Top Operations: Michels Materials’ Waterloo Quarry

Kerry Clines

September 21, 2015

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Portable plants are key in keeping Waterloo Quarry productive and successful during tough times.

By Kerry Clines, Senior Editor

 Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the July 2011 issue of Aggregates Manager.


Wisconsin-based Michels Materials uses nothing but portable plants and equipment at its Waterloo Quarry.

Wisconsin-based Michels Materials, a division of Michels Corp., does things a little bit differently at its quarries. Instead of hauling material from the quarry face to the primary plant, Michels moves  the primary plant to the quarry face. The company uses nothing but portable plants and equipment in its quarries.

The benefits of being portable

The benefits of using portable equipment are very apparent at Michels’ Waterloo Quarry near Waterloo, Wis. “Every piece of equipment in this quarry is portable,” says Maurice (Moe) Bohrer, sales manager for Michels Materials. Having portable plants gives Michels flexibility, not only in terms of individual sites, but also for crushing at other quarries. The company operates more than 100 aggregate operations throughout the state and the use of portable plants allows Michels to go into a specific location on a job-by-job basis. It can move the plants into the aggregate site closest to the project and crush just the amount of material needed for the project, which allows Michels to control its inventory.

Routine maintenance, such as relining cone crushers, is performed on a frequent basis because of the abrasiveness of the quartzite material being mined.

Haul trucks are no longer used at the quarry for production, they are only used when stripping. Portable plants allow the primary to be located close to the face, eliminating the need for haul trucks. “Once we set up our overland conveyor system, we did away with using haul trucks in production,” Bohrer explains. “The land conveyor carries the material to the secondary crushers and the finishing plant. That’s a real advantage because it eliminates not only the cost of maintenance, fuel, and a haul truck driver, but it provides for more consistent feed to the plant as well.”

Using portable equipment allows Michels to centralize maintenance for all of its quarries. “During the winter months, we move the equipment to our central headquarters in Brownsville, Wis.,” Bohrer says. “This allows us to go through each piece of equipment to make sure it’s ‘up to snuff’ before it goes back out in the spring. Because of our short production season here in Wisconsin, we don’t want to have a breakdown in the field. Doing all the maintenance in one central shop allows us to make sure the equipment is the best it can be when it arrives at the quarry to begin production.”

The material

Waterloo Quarry’s deposit is quartzite, which is a very hard material that can be rough on equipment. “Quartzite is a metamorphic rock, a hard stone,” Bohrer says. “It produces a very good finished product, but it’s tough on everything it touches, from when it’s being drilled, to when it’s sold as a finished product. Due to the abrasive nature of quartzite, drill bits wear down twice as fast as they do in a limestone quarry and crusher liners wear out four to five times faster. We use a very proactive approach with our onsite QC lab to run several gradation tests each day, while each product is being produced, to not only ensure that our products are meeting their required gradations, but also to monitor the wear on our crusher liners and screens, so we know when to change them before we produce an out-of-spec material.”

The overland conveyor system carries material up to the secondary crushers and the finishing plant where it is washed and stockpiled for loadout.

Three portable plants (crushing spreads) are currently operating at the Waterloo Quarry. However, there may be as many as five plants operating in the quarry at the same time, depending on production demands. Each plant is a separate entity with its own plant manager and production schedule. A fuel tank, generator, water truck, and tool trailer are standard issue for each crushing spread. The tool trailers store everything necessary for each plant to do the job.

“We don’t typically move the plants around inside Waterloo quarry during a season,” Bohrer says. “Our faces are so big and the deposit is so deep, we just set up the plant at the beginning of the season and that’s normally where it stays throughout the remainder of the year. The next spring, we may relocate it, but we typically try to position it in such a way that we don’t have to move it within the quarry. We’re not chasing the face, because we’re usually working two sides with big benches that will give us an adequate supply of feed material.”

Waterloo Quarry produces approximately 30 different products, but the four main products are dense base aggregate for highway and road construction, railroad ballast, asphalt chips for use in asphalt production, and rip-rap/armor stone.

“All railroads like hard rock for their track ballast and maintenance,” Bohrer says. “We have a distinct advantage being the closest hard rock quarry to the city of Chicago. We have access to all the Class 1 railroads, which tend to converge in Chicago, and all of the asphalt producers in Chicago as well. The armor stone, riprap that’s over a ton in size, is used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for shoreline protection on Lake Michigan. We stockpile armor stone according to size, with some as large as 14 tons.”

At one plant, material is completely processed in the pit and put into stockpiles there. At a second primary, material is crushed and then transferred via a 1,500-foot overland conveyor system out of the pit to a secondary crushing/washing and finishing plant, where it is processed and then stockpiled.

Wheel loaders handle all the loadout at the quarry. Material gets loaded into customer trucks, as well as company trucks for Michels’ road construction division. Much of the railroad ballast is transferred to the company’s nearby rail siding for loadout into railcars for the 12 different railroads Michels supplies.

Waterloo Quarry produces about 800,000 tons of material per year. Most of the material is shipped by truck, with about 20 to 25 percent shipped by rail. “Our rail siding is about a mile south of the quarry,” Bohrer says. “Probably 98.5 percent of what we ship by rail is for railroad consumption — railroad ballast. We truck the material to our rail siding, push it up into piles on both sides of the tracks, and use wheel loaders to load the railcars. One track comes off of the mainline into the yard and then splits into two separate sidings. We can place up to 40 cars on each siding, thereby allowing all of the cars to be loaded without being moved or rearranged.”

The man and his company

Michels Materials has owned and operated the Waterloo Quarry since 1996. The quarry was originally owned by the E.E. Gillen Co., a marine contractor that opened the quarry in the late 1980s to produce armor stone for shoreline projects. When the Gillen Co. went through reorganization, Michels Corp. bought the quarry.

After Michels installed an overland conveyor at Waterloo Quarry, haul trucks were no longer needed to carry material out of the pit.

According to company employees, you can’t talk about Michels Materials or its parent company, Michels Corp., without talking about Dale Michels. He started Michels Corp. in 1959 with the help of his wife, Ruth, who started out driving one of the company’s dump trucks. Though the company began as a pipeline company, it quickly branched out into other fields, including aggregate production.

Wheel loaders handle all the loadout at the quarry, whether it’s a customer truck or a railcar.

“Dale Michels had a backhoe, some pick-up trucks, and a lot of guts,” Bohrer says. “He built this operation. For the people who worked for him, he was charismatic. He treated them good, compensated them well, and gave them great tools to work with, and, in return, they gave him everything they could. There are still folks here who were there when it all began and have stayed with the company these many years. Dale has since passed away, but his wife, Ruth, and their four sons still run the company today.”



First mobile crushing spread includes:

Baxter 42-inch x 50-inch primary

Nordberg HP500 cone crusher

Nordberg HP400 short head cone crusher

Cedarapids 6-foot x 20-foot wet screens (2)

Cedarapids 6-foot x 20-foot dual-finish screens

Superior 36-inch x 136-foot telescoping super-stacker

Kafka 48-inch overland conveyor (1,500 feet)

Multiple shorter conveyors

Kolberg 36-inch x 125-foot radial stackers

Atlas 24-inch x 80-foot radial stacker

Pioneer 30-inch x 40-foot radial stacker

Dandee 30-inch x 50-foot radial stacker

Nordberg 30-inch x 12-foot radial stacker

DRM 30-inch x 50-foot radial stacker

DRM 36-inch x 80-foot radial stacker

DRM 36-inch x 60-foot radial stacker

Homemade conveyors (7)

Cat 988H wheel loaders (2)

Second mobile crushing spread includes:

Nordberg C140 primary

Nordberg HP400 cone crusher

Sandvik H6800 cone crusher

JCI twin screening plant

Cedarapids twin finish screen

Superior 36-inch x 136-foot telescoping super-stacker

Johnson 24-inch x 40-foot conveyor

Atlas 24-inch x 70-foot conveyor (2)

DRM 30-inch x 35-foot conveyor (2)

DRM 30-inch x 50-foot conveyor (3)

DRM 36-inch x 40-foot conveyor

DRM 36-inch x 50-foot conveyor

DRM 36-inch x 70-foot conveyor

Homemade conveyors (3)

Cat 988H wheel loader

Cat 988G wheel loader

Load-out includes:

Cat 988G wheel loader (2)

Cat 988H wheel loader

Additional equipment:

Tamrock Panterra drill

Komatsu 55-ton haul truck

Cat 365 excavator

Mack 5,000-gallon water truck

International 5,000-gallon water truck

Case 1845C skid-steer loaders (2)



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