Inside the heart of Texas at Metroplex Sand & Gravel

By |  November 16, 2018
Resolves Aggregates’ wash plant is a five-machine wet processing system comprised of CDE’s M4500 modular wash plant, the AggMax portable log washer, the Counter Flow Classification Unit (CFCU), an EvoWash fines recovery unit and an AquaCycle thickener. Photo courtesy of Keith Newell

Resolves Aggregates’ wash plant is a five-machine wet processing system comprised of CDE’s M4500 modular wash plant, the AggMax portable log washer, the Counter Flow Classification Unit (CFCU), an EvoWash fines recovery unit and an AquaCycle thickener. Photo courtesy of Keith Newell

Concrete aggregate sales started out small at Metroplex Sand & Gravel’s newest site near Ravenna, Texas, about 100 miles northeast of Fort Worth.

After completing operations at a quarry within inner city Fort Worth, Metroplex shifted its production focus to the Red River near Ravenna, a small town of a couple hundred people. Operating as Resolve Aggregates, the company sold just 6,300 tons during its first month there last summer.

However, aggregate sales have grown dramatically over the last 12-plus months.

Since April 2018, for example, Resolve Aggregates has averaged 90,000 tons of concrete aggregate sales per month. President and COO Keith Newell expected the site to exceed 100,000 tons per month for the first time this summer, and sales of 120,000 to 125,000 tons per month are well within range.

Headshot: Keith Newell

Newell

“Our initial focus has been to grow our relationships within the ready-mix industry,” Newell says. “But there’s still a lot of market out there, particularly with the ‘pavers’ performing state and development work.”

Plenty of opportunities surely await the company in the fast-growing Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, but initially positioning Resolve Aggregates to capitalize on the market’s growth was no easy task.

The company overcame a number of hurdles in Ravenna – the usual permitting hoops, including questions about its water management plan and the land’s reclamation – before it could produce the very first tons there. But the family company’s history in the region as land stewards, combined with a plant that addresses some of the community’s key concerns, makes Resolve Aggregates an ideal partner for the community.

Company background

Still, to fully appreciate the Ravenna quarry’s establishment and growth requires some background on the Newell family and its history in the DFW metroplex.

The family’s regional roots in sand and gravel stretch back to 1985, when the Newells purchased a plant from Harston Gravel Co. as a means to lower concrete batch costs for an existing construction business. Keith’s grandfather, W.J. “Jack” Newell, ventured into industrial building construction on the east side of Fort Worth three decades earlier, and his father, Kenneth, and uncle, David Newell, joined the family business in 1973.

Over the next 20 years, the Newells developed 1,200 acres of multi-tenant light industrial buildings. They grew the construction end of their business to include state and municipal interstates, roadways, bridges and levies.

In the early 1990s, Pioneer Industries purchased a majority interest in Newell & Newell Materials, the family’s sand and gravel company. With the purchase, the company name changed to Tarrant Aggregates, but Kenneth maintained a role as a minority owner and operator.

Several years later, an opportunity emerged for the Newells to purchase Pioneer’s interest in the company, as well as 896 acres encompassing the mine. The property, while centrally located within the DFW metroplex, was largely made up of floodways and floodplains. It was also considered largely undevelopable by those outside the Newell family, Keith says.

Regardless, Keith and his father put together a financial package in 1997 to purchase the land and mining equipment from Tarrant. Operating as Metroplex Sand & Gravel, Keith describes the Newells’ sand and gravel mining company at that time as “the principal economic engine to reclaim and improve [the] floodplain property.

The wash plant will play a part in Metroplex reaching its goal of producing 120,000 to 125,000 tons per month. Photo courtesy of CDE

The wash plant will play a part in Metroplex reaching its goal of producing 120,000 to 125,000 tons per month. Photo courtesy of CDE

“Dad was a visionary,” says Keith, who is more involved today on the mining side of the family business while Kenneth handles the real estate development end. “I went to work for him, and we put together a financial package to buy out Tarrant’s acreage and mining equipment. I’ve been working for dad ever since.”

While continuing sand and gravel operations was part of Kenneth’s initial vision, a priority for the land was developing residential communities and mixed-use properties. Ultimately, the Newells reclaimed and developed about 600 acres for residential use, including parts of neighboring land purchased in 2005 from TXI. The Newells continue to mine and reclaim the land purchased from TXI to this day.

“The development has taken on a life of its own,” Keith says. “When you are developing floodplain property, you have to raise that grade to a developable level. That requires dirt. This is largely provided by the overburden atop our aggregate reserves. You also have to create valley storage – somewhere for floodwater to go. The mining company did that, with beautiful lakes that complement the land.

“You also have to create storage – somewhere for water to go,” he adds. “The mining company did that, with beautiful lakes that complement the land.”

Not only have the Newells provided the required valley storage compensation for their developments, they have created hundreds of acres of excess valley storage that helps mitigate the flooding risk of surrounding properties.

According to Keith, the tax roll value of all of the family’s acreage in Fort Worth is approaching $400 million, with a built-out tax roll projected at $1.5 billion.

“With the development we’ve completed and the increase of property tax value, the city has been supportive of our sand and gravel mining efforts,” Keith says. “The two go hand in hand,” he adds. “We’re creating value for the land and the city.”

Since the early 1990s, sand and gravel production within the city limits of Fort Worth – on reserves thought to be depleted – now totals more than 18 million tons, according to Keith.

Efficient equipment

According to Keith Newell, a successful mine reclamation means certain areas remain untouched from the start. Photo courtesy of Keith Newell

According to Keith Newell, a successful mine reclamation means certain areas remain untouched from the start. Photo courtesy of Keith Newell

While the economic life of Metroplex Sand & Gravel’s Fort Worth quarry came to an end in 2017, the company picked up sand and gravel production last year in Ravenna, where the Newells had previously acquired a quarry.

But opening the quarry, as is the case with most aggregate sites, was no simple task.

“When we went to Ravenna there was pretty staunch opposition,” Keith says. “Their No. 1 concern was reclamation. It wasn’t against us per say, but mining in general.”

The quarry’s use of water was one area the community wanted to address. Resolve Aggregates offered a simple solution: recirculating its process water.

A chunk of Metroplex’s success in Fort Worth was attributable to a five-machine wet processing system developed by CDE. The system was comprised of the M4500 modular wash plant, the AggMax portable log washer, the Counter Flow Classification Unit (CFCU), an EvoWash fines recovery unit and an AquaCycle thickener.

While the conventional plant in Fort Worth requires 6,000 gallons per minute (gpm), Keith says, the CDE plant uses only 2,600. The use of the AquaCycle – by recycling the process water – reduces new water consumption to about 300 gpm.

Metroplex purchased the wash plant and its support equipment, along with a secondary sizing screen and a dewatering screen to remove organics and trash, in 2015. The plant also incorporates a Turbo 80 vertical shaft impact crusher from Cemco.

The 2015 purchase made sense for a variety of reasons.

“Besides the obvious efficiencies of the CDE plant, the cost of purchase was less than the opportunity costs associated with the lost production of moving a larger, then producing, conventional wash plant,” Keith says. “Two, the cost of the CDE plant was less than the freight costs associated with trucking raw material to the conventional wash plant.”

Additionally, the plant’s modularity enabled Metroplex to mobilize and pursue future aggregate opportunities quickly and affordably.

“These opportunities presented themselves within a year of operations at the Fort Worth location,” Keith says.

Metroplex moved the wash plant in March 2017, a year after acquiring reserves near Ravenna.

“Following several weeks of civil work at the new plant site, the CDE wash plant was structurally relocated and installed by [Metroplex] employees in 11 working days,” Keith says.

The plant is now producing a variety of aggregate products at the Red River, including C33 sand, C144 masonry sand, C33 #8 gravel and C33 #57 gravel. Consistent gradations of natural sand with equivalencies in the high 90s with low moisture have been critical to Resolve Aggregates’ early sales growth.

“The ability to increase capacity or target different product specifications with ‘bolt-on’ additions is another real plus, as is the recirculation of nearly 90 percent of plant water with the AquaCycle,” Keith says.

Environmental stewardship

Resolve Aggregates’ water management plan certainly helps to put the minds of city planners at ease. The Newell family’s history as stewards of the land should ease the minds of those in the Ravenna community, as well.

“Our reclamation plan, just like Fort Worth, begins with a philosophy of leaving the world better than [how] you found it,” Keith says. “In respect to the land, this is sometimes difficult. After all, the wild and natural beauty of Fannin County is hard to improve on.”

To do the land right, the Newells start by developing a vision of the land post-mining and work to that end throughout the mining process.

“This starts by placing and compacting removed overburden behind us as we mine,” Keith says. “This grade is slowly brought back to original and then expands back out toward active ‘pit.’

“In addition to compacting our fill areas from shale up, we are careful about what soils we grade near the surface,” he adds. “These should be native soils which naturally appear near the top that are conducive to growing grasses and other vegetation.”

To Keith, any worthwhile reclamation plan should designate certain areas to remain untouched.


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