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Building a Foundation of Stone

Building for the future often relies on a foundation of Georgia’s oldest material: stone. And all stone is not the same.

That may be an obvious statement to professionals in the aggregates and road-building industries, but not so much for the millions of drivers who benefit every day from the stone that comes from Georgia quarries. Or homeowners whose homes rest on concrete foundations and remain dry under asphalt shingles—all made with Georgia stone. Inside those homes, even the backing under their carpet contains Georgia stone. “People don’t stop and think about all the places where crushed stone is used,” says Charles Reeves, former president of the Georgia Construction Aggregate Association (GCAA). “Ready-mix concrete and asphalt are a big part of it, then there are things like carpet backing and chicken grit.”

Georgia has a wide variety of stone, including limestone, sandstone, and shale in the Appalachian Plateau; granite, quartz, and marble in the Blue Ridge Mountains; and granite and gneiss in the piedmont. Within these regions are many smaller areas with wider varieties of stone.

South of the fall line and into Florida, builders and contractors rely on stone shipped by rail from the north Georgia quarries.

“How you handle stone from a quality standpoint matters,” says David Grayson, vice president and general manager for Vulcan Materials’ Georgia operations.

Price is important when selling aggregates, where margins can seem as small as the tiniest stones in the crusher, but reliability and quality service generate business over the long haul. “Our business is relationship driven,” Grayson says. “You buy from people you like, people you trust.”

Ricky Niblett, a long-time Yancey customer in the aggregates industry, says, “The people at Yancey who represent our accounts go way beyond customer expectations. Their PSSRs (product support sales representatives) are on site at least once a month, and they’re always thinking of ways to reduce our cost of producing material.”

The quarries rely on Caterpillar machines, including large wheel loaders, front shovels, mass excavators, trucks, excavators, mid-sized wheel loaders, and engines/generator sets for operating crushers, conveyors, and other equipment.

“We’ve always had good up time with Caterpillar equipment,” Niblett says, “and that’s critical.”

In a quarry, you have to watch more than the engine to ensure reliability.

“Your ground-engaging tools are obviously on the forefront,” says Tony Dirico at Martin Marietta, “buckets, loaders, truck beds. You’ve got to have quality there. You also have to watch them and replace them before you need to do a more extensive repair job. That’s primarily done by sight. You look at a bed liner or a loader liner in a bucket and you can see how much more life you have. But you have to look. Cat® and Yancey have quality wear parts that last and do a good job, but you still have to be aware. You can’t assume extra life if it’s not there.”

Quarry operators embrace new technology in mining equipment as it becomes available, but they’re not quick to let go of their existing machines. “We might have a piece of equipment for ten years or more,” Grayson says. “For us it’s about getting the maximum life more than it is the next greatest thing in technology.”

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