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How to build a more ‘sustainable’ aggregate industry

By |  August 29, 2022
Although aggregate producers have historically hidden behind their berms, Bond Construction Corp.’s Karen Hubacz says operations should be out in front of their communities and promoting the good they do. Photo: P&Q Staff

Although aggregate producers have historically hidden behind their berms, Bond Construction Corp.’s Karen Hubacz says operations should be out in front of their communities and promoting the good they do. Photo: P&Q Staff

Sustainability was one of several topics covered at the 2022 Pit & Quarry Roundtable & Conference. The following conversation was edited from one of two concurrent discussions at the Roundtable. The conversation was edited for brevity and clarity.

KAREN HUBACZ (BOND CONSTRUCTION CORP.): We are our own best advocates because we are diligent about the environment. This is where you reach out to members of Congress, or you reach out to your local towns, have quarry tours and educate them when you have the opportunity. They can embrace it and know that we are good for the environment and, when we’re done, it’s going to be better than it was before we started.

SEAN WEISIGER (CONN-WELD): I was taking the recycling out. I went and grabbed a pair of scissors, and I cut out the plastic rings that the Gatorade came in. I thought: ‘Why do I do that?’ Well, because in elementary school they showed us pictures of turtles and birds with those rings over their heads. I [cut] that now, and I don’t even think about it because it was drilled into me at a young age.

You can’t educate somebody who’s in their 40s or 50s. They hate us. They think mining is bad. We need to get to elementary schools and to teachers. We need to educate nationally as an industry. We need the next generation to think about aggregates like I think about things like Gatorade containers and Coke cans. We need to do a better job of that.

Photo: PamElla Lee Photography

Hubacz

HUBACZ: We never had a sign in front of our operation for almost 30 years because my father, uncle and grandfather said: ‘Only if they want to know we’re here, then they’ll find us. But we don’t want those other people to know we’re here.’

That’s not the way we need to be. We need to have them know where we are; that we’re giving back to the towns and communities we live in; that we can be of assistance and that we’re not doing anything we need to hide.

What can you build without us? I reach out to the local schools, and rather than just doing elementary school tours for younger kids, we do them with high school kids who are in the environmental sciences because they’re the ones who are going to be the conservation agents or go work with the EPA. They’re going to retain a little bit more as far as what we’re really doing and that we aren’t doing bad things. We’re doing great things.

Keaton Turner headshot

Turner

KEATON TURNER (TURNER MINING GROUP): A guy I grew up with runs one of the largest logging companies in South Carolina. They don’t like logging down there. They probably like logging less than they like mining, honestly. I think the masses believe what is portrayed in the media. I think everyone in the room and all the large companies have a platform to change the narrative.

I asked a guy the other day who is somewhat involved in the industry at an arm’s length what he thought about mining. He didn’t even know there were surface mines. He thought everything was underground.

I think we all have a duty to educate the masses, whether it be through social media, LinkedIn, marketing – whatever the case may be – that mining is necessary. It’s good.

It’s up to us to set the narrative, because other people are setting it for us and have historically. The second Elon Musk says he bought a mine, people will think mining is cool.

BRIAN VRABLIC (RULMECA CORPORATION): If you’re going to equate pulp and paper to mining, there are some parallels there. But the bigger challenge you have with pulp and paper versus mining is that you can go into a store, look at the bottom of an ice cream package and see a little symbol that says it [is] sustainable packaging. When you’re in the grocery store, you can say: ‘I want to buy this one instead of that one because this has sustainable packaging.’

When I go to Home Depot and buy Mexican beach pebble in the bag, there’s no little symbol on it that says it is sustainably harvested from a quarry in central New Mexico. We don’t have that.

It’s about being in front of the consumer – not your consumer at the truckload level, but the guy who’s buying the brick at Home Depot.

Margo Lopez headshot 2022 Ogletree Deakins

Lopez

MARGO LOPEZ (OGLETREE DEAKINS): I don’t know how many people have been doing this as long as I have, but years ago there was an ad campaign put out by one of our major trade associations in the industry. It was a picture of an electric guitar, and there were bubbles all around the guitar pointing out all the components that came from mining. The message was: ‘If it’s not grown, it’s mined.’

They did this with other consumer products that would appeal to younger folks. I think we need to get the message out. I mean, there’s mining in Diet Coke. I tell people this when I talk about what I do for a living: We consume the products of mining. We wear them. They’re used in our medical devices. This is an industry that’s really essential in every aspect of our lives, and I don’t think people know that.


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