September 1, 2010
When Kennesaw Quarry began mining granite in the early 1950s, that area of northwestern Georgia was fairly empty, nothing like the suburban-Atlanta neighborhood that now surrounds the facility. Mining was easier when there was little development and few neighbors. But the area would find itself transformed from agriculture to a bedroom community for growing Atlanta and then a center for commercial, residential, and institutional development. Kennesaw Quarry supplied materials for much of that growth — the portion of Interstate 75 that runs through the area; Cobb County’s general aviation airport that was built in the 1960s on a portion of the property owned by the quarry; and Kennesaw State College (now University), which was founded in 1966; not to mention Town Center Mall, Cobb Place Shopping Mall, and a shopping strip along one of Cobb County’s busiest roadways. Over time, as more people began living and working in the area, Vulcan lost its anonymity. As civilization surrounded Kennesaw Quarry, mining became more complicated, but what might seem like a curse is actually a blessing.
Education is the key
Vulcan knew that the key to addressing concerns from the encroaching community was to educate the public about the operation and the importance of mining. It wasn’t enough for the quarry just to be involved in the community, the community needed to know why the quarry was there and what was going on inside the pit. So Kennesaw began an aggressive community relations program.
“Our community relations program began in the 1980s when Vulcan decided to relocate the county road that ran through the middle of the plant area to the edge of the property,” says Steve Collier, plant manager. “This allowed Kennesaw Quarry to begin work on the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association’s ‘About Face Program,’ which led to the quarry’s designation as Showplace and, ultimately, Quarry of the Year’ in 1997. Once we felt a little better about our appearance and our operation, we began hosting tours of our facility.”
Enter Edith Parivechio, community relations coordinator. When Vulcan built a new employee training facility at the quarry, she recognized a greater potential. “It started out as an employee building, but it evolved,” Parivechio says. “After we built the building, we began putting granite samples in display cases. Granite samples are nice, but I thought it would be even better to display other minerals and objects as well. We have a great collection of fossils and minerals, and exhibits showing the importance of mining to our society.”
The building quickly became a museum and a place to educate school children, the community, and more. “There are three elementary schools nearby, and they did maybe five or six tours a year,” Parivechio says. “If they had a teacher who enjoyed teaching earth science or geology, they’d bring their students over for a tour.”
But even with the quarry’s meeting room and museum, there just weren’t that many students coming to the quarry because it wasn’t well known — until the Wienman Museum (now TELLUS Northwest Georgia Science Center) brought some teachers to the quarry as part of a workshop. “The Weinman hosted a week-long workshop for North Georgia earth science teachers, and one full day was spent at Kennesaw Quarry,” Parivechio says. “There were 33 teachers in that group. Those teachers went back to different parts of the state, and people learned about us by word of mouth. The following year, I had 10,000 students visit the quarry. I never had to pick up the phone or advertise.”
When the children from local schools started visiting the museum and attending the education sessions, parents would sometimes come along. Before long, Vulcan was able to get the aggregate story out to just about everyone in the community. But it didn’t stop at the elementary, middle, or high school level. “We’ve always had local college groups come, but last year we had college students and their teachers visit from five states,” Parivechio says, “and we also had industry groups visit from three different countries.”
Parivechio conducts the tours, with logistical help from the plant employees and safety department. Safety is paramount and a safety briefing and review of the rules of conduct while on the property are always the first order of business. “We are advocates for our business and industry, but it is important that we incorporate information from the schools’ earth science curriculum,” Parivechio says. Students are shown different kinds of aggregate and videos depicting the production process and how the products are used.
“We try to keep the message entertaining, as well, by showing them the ‘Rockman’ video,” she adds, referring to the video set to the tune of “YMCA” which describes the production of and uses for aggregate.
“We cover a little bit of everything — just enough to make it exciting,” Parivechio says. “This may be the only time a student comes into a rock quarry, and I want it to be a positive experience. That’s why the teachers keep coming back every year. We give them a little bit of knowledge and a whole lot of fun.”
Vulcan built an overlook area large enough for a class to view the entire pit from ground level. Visitors are able to see the entire pit in action and understand every aspect of the quarry.
This past year, Vulcan put together rock boxes for teachers to take back to their classrooms. The boxes contain 10 rock samples from across the state of Georgia. Each rock is labeled, so that the aggregate learning experience can follow the children back to their schools.
In addition to school children, Kennesaw Quarry’s education program welcomes scout troops, senior citizen groups, church groups, and neighborhood groups. The quarry provides each group with educational materials, study books, worksheets, and Web links to enhance the learning experience.
Kennesaw Quarry’s location near the TELLUS Northwest Georgia Science Center, in nearby Cartersville, and the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History, located in the City of Kennesaw, means that many school children will visit the quarry either before or after visiting one of the other museums. “We have very close ties with these museums, and Vulcan is a financial supporter of both,” Parivechio says.
Kennesaw Quarry’s community involvement has not gone unnoticed. “We’ve been nominated for the Kennesaw Business of the Year award,” Collier says, “and we’re working to get the Cobb County Business of the Year award, too.”
Kennesaw Quarry built a new processing plant three years ago at a cost of $28 million. The entire plant is now automated, so one employee in the control tower can operate everything in the processing plant. The new plant has a lot more bells and whistles than the old one and will run more tons per hour, but Collier says the real reason for installing the new plant was to uncover reserves that were located under the old plant. That’s where the mining is being done today.
“We have to take off 150 feet of overburden to get down to the good rock,” Collier says. “We’re going to take the level all the way down to 625 feet. We’re uncovering a lot of reserves.” The overburden is then dumped back into the far end of the pit for use in reclamation.
“We shoot, on average, once a week now, due to the downturn in the economy,” Collier says. “At one time, we were shooting every day or every other day.”
After the blast, aggregate is taken to the large, primary, 54-74 gyratory crusher. Large chunks of rock go in, and rock 8 to 10 inches in size comes out. A conveyor carries the crushed rock from the primary crusher to a large surge pile on the opposite side of the pit. From there, the material goes through a secondary cone crusher, and then a tertiary and quaternary crusher, as needed.
“The secondary crusher is a blue 8800 cone crusher — a high-speed crusher,” Collier says. “The one behind that is a 7-foot shorthead crusher. Once material is crushed at the secondary crusher, anything that doesn’t screen out that’s above 2 1/2 inches will go onto the belt and come back to the crusher again to be crushed even smaller.”
Once the material has been processed through the crushers and screens, it is placed in various stockpiles to await loadout. “Concrete companies want 57s and 56s to be clean,” Collier says, “so we wash them. We wash the fines out and pump them down into the bottom of the pit, which acts as our settling pond. The fines settle out on their own, so we don’t have to maintain a settling pond, which requires a couple of operators and extra equipment. We use the clean water for dust suppression in the plant.”
Kennesaw Quarry’s target market is within about 20 miles, so trucking is the transportation of choice. “We have a few customers that travel farther,” Collier says, “but the rule of thumb is we reach about 20 miles out…” Customer loadout is handled in a couple of different ways, however. A large, multi-silo tower allows truckers to drive under the desired feeder and load their trucks by pulling on a rope, but most customers prefer to drive into the plant to be loaded by a wheel loader.
“The loading is a little more accurate with the loader; the trucks don’t get overloaded or underloaded,” Collier says. “We’ve got scales on the loaders, so they can get the exact percentage that they need. We usually run three 980 loaders on the yard to keep our customers loaded. I’d say 90 percent of our customers are repeat customers, so they know right where to go to get their product and how to set up for the loader.”
Rail transport was once used at Kennesaw Quarry, but when the old plant was torn down three years ago, the rail went with it. Collier says there are times when he’d like to have it back.
The quarry’s top selling product is crusher run, which is used in highway construction. It accounts for probably 40 percent of all sales, so it is stockpiled in several locations in the plant for easy access. The second most popular product is 57s used for concrete. Two concrete companies border Kennesaw Quarry, which is very convenient for all concerned parties.
The quality control lab is essential to the operation and is consistently busy. A sample of crusher run must be taken every 1,500 tons to be tested and checked for gradation and quality. It has to meet Georgia Department of Transportation specifications. Concrete stone is sampled more often — every 500 tons. Automatic sweeps make it easier to remove the desired product from the belt for testing in the lab.
“Three years ago, we were producing 4 1/2 million tons per year,” Collier says. “This year, we expect to do a million and a half because of the downturn in the economy.”
The new plant will help Kennesaw Quarry be prepared for the economic upturn and increase in aggregate demand when it comes, which it surely will. Until then, like other aggregate producers, Vulcan will keep hoping for a quick return to better economic times. AM
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