Every year, three million tonnes of crushed rock is being drilled, blasted, transported and sold from a low silica limestone quarry in Fujairah – one of the seven districts of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
A relative stone’s throw from the glittering towers and desert oasis of Dubai, Tawiain in Fujairah lies just inland on the Gulf of Oman coastline. The region is dominated by the Hajar mountain range, which reaches up to 1,000 meters and contains Igneous, limestone and metamorphic rocks.
The Al Khaleej Rock Engineering (Fujairah) L.L.C., part of the Gulf Rock Engineering Group, has operated a vast limestone quarry in the mountainous Tawiain area for the last seven years. Contrary to its Arabian-sounding name, the company is actually part Swedish owned and specializes in rock excavation by drilling and blasting, and has installed a large capacity crusher and processing plant on site. The limestone is low in silica and when processed, is suitable for steel and chemical industry applications. Every year, half a million tonnes of the crushed rock is exported to India and the rest is sold to local markets. Ready-mix producers are major consumers as the limestone is ideal for cement production. The quarry concession area spans 1.5 km by 0.5 km and contains at least 50 more years of reserves at current output levels.
Gulf Rock Engineering Group (Gulf Rock) owns a large fleet of Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) for its quarrying operations. It owns over 70 Volvo heavy duty machines consisting of excavators, wheel loaders, graders, dozers, compactors as well as specialized drill and blast machinery. It owns 210 units in total. The company has recently acquired three Volvo A35E articulated haulers and three Volvo FMX 400 8x4 trucks, featuring Hardox steel rock-bodies. About 75 employees work at the quarry but Gulf Rock employs 275 in total.
“We have been buying Volvo machinery, especially articulated haulers and wheel loaders for more than 25 years,” says Jonathan Mark Cottam, managing director of Gulf Rock. “We still have 12 Volvo A25C and A25B haulers in operation that were purchased in the early nineties and one Volvo A20 articulated hauler, that’s still in good working order. That has given us more than 20 years of service – even after we bought it second hand!”
Many of Gulf Rock’s older articulated haulers have been modified for specialized jobs. One hauler has a fully hydraulic ‘robojet’ boom mounted on the back for shotcrete applications in tunnels and slope stabilization works.
Due to their efficient slope climbing ability, some haulers have been converted to water tankers and modified to fit 500 kVA generators to get power and water to anywhere on site. “These machines act as work horses for us,” says Cottam. “As they age beyond 15 years, we try and reduce the number of hours they do yearly and covert them to service vehicles. However, they are still good strong trucks after all that time.”
In the summer months the mercury can reach to 50oC in the shade. “To combat the harsh temperatures and climatic conditions, we specify that our machines have arid tropical radiators and cooling systems,” says Cottam. All our new heavy equipment units are delivered with fully air conditioned and enclosed cabs.
We don’t buy equipment without cabs anymore to ensure operator comfort – but the climate isn’t a struggle for our Volvos. Conditions for personnel working outdoors is also a lot better now. Nine years ago, the U.A.E. Ministry of Labour implemented a ‘midday work ban’ where no outdoor work is allowed from 12.30-3.00pm between June 15 and September 15 each year. The midday work ban is taken seriously by all construction companies and is enforced by inspectors.
Volvo CE’s regional dealer, FAMCO, is supported by the Swedish Export Council, part of the Swedish Government, which has in the past provided Gulf Rock with financing options for the procurement of its Volvo fleet.
“Sweden has a long standing and excellent reputation for hard rock excavation,” says Lars Liden, owner of Gulf Rock. “The Volvo equipment range is naturally designed for the job. FAMCO has taken care of all maintenance needs for Gulf Rock’s recent machine acquisitions from 2007 onwards, and currently provides service support for over 22 machines.”
Recently Volvo’s Swedish factory built several Volvo FMX 400 8x4 on highway trucks to Gulf Rock’s own specifications. These were then shipped to Spain where Hardox scow-end rock bodies were fitted.
“The hard but thin abrasion resistant steel shell provides increased fuel efficiency and lowers operating costs during the life span of the vehicle,” adds Cottam. “Volvo is one of the best manufacturers regarding fuel efficiency. Although fuel is cheaper here than other places in the world, it’s certainly not something to ignore. All our new units are also fitted with CareTrack which is great for monitoring control on our remote sites. We can still collect performance information and maintenance criteria wherever the machine has mobile phone coverage; all this helps to increase our efficiency.”
Picture 1: Two Volvo machines working in Gulf Rock Lime stone quarry.
Picture 2: Gulf Rock Volvo articulated hauler modified with a hydraulic boom.
Picture 3: The Gulf Rock quarry in Tawain, Fujairah, UAE.