“Canada’s Biggest Sandbox – The Story of Sandhill Materials Inc”
Arthon Industries Limited
A History Dating Back 12,000 Years – “The Hill”
The history of “Sandhill” dates back to roughly 12,000 years ago when the last glaciation event occurred, known as the Fraser Glaciation, a continent wide covering of ice that shaped the many landforms we see today in Western Canada. Sandhill is thought to be a remnant feature created by the Fraser Glaciation. The feature resembles a long finger like deposit of sand and gravels, well sorted in fashion indicative of some sort of terminal outwash moraine formed at the toe of the retreating glacier.
In the 1950’s during the construction of the town called Kitimat by the Aluminum Company of Canada (ALCAN). The sandhill served as an important resource for construction of Kitimat and the Aluminum Smelter. During construction of the ALCAN smelter, nearly 10 million cubic yards was used to build the smelter site, consuming Sandhill at a rate of 16,000 cubic yards/day. Initially 85 gravel trucks and a fleet of steam powered rope shovels were used to shuttle material from Sandhill to the ALCAN site. However, in 1956, a 14,000-foot conveyor and tunnel feeder were constructed to feed material to the smelter construction site. Fast forward a few decades, with a history of supplying aggregate for construction projects the 267 acre Sandhill property was acquired by Arthon Industries Limited in 2006 for mining and exporting aggregate product.
In the late 2000’s Rio Tinto acquired the Alcan smelter and began a modernization program at a cost of $4 Billion dollars, with Sandhill once again as the preferred aggregate construction materials supplier. A few years later in 2015, Sandhill was once again the chosen supplier of building materials for a $40 billion dollar Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) project. As a joint venture between Shell, Petronas, PetroChina, Mitsubishi, and KOGAS. The LNG export terminal will be the first ocean export terminal in Western Canada, competing with US equivalents. The export terminal connects the global LNG market to British Columbia’s Montney gas fields, said to be one of the top five gas fields in the world hosting 449 trillion cubic feet of marketable natural gas, equivalent to 145 years of Canada’s energy consumption.
To date Sandhill has supplied 15 million tonnes of aggregate to the Kitimat LNG project, and become one of the largest aggregate producers in Canada by annual tonnage.
The 267acre property consists of two distinct resources, in situ sand & gravel and quarry rock. The 110+ million in situ sand & gravel resource is unique in the fact it is homogeneous with good grading and separation, making it ideal for use in asphalt, construction, and concrete. In the early days of mining sandhill, the deposit extended right out to the Kitimat river, however today the toe of the hill has receded from many years of mining.
Between the sand & gravel and hard rock quarry resources, over 35 different aggregate products are produced for use as high quality construction materials. Rip-Rap, road base, drain rock, substrates for environmental purposes, and aggregate for concrete and asphalt are a few examples. Sandhill also accepts waste concrete and asphalt which is then crushed on site and converted back into construction materials. End uses for the aggregate product include marine construction, concrete production, asphalt production, civil construction, road maintenance, and environmental habitat construction.
Since the Sandhill deposit is quite literally a massive pile of sand & gravel, no drilling and blasting is required to extract the resource. Sandhill Materials uses a fleet of D8-D11 sized bulldozers to slot doze material off the hill, forming loose piles of material at the base of the working face where a fleet of Volvo L350F wheel loaders scoop and load material into a varying fleet of 30 and 40 ton rock trucks. While the majority of aggregate from Sandhill is exported in bulk to neighbouring LNG Canada project and Rio Tinto’s ALCAN project, many materials are processed through Sandhill Materials on site wash plant. The Elrus wash plant is comprised of a 60’ long tunnel reclaim feeder fed by a dozer, 5×16 incline screen plant for sizing coarse aggregate, 6×20 horizontal screen plant for de-sanding and washing, H3000 Sandvik cone crusher, and various 60‘, 80’, and 100’ conveyors.
Similar to how material is fed to the active face where Volvo wheel loaders scoop it up, a dozer slot dozes aggregate into a tunnel feeder. From there material passes over a 6×20 screen deck where it is washed and 5mm minus is removed. All material larger than 5mm is sent through the Sandvik H3000 cone crusher and over the 5×16 incline screen deck for sizing of stone products. At full capacity, the Elrus wash plant can produce four different sized products.
The Rock Quarry
Alongside the sand & gravel resource, where the Sandhill Materials name originated, the company is also developing a 400 million ton hard rock quarry on the property.
In the hard rock quarry, all drilling & blasting and mining services are done in house using two Sandvik rock drills to drill patterns into benches in the open pit. Once blasted, a Komatsu PC1250 and fleet of four Caterpillar 775F rigid frame haul trucks load and haul blasted rock from the quarry to the crusher. The 775F’s make a roughly 3km round trip from the active pit to the custom built Elrus crushing plant. The Elrus crushing plant is comprised of an Elrus 30/54 primary Jaw crusher, 4248 Belt feeder, CH440 and S4800 Sandvik cone crushers, two 6×20 incline screen plants, and two power/control vans. Material is feed by wheel loader into a hopper feeder then into the primary Elrus 30/54 Jaw, the crushed material is processed through a 6×20 screen plant and oversize material is processed by a S4800 and CH440 cone crusher.
Pit Run sand and gravel is fed into the 4248 belt feeder and then processed through a second 6×20 screen plant and oversize material is crushed using the S4800 cone crusher. The final crushed and screened product being produced from both screen plants is discharged onto a common conveyor belt which blends blast rock material with the Pit Run material. Depending on targeted specifications, the plant operator can adjust the ratio of Blast Rock to Pit Run. Connecting all the crushing units and screens decks is 3x 60’ conveyors, 1x 100’ conveyor, surge bin, and two 136’ and 150’ radial telestackers stacking finished product.
Smaller support equipment in the quarry includes 30-60ton excavators and a fleet of Terex TA40 rock trucks.
Developing The Resource – Future Outlook
Sandhill certainly doesn’t have a shortage of product to offer to the local marketplace, which prompts the opportunity of reaching a global market with so much available product. Given the unique location adjacent to the Douglas Channel, one of the few inland ice-free ports in Northern BC, Sandhill Materials is pursuing its goal of a marine based export facility. Alongside this, Sandhill is also pursuing a rail export facility within its property to enable inland aggregate supply opportunities throughout Western Canada.
Learn more about Sandhill Materials Inc and Arthon Industries Limited by visiting their website https://arthon.com/.