation easements,” she adds. “We have some ideas and are looking at possibly creating a wildlife program here. We’re also looking at ensuring that all of our quarry operations have 100-percent reclamation plans. We have a commitment to do that by 2014-2015.”
Who work safely and demand others do also. We…
• Believe nothing comes before the safety of our employees and the public.
• Make safety personal.
• Actively care and have a passion for people and their safety.
• Hold people accountable for safe acts and behaviors.
• Are observant of behaviors and reinforce the positive. We instantly correct unsafe behaviors and make a commitment that they will not happen again.
Who thrive in an environment of autonomy and accountability. We…
• Act as if our name is on the door and our reputation is at stake.
• Deliver results with impact and embrace accountability.
• Make good, quick decisions and have a bias to action.
• Have enormous energy and the ability to energize others.
Who seek the best for Cemex and not only themselves. We…
• Are deeply invested in each other’s success above our own.
• Check our egos at the door at all times.
• Encourage vigorous debate without fear of reprisal.
• Unify behind decisions regardless of our parochial self-interest.
• Use the work “I” for failures and “we” for successes.
• Create a challenging, fun environment that fosters personal growth while achieving results.
Who build intimate customer relationships. We…
• Know the customer is the reason we are in business.
• Build relationships that are clearly superior to our competitors.
• Find creative ways to make our customers more successful.
• Ensure our organization is easy (and a pleasure) to do business with.
• Fix our inevitable mistakes to the customer’s satisfaction — fast!
Who look for a better way every day. We…
• Have an insatiable curiosity to find a better way.
• Continuously challenge the status quo.
• Generate new ideas and, without ego, search inside and outside the organization for ideas that can be duplicated.
• Recognize those who copy and execute equally to those who generate the original idea.
Who are exceptional communicators. We…
• Exhibit and expect candor in all situations – no matter what the situations are or who is present.
• Explain the “why” behind the “what.”
• Are accessible and approachable.
• Are open to and invite honest criticism.
• Break down silos and create an organization with no boundaries.
• Proactively share and do not hoard information.
Caterpillar 993K wheel loader
Caterpillar 992G wheel loaders (3)
Caterpillar 988G wheel loader
Caterpillar 988H wheel loaders (3)
Caterpillar 980H wheel loaders (2)
Caterpillar 980K wheel loader
Caterpillar 928H wheel loader
Caterpillar 777D haul trucks (5)
Caterpillar 777F haul trucks (3)
Caterpillar 773F haul truck
Caterpillar 773E haul truck
Caterpillar 773F water truck
Caterpillar 769C water truck
Linkbelt 65-ton crane
Grove 35-ton crane
Caterpillar 322CL excavator
Caterpillar 349E excavator
Caterpillar 246C skid-steer loaders (2)
Caterpillar D9T dozer
Caterpillar 14H grader
Caterpillar 416E backhoe
Caterpillar 725 fuel/lube truck
Hazemag APP-1822 primary crusher
Hazemag APSH-1430 secondary crusher
Universal 150/150 tertiary crusher
Universal 130/150 tertiary crusher
Cedarapids 5064 tertiary crusher
McLanahan sand plant with 44-inch screws and cyclones
Deister 6×16 screen
Deister 8×20 screen
Deister 8×24 screen
Metso 8×20 screen
Dust Control Technology DustBoss DB-60
Dust Control Technology DustBoss DB-30
Balcones Quarry Tour
AGG1 attendees will be able to tour the quarry on Monday, March 18 from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. An additional fee of $55 per person is required. There’s only room for 150 people on the buses, so sign up early to reserve a spot.
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