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Producers remain optimistic despite continued headwinds

By |  April 1, 2022
Aggregate producers are largely optimistic about 2022 despite lingering issues such as the pandemic, equipment supply delays and workforce shortages. Photo: P&Q Staff

Aggregate producers are largely optimistic about 2022 despite lingering issues such as the pandemic, equipment supply delays and workforce shortages. Photo: P&Q Staff

Three months into 2022, the business landscape for aggregate producers looks much like it did in the latter half of 2021.

Supply chain issues continue to delay equipment, and workforce shortages are still a hindrance. Still, many producers were successful last year despite these persisting headwinds, and they’re hopeful they can – and optimistic they will – parlay their profitable 2021 into a prosperous 2022.

Optimistic outlook

Carolina Sunrock is one producing company that would like to repeat its 2021 performance. Three of the company’s North Carolina operations exceeded expectations last year.

“We’ve got a 1,400-tph plant, a 1,000-tph plant and a 400-tph plant, and our production was good last year,” says Ryan Emo, mining director at Carolina Sunrock. “Our overall production was slightly above plan.”

Because of their location, Carolina Sunrock quarries produce almost year-round, with each closing for two to three weeks around the winter holidays for maintenance. All plants are typically at full production by Feb. 1, Emo says.

This year, Carolina Sunrock is aiming for a 5 percent increase in production over 2021. The company is doing a few things to reach that goal.

“In the last few years, we’ve been working on a warehouse,” Emo says. “We remodeled a 12,000-sq.-ft. warehouse we have, and we have tried to be proactive in stocking that with consumables – crushers, steel, gear boxes, motors, head pullies [and] tail pullies. Hopefully, depending on these components, we will have reduced downtime because we have our consumables on hand.”

Keaton Turner headshot

Turner

Similarly, Turner Mining Group, a mining services contractor with offices in Indiana and Utah, experienced good growth in 2021.

“The second year of the pandemic, we were applying a lot of the lessons learned [in the first year],” says Keaton Turner, founder and president of Turner Mining. “We were fortunate to bring on several new leaders – very experienced mining industry veterans – to the team last year. It was an all-around big year for us. Not the biggest revenue year, but a really big growth year, and a critical step in what we see the next five years looking like.”

In terms of production, Turner says his company didn’t miss a beat in 2021 despite the many concerns at hand.

“I don’t think we ever had one project stop throughout the pandemic, even to this day,” he says. “I’m super proud of the mining industry. I think we’ve always been essential, but for people to call it out and say ‘you’re an essential part of keeping this world spinning’ was really cool.”

Growth continues into the first three months of 2022 for Turner Mining, with the company securing some of its largest contracts to date. Turner Mining is getting into new commodities, as well.

“We’re very bullish,” Turner says. “We see a lot of growth, more so than our previous growth phases. We’re investing heavily in the people side of our business, as well as inventory. We are very bullish both in aggregates and cement production and in specialty minerals.”

Continued challenges

Photo:

Hammett

In Mississippi, Hammett Gravel is confident about what 2022 has in store.

“We’re very confident with our market,” says Tripp Hammett, president and owner of Hammett Gravel. “There’s a lot of DOT (Department of Transportation) work coming down the chute. Everyone is talking about the infrastructure bill. I think our plate is full in the coming years. We’ve got to get through some growing pains, but other than that we are rocking and rolling.”

Some of the “growing pains” experienced at Hammett Gravel are tied to the supply chain. But even those, Hammett says, have been highly manageable.

“We purchased a Cat 980M several months ago, but when we ordered it, it took months to come in,” he says. “We had a similar thing occur with a Trio screen we purchased through a vendor of ours. That was probably a month later than we anticipated. But we weren’t in a significant crunch for the equipment.”

Repurposing equipment is one pathway Hammett Gravel is taking to steer through supply pinches.

“We have a lot of things sitting around that we have access to,” Hammett says. “If we need a screen, we can use an old one. Same with a log washer. If we need a truck, we can outsource a truck until we get a new one in. Even bearings – in an absolute crisis, you can ‘rob’ a bearing off something old and put it on until something new comes in.”

Along with delays, Turner says equipment pricing is skyrocketing. He expects OEMs to present at least two price increases for equipment in 2022.

For Turner, the business environment presents an opportunity for his company to be an equipment parts speculator.

“Spare parts are my No. 1 worry for 2022,” Turner says. “Spare machine parts, critical spares and tire pricing shooting through the roof are things we’re really trying to keep our finger on the pulse of.

“We can go buy $100,000 or $200,000 worth of critical spares, stick them in a Conex box on-site, and if we need them we have them,” he adds. “If we don’t ever use them, chances are we can go sell them someday and maybe even make a little bit of money on them. If you’re not already doing some speculative buying, you’re probably too late.”

Turner Mining Group's Keaton Turner says access to spare parts is his top worry in 2022. Photo: P&Q Staff

Turner Mining Group’s Keaton Turner says access to spare parts is his top worry in 2022. Photo: P&Q Staff

Final thoughts

As Turner looks ahead, infrastructure demand has him excited.

“I’m really interested in the aggregate and cement space over the next few years,” he says. “With the infrastructure bill and some of the spending that is going to happen, I think you’re going to see a lot of big change. I’m interested to see how folks adopt new technologies and new practices. I think it’s going to be a really interesting time.”

Carolina Sunrock, meanwhile, is excited about the opportunity to grow in Canada. The company recently expanded into Ontario with a quarry already up and running and another that’s underway.

“We just built the plant last year, finished up in December, [and we] had the chance to run it for about three weeks and then had to shut it down due to weather,” Emo says. “We’re really looking forward to the 2022 operating season where we can really go in and fine-tune that plant when the weather breaks.”

Editor-in-chief Kevin Yanik contributed to this article.

Jack Kopanski

About the Author:

Jack Kopanski is the Managing Editor for Pit & Quarry and Portable Plants. Kopanski can be reached at 216-706-3756 or jkopanski@northcoastmedia.net.

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