Indiana quarry fortifies relationship with community

By |  May 1, 2017

The high-pitched glee of children is distinct even in the distance.

As the sound is approached, a series of figures becomes visible on a nearby platform. At least a half-dozen kids are there, and they’re accompanied by a handful of adults. Several kids have pressed themselves against a chain-link fence, and they’re peering down at something with excitement.

The source of the excitement? It’s Hanson Aggregates’ Ardmore Quarry, the base of which sits hundreds of feet below.

From the vantage point on the company’s public observation tower, the faraway crushing and conveying equipment probably resembles the toy sets these kids have at home. For many of these kids, this quarry is probably unlike anything they’ve ever seen. And it’s surely sparked some imaginations.

“People who have lived here 50 years are even amazed by the size of it,” says Matt Dawes, assistant plant manager at the Fort Wayne, Indiana, operation, which is aptly named because of its location on Ardmore Avenue. “If one of our employees is around the tower, it spurs a lot of questions.”

Bedrock of the community

Photo by Kevin Yanik

The southward view of Hanson Aggregates’ Ardmore Quarry from the vicinity of the company observation tower. Photos by Kevin Yanik

The scene at the observation tower on this day is fairly typical, says Jeff Pollick, general foreman. Observation tower visits tend to surge, however, with the occasional local media report that serves as a reminder of the opportunity available to the Fort Wayne community.

A July 2016 report from the local ABC television affiliate, for example, labeled the Ardmore Quarry as one of the city’s “biggest attractions.” The station spotlighted the quarry in its “Life’s Better Here!” series that featured top sites around Fort Wayne.

The observation tower, installed in 1966, obviously serves as a pleasant gateway between the operation and the community.

“It’s been a nice benefit for us because it brings the city in and allows them to see what we do,” Dawes says. “At the same time, it’s a good chance for us to educate them about some of the ways our rock is being used. It’s building their buildings downtown; their roadways, their highways; and a lot of the local attractions. It’s been a good teaching tool for all of the community here.”

The community’s relationship with the Ardmore Quarry isn’t limited to the observation tower, though. Hanson regularly hosts tours, bringing about 1,700 kids through the operation each year. An overview of the mining process and a fossil hunt are components of the standard tour.

“Those are only the setup [tours],” Dawes says. “There are a lot more kids and adults who come through. In the classroom, when they’re on the current subject of rocks and geology, it’s a good opportunity for them to see firsthand how the rocks are mined and how the geology was made millions of years ago.”

Informative facts are also mounted on display rocks to educate visitors about aggregate, how materials are ultimately used and their impact on the everyday lives of people around Fort Wayne.



Operations

Photo by Kevin Yanik

Hanson’s observation tower, which was installed in 1966, is a continuous draw for the public in and around Fort Wayne, Indiana.

According to Hanson, the limestone deposit at the Ardmore Quarry dates back 400 million years. The site started as a sand-and-gravel operation in the early 1930s, Dawes says, before shifting to a limestone operation in the mid-1950s. Hanson purchased the operation in the 1990s, and at least several decades of reserves currently remain at the 3 million-tpy plant.

Hanson previously mined the Ardmore Quarry solely to the south – the direction the observation tower faces – but operations began to the north within the last few years, Pollick says. Hanson originally mined along the entire length of the north wall, but it now mines about half of the north wall because the deposits in the two halves vary slightly.

One bench on the north wall is blasted three times each week, traditionally on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The Orica-managed blasts still draw locals to the observation tower on those afternoons, although the blasts aren’t visible like they previously were to the south.

Each blast at the Ardmore Quarry produces about 40,000 tons, the company says. One Caterpillar 992G wheel loader works in tandem with a pair of 775 off-highway trucks that transport material to a Lippmann 42-in. x 48-in. jaw crusher.

“It’s a small crusher for 3 million tpy,” says Pollick, who attributes the crusher’s efficiency to a successful maintenance program that results in few breakdowns.”

Adds Dawes: “That [crusher is] where all the production starts. From there it goes to three different Symons 7-ft. crushers and then onto our screen decks, which are all Deister screen decks.”

Photo by Kevin Yanik

Ardmore Quarry representatives from left: Maintenance Manager Luis Saldivar; Assistant Plant Manager Matt Dawes; Plant Manager Brett Pepple; Corporate Communications Director Jeff Sieg; and General Foreman Jeff Pollick.

A scalping screen removes riprap along the way. Three blend feeders are also fundamental to the operation, Pollick says.

In all, the plant produces between 1,250 and 1,300 tph, six days a week across two shifts. The operation largely supplies asphalt and concrete producers in northeast Indiana.

The continuous removal of overburden is fundamental to production, as well. In 2015 alone, Hanson removed 1 million cu. yd. of overburden. To access the deposit, 60 to 70 ft. of overburden is typically removed.

Such a stripping operation requires four dedicated pieces of equipment, including two haul trucks, one dozer and a front-end loader. But in a somewhat unusual circumstance, Old Prairie Products, a neighboring sand-and-gravel operation, also contributes to the stripping operation five days per week. The layout of the two operations dictates the neighbor’s contribution.

But for Hanson, its contributions are better understood among community members because of the efforts company representatives put forth on tours and through other means. And that observation tower, of course, brings both the operation and the community together.

“It helps to be transparent,” Dawes says. “A lot of parents come on the tours for younger-aged kids. They see the bigger-sized stone and they don’t realize [until the tour] that the stone in their driveway, for example, comes from here.”


Surging market

Downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana, is visible from atop Hanson Aggregates’ Ardmore Quarry, and the ongoing revitalization of that area has driven some of the operation’s aggregate demand.

Specifically, the city’s riverfront has benefited from the revitalization, says Matt Dawes, assistant plant manager.

“As times were tough and maybe there wasn’t the road work or the federal highways work going on, we relied on what we call private work,” Dawes says. “As the market started to surge, so has our downtown, which is starting to make improvements. Along with that and some of the other projects coming together, it’s made for a busy year and good economic times here in Fort Wayne.

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry magazine. Yanik can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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