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Quarry Academy returns with a bang

By |  December 1, 2021
Approximately 115 quarry managers and operators attended the 15th Quarry Academy in San Antonio. Photo: P&Q Staff

About 115 quarry managers and operators attended the 15th Quarry Academy in San Antonio. Photo: P&Q Staff

Quarry Academy, the educational seminar Dyno Nobel and Sandvik host, returned after being forced to cancel in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Managers and operators of quarries throughout the world flocked to San Antonio to hear from speakers on a variety of topics, including drilling and blasting, plant management and operation, crushing, screening, safety and more.

Virginia Varela-Eyre, marketing manager at Sandvik Mining & Rock Solutions, says about 115 people attended the 15th edition of Quarry Academy.

“The objective is to achieve better systems integration, economic sustainability, process improvement, overall cost reductions and safer working outcomes as a part of daily work behavior,” Varela-Eyre says. “The combination of concept instruction combined with peer-to-peer informal discussion provides a unique opportunity for quarry personnel to consider alternatives to their current practice that the attendees can take home and apply in their quarry.”

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Quarry Academy attendees heard from a dozen industry experts throughout the three-day educational seminar. Photo: P&Q Staff

Educational opportunities

Speakers from Dyno Nobel, Sandvik and other industry companies dove into their areas of expertise throughout the three-day seminar. Altogether, 16 technical presentations were given across the first two days of Quarry Academy.

The second and third days also provided attendees the opportunity to attend four of 12 breakout workshops that took a more in-depth look into topics. Workshops covered drilling and blasting, crushing and screening do’s and don’ts, and drone technology and applications.

David Walker, general manager of emulsion operations at Dyno Nobel, presented on process improvement and ran a two-part breakout workshop focused on process improvement. The first part covered tools and methods while the other explored change management.

“It feels good [to be back],” Walker says. “We sold out this year and sold out early, which is good. There was a lot of good energy, good questions, [and] I think people are excited to be back and physically seeing people face to face. Even though the topics haven’t changed much in the last few years, the topics are all still very relevant.

“I think it shows the need and desire in the industry to get together and talk about best practices,” Walker adds. “How do we up our game? There is definitely an increase in pressure in the industry to compete from a cost standpoint and to look at the quarry process with a whole end-to-end value chain.”

Walker was ultimately pleased with how Quarry Academy came together this year.

“I think Dyno and Sandvik have done a great job bringing experts together,” Walker says. “We’re bringing other topics that play into [subjects like] change management and how to apply other methodologies into our processes, as well.”

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Quarry Academy attendees received an up-close and personal look at the crushing and screening plant at Cemex’s Balcones Quarry in New Braunfels, Texas. Photo: P&Q Staff

Visiting Cemex

Quarry Academy attendees completed their experience with a visit to Cemex’s Balcones Quarry in New Braunfels, Texas.

The quarry, which sits on just under 3,000 acres, produced more than 12 million tons of materials last year. According to plant manager Adam Slusser, the Balcones Quarry is on track to produce more than 13 million tons this year.

A quarry tour took attendees to the wash plant, crushing and screening plant, and Cemex’s Balcones Dry Comal Creek Wildlife Habitat Center. The tour ended at a blast site where different explosives were demonstrated on a smaller scale before a production blast took place.

This Quarry Academy was the seventh in which Cemex partnered with Dyno Nobel and Sandvik. Cemex has taken part in Quarry Academy since 2011, and Slusser says the company is pleased that the partnership continues.

“I think it’s important for the industry to get people [here] because Quarry Academy truly is an educational event,” Slusser says. “We like to show off our quarry and show what we do right because we feel we do everything right. Quarry Academy is a well-run training mechanism with Dyno and Sandvik leading it up. They bring everybody together, from small quarries to medium size to even large quarries, and expose them to industry changes and to what’s right and what should be a good standard to run by.”

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After being forced to cancel last year’s event due to COVID-19, Sandvik’s Virginia Varela-Eyre says 2021’s event was a success. Photo: P&Q Staff

Looking to 2022

With the uncertainty induced by the pandemic, Quarry Academy organizers weren’t certain early this year they would be able to bring their event back. Varela-Eyre considers this year’s a success despite some early obstacles.

“For every event in this industry, you have to plan in advance,” says Varela-Eyre, adding that a wait list is building already for the 2022 Quarry Academy. “You take a risk because you don’t know if people are going to come our not. We were expecting maybe fewer people, [though it was] hard to predict. The fact is that we have the same amount of attendees as a regular year, minus 10.

Jack Kopanski

About the Author:

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

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