State-of-the-art plant strives for sustainability

By |  June 23, 2017

Produce in eight months the volumes required for 12. That’s the task at hand each year at Inland Aggregates’ Spy Hill operation in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where bitter cold winter temperatures predicate round-the-clock aggregate extraction and production, so long as the weather permits.

As Inland’s other local aggregate reserves were depleted within the city of Calgary’s expanding urban and residential neighborhoods, it became even more essential to ensure that the company’s priority would continue to be sustainable and efficient aggregate production.

A closer look at the Spy Hill primary crushing plant, which contains a McLanahan FD4 apron feeder and a Trio CT4254 jaw crusher. Photos by Kevin Yanik

Meeting the market’s demands in one of Canada’s most populous cities required a significant investment into a new high-production, state-of-the-art plant that consumes less water, electricity and fuel, reduces dust emissions, and eliminated numerous truck transfers between pits throughout the city.

“We’re producing the same equivalent production tons through one pit [with] one primary crush plant and one wash plant,” says Dennis Wong, area manager for Southern Alberta Aggregates at Inland Aggregates, which is a Lehigh Hanson company. “Generally, we do get economies of scale, and our production cost per ton is much lower than the three individual pits.”

Adds Kevin Rowe, production superintendent at Spy Hill: “We’re trying to mine the pit in a way that gives us operational advantages. Once those priorities are completed, we’ll move further to the north.”

Inland is permitted to mine the Spy Hill property further to the north within its leased area with the city of Calgary and its Alberta Environment & Parks Code of Practice for Pits boundary. The site will become an extension of the city of Calgary’s municipal waste landfill, so the mine plan to create more stockpile room in the remaining pit and backfill other areas with pond fines is based on that compatible use.

Building the plant

The transition to a single pit at Spy Hill, which is a 2 million metric tpy operation, presented Inland Aggregates with some unique opportunities to optimize production. Inland built up its semi-permanent secondary crushing plant with portable processing equipment from the now-depleted pits. And it upgraded its primary crushing plant, washing plant and power sources with investments in new equipment.

Photo by Kevin Yanik

The Spy Hill primary crushing plant also includes an FMC MF200 cone feeder, a Trio primary screen and a Sandvik CS440 cone crusher.

Inland’s primary crusher is now comprised of brand-new equipment, including a McLanahan FD4 apron feeder and a Trio CT4254 jaw crusher.

“A special benefit of the CT4254 Trio jaw would be its large size,” Wong says. “Although this jaw does not see very much large rock with the current reserves, it does see quite a bit of large conglomerate, which we affectionately call ‘Volkswagens.’”

Other key components of the primary crushing plant are an FMC MF200 cone feeder; a Trio primary screen; a Sandvik CS440 cone crusher; and a Binder+Co. bivi-TEC KRL/DD screen. The upgraded primary plant has a production capacity of 1,200 tph.

A surge pile of 3-in. minus material is then fed to Inland’s secondary crushing plant.

“Our secondary is basically two portable spreads we turned into semi-permanent plants,” Wong says. “We’ve lifted them up off the ground to provide some ground clearance so we can get skid-steers underneath.”

From the secondary plant, material can be further processed in a tertiary, or asphalt, plant. The majority of processed materials are, however, conveyed to Inland’s state-of-the-art wash plant, which produces about 700 tph. This plant also contains a number of components from Trio, including screen decks; coarse material washers; and sand and chip dewatering screws.

Goulds fresh water and slurry pumps are also critical to the plant, as is a Phoenix ES-ZF dewatering bucket wheel.

“The dewatering bucket wheel works to separate the fine material from the slurry water before it is pumped to the silt pond,” Wong says. “It requires less maintenance and is much more energy efficient compared to the standard cyclones and pumps, which greatly helps to extend the life of the silt pond.”

Also scattered throughout the operation are a number of E-houses that provide electric power to Inland’s processing plants. Not only is this much more economical than the diesel generators previously used, the greatest impact has been on the noise and greenhouse gas emission reductions.

“We had five diesel generators which were eliminated along with the repairs, maintenance and fuel costs,” Wong says. “After corporate approval, the project took about two years to complete.”

According to Wong, the power project included high-voltage supply and distribution, electric equipment supply, automation and integration, and engineering and project support.

“The whole plant is running on line power,” Wong says.

The ‘nerve center’

Photo by Kevin Yanik

Inland Aggregates’ Kyle Bohlender monitors the Spy Hill operation from his seat in the operation’s state-of-the-art control room.

The plant is also operable from a single control room where software, video cameras and other technologies give one operator the ability to have a finger on the pulse of the entire operation.

“Generally, you’ll have control towers scattered everywhere, but we’re all tied in here,” Wong says.

Cogent Industrial Technologies software provides Inland with real-time plant metrics to which it can react, and 30 strategically placed video cameras give plant operators eyes on critical areas.

“Each of the cameras is 1080p, which is definitely advantageous,” Rowe says.

The control room also serves as an office, where Rowe and other operational leaders can regularly offer support to the plant operators.

“It helps [plant operators] to know what else is going on in the pit, as well as the decisions that are going to affect what he needs to do,” Rowe says. “Rather than leaving one guy to run the plant, this setup means we all better be on top of what’s going on.”

Running a plant on a computer versus push-button controls is a big development for Inland, Rowe adds.

“You get a lot more feedback with your sensors,” he says. “You know what the loads are drawing; you can see what the water pressures are. You look at our jaw crusher out there, and it’s not doing anything different than the one from 30 years ago. You might have more wires on it, but it’s really the same thing. So I’d say your software that controls the plant is your biggest advantage.”


Dennis Wong, area manager for Southern Alberta Aggregates at Inland Aggregates, offers insights on the Calgary market and the operation’s community relations efforts at its Spy Hill aggregate facility.

On Calgary’s residential market: “There’s been a big decrease in residential demand – single-family homes and probably some multi-family homes, as well. Just a big decrease in housing starts.”

On community relations: “We want to be good and responsible neighbors. We address concerns as they come up. Obviously, being as close to car dealerships as we are, they are not a big fan of fugitive dust. But we have street sweeping that we do for about four hours a day in the street. We cover the big sections for any material that might be tracked out.”

Note: Inland’s newest investment is the installation of a wheel wash at its exit in addition to an upgraded intersection complete with traffic signals and turning lanes in collaboration with the city of Calgary. This investment is the direct result of ensuring that the operation’s truck traffic does not impact the health and safety of the community and the urban development occurring in the surrounding area.

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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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