Aggregate operation opens new flagship plant

By |  September 14, 2016

Memphis Stone & Gravel opened a new plant in the city of Southaven, Miss., to serve the northern Mississippi and Memphis, Tenn., areas.

The new facility is situated on 178 acres, which includes a 25-acre plant site and 108 acres of reserved area to be mined. The plant has a production capacity of 1.2 million tons per year, with actual production expected initially to range between 800,000 and 1 million tons annually. The new plant replaces the company’s Anderson plant in Nesbit, Miss., which has been mined out.

“This is our new flagship plant,” says Hal Williford, president and CEO of Memphis Stone & Gravel, “because of its size, location, technology, production efficiency and quality of reserves that are expected to fulfill the market area’s needs for the next 10 years.”

Photo courtesy of Memphis Stone & Gravel

The new DeSoto operation is situated on 178 acres, with a 25-acre plant site and 108 acres of reserves to be mined. Photos courtesy of Memphis Stone & Gravel

“Most of the aggregates in both DeSoto County and adjacent Shelby County to the north, which includes greater Memphis, have been mined out or sterilized by development,” says Williford, chairman of the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association. “So our new reserves are vitally important to the construction industry in our region. Our exploration team first located the reserves around 10 years ago, but the owners were not willing to sell until recently. The 108-acre reserve is about 75 percent of the original site.

“Our strategic location is also vital,” Williford adds, “since transportation is such a major cost in construction. Most of our market area is within easy reach by truck, and the new plant is also adjacent to a short line railroad. So we are well positioned to aid in construction efficiency. Nearly all the trucks picking up products here are our customers’ vehicles.”

The company employs very few trucks of its own, Williford says. All drivers and vehicles are subject to the Good Neighbor Trucking Policy developed by Alan Parks, vice president of Memphis Stone & Gravel, to ensure both on-site and off-site transportation rules are followed for safety and courtesy.

“We are very grateful local government officials fully understand the area’s current and growing needs for construction aggregates,” Williford says. “This has allowed us to work in partnership with the city of Southaven to meet the many requirements and work out the details involved in establishing the DeSoto plant.

“This is a win-win situation all around,” he adds, “and we have been most appreciative of the cooperation that has made everything go so smoothly, especially regarding environmental protection and worker safety regulations.”

DeSoto staff

Photo courtesy of Memphis Stone & Gravel

The DeSoto primary plant includes new and used equipment from the now-closed Anderson plant.

The DeSoto plant will work five 10-hour days weekly and operate year-round. The plant employs 10 people, including several who have transferred from the Anderson facility.

“We’re fortunate to be able to bring over these experienced, deserving people,” says Ed Ragsdale, DeSoto operations manager. “It enables us to be efficient right from the get-go and is valuable in training new people in operations and safety. We employ a comprehensive safety program based on the understanding that safety is a shared responsibility involving personnel and management at all levels.”

Memphis Stone & Gravel is the sister company to Lehman Roberts Co., a leader in asphalt production and paving. The two companies have had common ownership since 1971. About 45 percent of the aggregate from Memphis Stone & Gravel goes to Lehman Roberts. The rest meets a variety of other market needs.

The new plant will produce fine and coarse aggregate for construction applications that include ready-mix concrete, hot-mix asphalt, pea gravel and road base, as well as concrete and masonry sand. Additional aggregate applications include pipe and drain bedding, retaining wall back-fill and other drainage controls, bridge construction, homebuilding and landscaping.

The DeSoto operation utilizes a primary plant and a finish plant. Components include newly purchased and leased equipment, plus used equipment from the Anderson plant.

Primary plant

Photo courtesy of Memphis Stone & Gravel

Pictured is one of the operation’s double sand screws at work.

Components of the new plant include:

  • Two 20-year-old rebuilt 8×20 Deister triple-deck screens with Miller & Durex poly-screen cloth
  • One 20-year-old 12×40 rebuilt McLanahan Sand Manager classifying tank
  • One new McLanahan Sand Manager classifying tank
  • One 40×33 McLanahan single screw for new grit system
  • One 20-year-old rebuilt 54×35 McLanahan double sand screw
  • One 20-plus-year-old rebuilt 54×34 Eagle Iron Works double sand screw
  • Two 40×36 McLanahan double log washers
  • One new Superior 30×100 portable radial stacker for new mason sand product
  • Various 20-plus-year-old rebuilt Besser conveyors with Hewitt Robbins and Superior idlers
  • Two new Goulds 300-hp vertical turbine pumps for a freshwater system
  • Two new Metso MM350 200-hp horizontal slurry pumps for a wastewater system
  • One new Metso MR300 75-hp horizontal slurry pump for a finish plant waste water

The plant does not utilize dewatering screens.

Finish plant

  • One 6×16 Deister triple-deck with Durex poly screens
  • One rebuilt Worthington 75-hp vertical turbine pump
  • Various 20-year-old rebuilt Besser conveyors mainly with Superior idlers

Installation and erection of the new plant involved the use of various local and out-of-town vendors working with Memphis Stone & Gravel crews. New system improvements that were incorporated include SDR 11 and SDR 17 poly pipe from Xylem for fresh and wastewater systems. The fresh water well is about 900 ft. deep to assure it is not in the same aqua as most private wells in the area.

Leased equipment

Photo courtesy of Memphis Stone & Gravel

The plant produces fine and coarse aggregate for construction applications.

Normally Memphis Stone & Gravel owns all of its equipment. But the DeSoto plant leased two WA 500-7 Komatsu pit loaders and one WA 500-7 yard loader with a larger bucket system, as well as one PC650LC-8 backhoe for mining the pit material.

“Leasing is something we’re trying out to determine whether it is more productive and/or cost effective than purchasing new equipment or rebuilding existing equipment,” Ragsdale says.

Rebuilding older machines gives the company the advantage of knowing what to expect in performance based on past experience and any applicable updates, and it costs less than buying new equipment, according to Ragsdale.

“Leasing gives us ongoing, flexible control of costs and makes it easy to upgrade to new equipment with the latest technology as it becomes available,” he says. “It’s something we’ll be watching very closely.

Memphis Stone & Gravel has crews that handle about 80 percent of equipment maintenance in-house.

“In addition, we rely on outside sources, such as equipment dealers and manufacturers, for certain kinds of maintenance and repairs,” Ragsdale says.

Adds Williford: “We have always prided ourselves on how we protect the lands we mine, and for restoring them to productive and beautiful uses after mining. When the DeSoto reserve has been depleted, we will backfill and transform the site into a picturesque 25- to 30-acre lake with the surrounding area suited for residential housing and commercial buildings.”

Good neighbor

Photo courtesy of Memphis Stone & Gravel

The primary plant’s fresh water system with both new trial HDPE SDR 17 pipe (large horizontal at bottom) and steel pipe (vertical) are used together.

Being a good citizen is important to Memphis Stone & Gravel.

“For example, we recently donated sand and gravel to the construction of a veterans’ park and for a nature center to be built by the Army Corps of Engineers,” Williford says. “We promote our company with social media, our website, newspaper articles, press releases, brochures – and we employ a consulting company to help us in these endeavors.

An education center offers field trips and educational sessions for students, teachers, property owners and others on subjects such as safety, environment and the mining cycle.

“Memphis Stone & Gravel Co. is locally owned and operated and has been in business since 1910,” Williford says. “We are passionate about the land entrusted to us and have always operated our plants and facilities with the most responsible and technologically advanced methods. We have six locations in northern Mississippi and western Tennessee for production of construction materials; a crushing operation; and small road gravel sites.”

Lehman Roberts, an asphalt producer and paving contractor, has been a fabric of Memphis for more than 75 years. It is now in the fourth generation of family ownership. The company has eight locations in the greater Memphis and northern Mississippi areas. Together, Lehman Roberts and Memphis Stone & Gravel are positioned for continued long-term operations in construction and paving in the Mid-South.


Carl Emigh of CME Creative Services Inc., Marion, Ohio, is a freelance writer and marketing communications specialist serving the aggregate, recycling and construction industries.

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