Doug Upston is the Quarry Manager for Blackhead Quarries Ltd, Balclutha Quarry.

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In February 2004, Blackhead Quarries was significantly expanded with the addition of assets from the two shareholder companies. Palmer & Son Ltd and Fulton Hogan Ltd. Included in these assets were the FH Balclutha quarry operations.
The Balclutha operations included:
* a crushing and screening plant at Balclutha
* a hard rock quarry 5km upstream, and
* the Manuka Island gravel extraction site.

Gravel has also been sourced from other sites on the Clutha River for processing.
The market is concentrated in the Balclutha area for roadbase and maintenance products, extending from Milton in the north to Clinton in the south and Clydevale to the west. High PSV sealing chips are sent further afield and are an important market for the quarry. The other significant customer is Stahlton Engineered Concrete plant beside the processing plant.

Aerial view of the Balclutha crushing plant
showing the Clutha River at the bottom,
Stahlton concrete plant and residential houses to the right, and
farm land to the left


The plant is located on the north bank of the Clutha in Balclutha

The plant has two main roles. One is to take river gravel from various sites on the Clutha River and process this into concrete aggregate. This accounts for approximately 30 000 tonnes per year.
The other is to take shot rock from the company’s greywacke quarry and crush it into aggregates from AP roadbase to high PSV chips and anything in between.

The plant has two main roles. One is to take river gravel from various sites on the Clutha River and process this into concrete aggregate. This accounts for approximately 30 000 tonnes per year.
The other is to take shot rock from the company’s greywacke quarry and crush it into aggregates from AP roadbase to high PSV chips and anything in between.

Plant Overview:

The primary crusher is located in a pit on the plant site. Trucks tip into a 50 tonne bin and a feeder feeds a Minyu 40×30 jaw crusher. The rock is conveyed out of the pit and passed over a scalping screen taking out roadbase materials.
The rock then passes through a cone crusher and over a screen. At this screen we can take out high grade roadbase to a specific grading or provide feed for a vertical shaft impact crusher. Any oversize is recirculated through the cone.

Material not required as roadbase is fed into a VSI crusher and circulated over a washing / screening plant to make high quality, high polished stone value sealing chips. A sand classifier is also used to deal with fines.
A feed in bin allows river gravel to be introduced into the screening / washing plant to produce sand and concrete aggregates.

The plant as it was flowed well and was well laid out. The problem was some of the equipment wasn?t well matched i.e. crushers to screens, and breakdowns often interrupted production.
It became clear an upgrade was required to achieve our goal of quality products always on hand for our customers.

Plant Upgrade:

Primary crusher:

The actual primary crusher is a 1997 Minyu 40×30 single toggle jaw crusher. This crusher is in good condition and has worked very well for the quarry in the past and remains a reliable crusher.

The feeder on the other hand had some reliability and tidiness issues. This feeder was a Telsmith apron feeder originally used on the Manipouri tailrace project in the 1950?s. This was replaced with a reciprocating plate feeder built by Palmers Mechanical in Dunedin. During the feeder installation a new hopper was built, tidying up the whole area and improving efficiency and safety. One of the main improvements was the huge reduction in spillage from the feeder. With the apron feeder a man was required up to an hour a day to clean up. This was a waste of time, waste of rock and exposed him to a potentially dangerous area of the operation. With new reciprocating plate feeder this has been reduced to 10 minutes per week with a machine.

Secondary Crusher:

The secondary crusher was a Kawasaki G2010 cone mounted on a semi-trailer. This unit was put in place in 1997 and was effectively a stationary plant with all the shortcomings of a mobile plant. There were also some maintenance, productivity and reliability issues with the Kawasaki so a replacement was sought. A Nordberg GP300 cone was purchased and set up as a permanent plant to replace the Kawasaki. The opportunity was taken at this stage to simplify the operation and three conveyors were taken out of the system at the same time the crusher was changed. The new plant is a lot tidier, with ease of access around the plant for cleaning and maintenance making for a more reliable and safer operation.


As is common in crushing plants that have been made up and added to over the years, Balclutha plant had a variety of screens, mostly inclined of various ages, sizes and states of repair. These old screens were causing down time and were unable to take the loads the new crushers would place on them.

The plant now runs five Fulton Hogan Engineering screens from the scalping screen to the final chip washing screens. Although they vary between one and two deck screens, they are of different lengths for different applications in the plant, but they are all the same width so screen cloths are interchangeable which means stocks could be reduced

Tertiary Crusher:

The tertiary crusher was a Barmac impactor. This crusher was originally used on the Clyde dam in the 1980?s. It was taken to Balclutha after the dam project and has been used to make sealing chips since. With the inclusion of polished stone values in the sealing chip specification the volumes of sealing chip from the Balclutha greywacke has increased significantly with a PSV value of 62, the highest in the Otago / Southland area.

At 150hp the Barmac was struggling to meet the market for sealing chips. The Clutha River is also running out of material to make concrete aggregates so we will soon be manufacturing these through this plant as well. We have just installed a new 400hp Twister VSI to replace the Barmac. During this process we reduced the number of conveyors and are improving the flow of the plant. This will once again improve tidiness, ease of maintenance and safety. The electrical system has also been upgraded during this crusher change.


What we started with was a plant that evolved over a number of years, made up of pieces
What we now have is a simple but flexible plant. It has fewer moving parts and is more reliable than the old bits and pieces.

?Now when we arrive at work in the morning we have confidence we can start the plant and spend the day making quality products safely.?

A few notes about Doug Upston :

* Born September 1945
* Educated at school when there
* Left school as soon as possible and gained employment in the State underground coal mine at Kaitangata.
* In November 1969 an opportunity to join the team at the Fulton Hogan Quarry in Balclutha became available and accepted .
* In 1980 due to the retirement of my father I was promoted to the management role of the Balclutha quarry. This quarry has presently provided employment for 3 generations of the Upston family.

Prior to Fulton Hogan ownership this Quarry was in a very poor condition having been owned by a local trucking company. The rock supply at the plant site was exhausted with the result being my introduction to the Quarry industry was to find and develop a new hard rock Quarry. This Quarry over the years has developed into a very manageable operation with a life expectance of another 100years.

The plant was for many years a dumping ground for second hand machinery that was costly to maintain and production rates that where never going to meet demands.
On the positive side this old machinery provided a good training ground for safety, maintenance, repairs, production flows and what was required when the opportunity for a major upgrade was to take place.

With the assistance and encouragement of my employer I gained my B grade Managers certificate August 1972 ., A grade November 1979, Quarry Mangers Diploma July 1989 and have been a member of the institute of quarrying, attending many conferences through out NZ . These opportunities have gained me some very good friends in the Quarry industry and a sound and broad understanding of what is required of a Quarry Manager to provide a safe working environment and results that please the directors.

Promoting awareness, training, and buddy system has resulted in a very proud safety record that has achieved over 6000 days lost time injury free.

I have enjoyed my time in the Quarry industry and certainly did not predict in 1969 that I would still be here 39 yrs later. I believe the challenges and the people in the industry all help to get over the bad days.