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Gallagher Aggregates Celebrate 25 More Years

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First published in the November 2015 issue of Quarry Management

New tunnel opens up access to Gallagher Aggregates’ western extension at Hermitage Quarry

After a quarter of a century of quarrying at Gallagher Aggregates’ Hermitage Quarry, near Maidstone, in Kent, operations are now set to continue for another 25 years following the approval of a 74-acre extension to the site and the recent opening of an impressive new tunnel to link the old site with the new.

Hermitage Quarry, the largest operating hard rock quarry in the south-east of England, produces a range of high-quality primary and recycled aggregates from Kentish ragstone, an indigenous limestone deposit that makes up part of the Hythe Beds of the Lower Greensand Group, formed during the Cretaceous period some 115 million years ago.

With their original ragstone reserves at Hermitage Quarry almost exhausted, and following a protracted planning process spanning several years, in July 2013 Gallagher Aggregates finally secured permission to extend the quarry in a westerly direction into Oaken Wood, thereby protecting 130 local jobs at the quarry and guaranteeing production at the site for the next 25 years.

The permission, which allows the quarrying of 33ha over a 23-year period from 2015, includes the quarrying of 14% of Oaken Wood, the vast majority of which consists of dense non-native sweet chestnut coppice. Quarrying will be undertaken in 15 phases with progressive restoration and tree planting. When completed, the scheme will double the size of the affected woodland footprint with native tree species such as oak.

New tunnel

The continuing operations and investment at Hermitage Quarry will be facilitated by the specially constructed access tunnel that connects the existing quarry to the new extension. Designed and constructed by the Gallagher team, the tunnel cost £1 million to construct and measures 100m in length by 16m in width and 15m in height. It was built using 2,500m3 of ready-mixed concrete together with 85 precast concrete beams, each weighing around 60 tonnes. The structure took nine months to complete and was necessary to allow local residents and horse riders to continue to enjoy an established right of way.

Speaking at the official opening of the tunnel on 11 September 2015, Pat Gallagher, founder and chairman of the Gallagher Group, said: ‘Today is about celebrating our past, and the quality of our quarrying and commitment to restoring the land once we have removed the Kentish ragstone. But it’s also about looking forward to the next 25 years and the work that we will do as a family-run business to deliver on our promises and restore the land back to what it was, or better. Many of the fields around the quarry have already been quarried and today they are productive farmland.’

Mr Gallagher was joined at the official opening by Kent County Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Mark Dance, along with members of the Gallagher team, customers, suppliers, local dignitaries and other invited guests.

Acknowledging the local importance of the Gallagher Group, Councillor Dance said: ‘Pat and his team have built a business that Kent can be truly proud of. Not only is Hermitage Quarry producing the Kentish ragstone needed by the construction industry, it provides the indigenous building stone for use in new-build and restoration projects, and is providing important employment for local people.’

In addition to the tunnel, Gallagher say the new planning permission has been the catalyst for a number of new jobs, the investment of £9 million in new plant equipment and vehicles, and the launch of their new added-value products Gallapave and Gallaflo.

New products

Gallapave is the name given to a range of hydraulically bound materials (HBM) used in roads and pavements as a structural cement-bound layer. The products can range from capping layers to build up levels, sub-bases which can replace costly bitumen roadbases, through to a roller-compacted concrete (RCC) which can replace asphalt products as a hard-wearing surface layer. To produce these products, Gallagher Aggregates have recently invested in a Rapidmix 400 mobile continuous mixing plant capable of delivering HBMs at rates of up to 400 tonnes/h.

The other new product, Gallaflo, is a high-quality, self-levelling/compacting flowing anhydrite screed which offers a cost-effective alternative to traditional sand cement screeds. The product can be laid to a minimum depth of 25mm and features a smooth finish with high thermal conductivity that lends itself well to underfloor heating applications. It is also said to be up to 10 times faster to lay than traditional screeds.

Gallagher Aggregates’ managing director, Sean Connor, said: ‘We are excited about launching these new added-value products into the market. We have all of the raw materials and excellent relationships with our loyal customer base, so it makes perfect sense to offer these new services alongside our existing products.’

With production at Hermitage Quarry secured for at least another two decades, investment in new plant and machinery is also continuing apace, with some £9 million having been spent in the last two years, including nearly £2 million in the last few months alone. New purchases have included seven new Hitachi ZX130-5 excavators, two Bell B30D articulated dumptrucks, three new JCB JS180 excavators, a new 14m telehandler, five 6-tonne dumpers, 12 new Bomag rollers, and an MDS M515 tracked trommel screen.

‘Now that we have another 25 years ahead of us, we will continue to invest for the long term,’ said Mr Connor.

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