Site report: Heidelberg Cement's Gurovo Beton quarry
By Richard High30 July 2008
Founded in 1951 as part of the government's attempts to rebuild the area's industrial base after World War II, the Gurovo Beton quarry was originally owned by Russia's Ministry for Industry.
But where once its rock was extracted by hand, before being manually hauled to the crusher house, now modern excavators, dozers, wheeled loaders, graders and haulers do the job.
Modernisation, said Nikolay Nikolaevich Polinikov, Gurovo Beton's general director, has come just in time. "We've never closed but production levels have dropped at times to very low levels because there was no money available to make the investments needed in the haul roads, equipment and solving the overburden problem," he said during iC's visit earlier this year.
Solving that "overburden problem" has been part of the quarry's resurgence, which started in late 2006 when HeidelbergCement acquired a majority stake in its aggregates and precast concrete business. Besides investing heavily in new equipment - wheeled loaders, dozers, graders, tracked excavators and haulers - it has also started construction of a new 1.85 million tonnes per year capacity cement plant, which will supply the greater Moscow region, Russia's biggest cement market. A new SBM crusher is also on the way.
The latest additions to its fleet are three new Volvo A35D Articulated Dump Trucks (ADTs). Originally leased, Mr Polinikov and equipment superintendent Alexander Sergeevich Bobkov were so impressed by the A35Ds they are now buying them.
Working alongside Gurovo's 15 Belarusian Belaz rigid haulers the A35Ds are used where ground conditions are wet and heavy. "The Volvo ADTs have better driving capabilities when it's wet in the winter and spring, so production can be more easily maintained," explained Mr Polinikov. "The Belazs get stuck easily, so we use each type of hauler in different parts of the quarry for different jobs."
The three A35Ds are mainly used to transport the quarry's problem overburden. Averaging 40 m thick it can be 54 m in places, so part of solving the problem, and increasing production, has been to cut it into two 25 m high benches.
A thick, sticky red and black clay that's difficult to tip from the haulers' bodies, it costs RUR 120/m3 (US$ 5.20) to remove, depending on the haul distances involved, said Mr Polinikov. While the A35Ds have heated bodies, which makes the process easier and reduces the amount of carry back, one of the most important factors when choosing them was fuel efficiency, he explained.
"Fuel now costs more than in the US. So it was an important factor when choosing the Volvo machines, which have a reputation for being very fuel efficient, certainly better than our Belazs. But the hard rock material below the overburden is of such good quality that it makes economic sense," said Mr Polinikov.
While some of the crushed rock is used as sub-base on the region's roads, the main product - 5 mm to 20 mm - is used in ‘lean' (low cement content) concrete mixes. Accounting for 40% of the quarry's production, most has recently been used during the expansion of Moscow's Domodevo Airport.
At present the quarry operates three shifts covering 23 hours, with one hour allowed for blasting. "Each blast gives us enough material for one day's production. We've kept it like this because up till now the wet weather has made moving the materials very difficult," explained Mr Polinikov.
At this rate he expects the quarry's reserves to last "about 50 years". However, HeidelbergCement's investment means the focus will be on cement production, with most of that going to the Moscow market. So, the new plant means that could drop to 20 to 25 years.
However, given all the problems Gurovo has had to overcome just to survive, Mr Polinikov remains up beat. "I'm very optimistic. I can see some big prospects for the company, and now the government has decided to spend money on the country's infrastructure our long-term future is secure too."