The history of quarrying activity in Devon & Cornwall stretches back to the late medieval period. The region is unique with a variety of minerals. These include Ball Clay, Kaolin, Tungsten, hard rock, sand and gravel, as well as tin; all of which need quarrying skills and expertise.
Ben Uphill MIQ is an enthusiastic and active committee member of IQ’s Devon & Cornwall branch, as well as IQ Council Representative, and works as a Multi-site Manager (UK Clay) for global minerals company, Sibelco. He is based in Kingsteignton, which is home to Sibelco’s largest ball clay deposit and refining plants.
From a young age, Ben wanted to work in aerospace or precision engineering. He enjoyed school work experience at a precision engine reconditioners and was offered a job, but unfortunately there wasn’t an apprenticeship pathway available.
In 1994, he enrolled on a five-year apprenticeship in Engineering & Maintenance with Aggregate Industries, working in hard rock and sand and gravel. He reflects:
“I wasn’t overly keen until I got to the workshops, which had state of the art machine tools, welding and fabrication shops, large cranes and equipment. The sheer size of a 40-tonne articulated dumper in kit form and a large jaw crusher being overhauled had me hooked!”
In 2005 he completed his BSc (Hons) in Mechanical Design & Manufacture at the University of Plymouth. Following a nine-year spell with Sibelco as a project engineer and operations manager he went to Centristic as the Operations Director, returning to Sibelco to look after its Kaolin operations, before assuming his current role.
“My job is great and the main thing I like is its variety. You can be talking with people on the shop floor about health and safety, or presenting to the CEO about major capital expenditure. In operations, we also have regular contact with stakeholders, customers, agencies, HSE, community, operators, contractors, suppliers, supply chain, commercial, finance and more. Another bonus is the pure beauty of the locations that we work. Quarries are often in some of the most beautiful parts of the countryside and can look in total harmony with the surroundings.
“Of course, there are challenges too. The world is fast moving, customer expectations are high and we need to deliver. Keeping costs in check when a lot is out of our control, such as energy prices or logistics rates, and many quarrying companies now work in complex global organisations, can be a real challenge. We must work with company standards as well as local legislation and cultures.
“Our industry offers so many avenues to discover; just because you start in one area does not mean you will be there forever. There are lots of opportunities available and all knowledge gained is transferable. With the support of IQ, there really is something that will suit any individual’s learning style, from one day courses to a master’s degree. My main advice to anyone in the industry is, keep interested, motivated and learn all you can!”
Devon & Cornwall Branch
Ben has been a member of the Devon & Cornwall branch since going into operations.
“I joined IQ membership to access the technical evenings and training, as well as networking opportunities with colleagues from local operators, enabling discussions with what is going on in the industry and to pick up new ideas and concepts from peers.
“This year the branch proudly offered a free bus service to Hillhead to try and offer all we can to our members. We also offered our members the chance to attend the West of England’s Dinner Dance, which is always successful.
“In my opinion, achieving IQ membership is an important milestone in anyone’s career. It opens doors to all sort of benefits, as well as access to a network of fellow professionals. But membership is just the start; being active at branch level is how you get the best out of your membership. The energy you put in is rewarded in equal measure; enhanced knowledge, improved skills, more valuable contacts, new friendships, the list goes on.”
How can I get involved?
The bi-annual Health and Safety Day on the 16th October at Lee Moor Public Hall. There will be a range of workstations and plenty of opportunities for interaction on great topics.
For more information visit www.quarrying.org/iq-communities/uk-branches.