Continuous opportunities for a Colorado quarry

By |  April 1, 2015

An economically healthy Colorado keeps things moving at Pete Lien & Sons’ Owl Canyon Complex.

The off-colored rock visibly streaks along the quarry face, calling special attention to itself because of the sharp-contrasting red rock above and below it. The streaking rock stretches on for a distance, but it’s clear at a glance that this is no ordinary rock. The nature of the rock’s surroundings says so.

Brian Tideman, a division manager at Pete Lien & Sons, confirms the suspicions. The rock is unusual, at least in this part of Colorado. It’s the company’s butter rock, which is mined from the company’s Owl Canyon Complex in Livermore, Colo.

“Our butter rock is pretty unique to us,” Tideman says. “It sells quickly because you don’t see that color around the state. It’s a dolomitic limestone.”

The butter rock is primarily used as a decorative material for landscapers. Occasionally, some of the butter rock’s finer materials are used as a base for roads and sidewalks. But customers flock to the butter rock, Tideman says, because it offers a landscape look like no other.

In fact, Tideman says the butter rock attracts customers from as far away as Durango, Colo. That’s about a seven-hour drive from Livermore.

“It has just the right combination of components with the irons and magnesiums, producing a nice little yellow color,” he says. “Dolomite is usually more of a gray or a pink. This one happens to be more of a yellow. The stars aligned here at this quarry. It’s a more brilliant color.”

A day at the complex

The butter rock is one of about 30 products produced at Pete Lien & Sons’ Owl Canyon Quarry, Rex Quarry and Roberts Quarry in Livermore, which is situated about 20 miles north of Fort Collins, Colo.

Tideman oversees the Livermore site, which employs 44 people. Tideman’s division employs 58 in all, he says, and it covers 11 total quarries – four of which are in reclamation mode.

The Owl Canyon Complex is the heart of the division, though. It’s where the division’s Fine Grind Plant resides, producing ground calcium carbonate to a range of specs. The ground product is ultimately used as ingredients to manufacture a variety of products, including animal feed, beer bottles, coal dust retardants and shingles.

Supplying those different industries has its benefits, Tideman says.

“This site weathered the economic storm fairly well because we are diverse,” Tideman says. “We’re in those industries, and we’re also producing limestone that goes into sugar processing.”

As Tideman says, the Owl Canyon Complex is a microcosm of Pete Lien & Sons as a whole. Pete Lien & Sons is a high-calcium limestone producer, primarily producing lime and limestone at sites in Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming. The company also does ready-mix and block production in the region.

The Owl Canyon Complex is slightly different, though, producing raw limestone to make its high-calcium products. It produces both a fine product and a coarse one.

According to Tideman, agriculture and shingle manufacturers are two of Pete Lien & Sons’ key Fine Grind Plant customers.

“The shingle industry did dip but it is starting to come back,” Tideman says. “We see all sorts of signs that it’s getting stronger in the Colorado area at least. And the cattle industry has been good with high cattle prices. That means people are feeding them supplements. When they do that, they use more limestone.”

According to Tideman, the Fine Grind Plant produces around the clock. The company’s crushing plant, which includes a Terex Cedarapids 3042 jaw and a Metso HP300 cone, operates five days per week and 10 hours each day.

“Other than changing the liners, there’s no regular maintenance on the jaw crusher,” Tideman says. “Every two to three years we have to get into the cone crusher, but for the most part both crushers are durable.”

In addition, Tideman says the complex runs three haul trucks at once. The Owl Canyon Complex recently eliminated one haul truck from its fleet, but it’s maintaining production because it added sideboards to its trucks. The sideboards give the haul trucks a greater payload, he adds.

Pete Lien & Sons does its own drilling on site, but it outsources blasting. The company blasts about once a week, according to Tideman.

Automation and planned maintenance also play key roles at the Owl Canyon Complex. Tideman says these are the two areas Pete Lien & Sons focuses on to be efficient.

“We’ve been able to reduce our hours thanks to those two items,” he says. “That leads to more efficient use of the plant.”

Tideman uses a bearing as an example to explain how Pete Lien & Sons is being more efficient.

“When you look at a bearing, it requires maintenance on a routine schedule,” he says. “We have applied our greasing schedule to hours of utilization versus just greasing it every other day. That has not only freed our people up to do other things, but it’s also helped us understand where we’re at with the equipment’s life.”

Take note

Butter rock is primarily used as a decorative material for landscapers. Occasionally, some of the finer sizes are used as base for roads and sidewalks.

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Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or

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