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Tennessee Materials Carves a Quarry Out of The Rolling Hills Along The Tennessee River, And Now Looks to Barge Its Way To Success.

By Mark S. Kuhar

The Tennessee River winds it way across 652 miles of the fertile Tennessee Valley. From Knoxville it flows southwest toward Chattanooga and forms a small part of the state's border with Mississippi, then crosses into Alabama before returning to Tennessee and connecting with the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway, created by the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers in 1984.

On 351 acres near Linden, Tenn., Tennessee Materials Corp. has carved a brand new quarry out of the rolling hills. The scenic site at mile marker 145.8 on the bank of the Tennessee River may be in its infancy, but has the potential to deliver an ample amount of rock products for many years to come into the Middle and West Tennessee markets, as well as markets due south in Mobile, Ala.; Aberdeen, Miss.; and Gulfport, Miss.

According to Frank Lacey, vice president, the Linden Limestone Quarry site was originally identified in the 1990s by Charles Smith, the company’s owner. As he sailed down the river, he noticed promising rock formations above ground, and knowing that Vulcan Materials had an operation not far away, Smith suspected he might be looking at a valuable cache of reserves.

“The site was owned at the time by Champion Paper,” Lacey said, “and was intended for wood-chip production. They even constructed a conveying system and began to set up operations there. That company was ultimately bought by International Paper, and the wood-chip facility was never truly operational.”

Core samples were drilled at the site in 1999, and that effort confirmed what Smith already believed: there was between 150 and 170 million tons of material at the site – and that was just what was visible above ground.

Permitting Process
It is one thing to identify promising reserves, but quite another to get a site in-house and permitted. Quarry operations all over the country can recite horror stories about the time and money that typically go into getting a quarry operation up and running. This particular quarry took Tennessee Materials 12 years.

There were several main challenges that had to be overcome during the permitting process. “After we decided to move forward with the project, we finalized a 50-year lease for the site,” Lacey said. “That was concluded in 2008. We spent most of 2009 and 2010 on permitting. There were a number of environmental issues we had to address. We had to conduct a general biological impact study. Key issues there were gray bats at the site, and mussels in the river. In addition, we had to get permits from the Army Corps of Engineers as well as the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.”

With the site in a rural, heavily wooded location, community opposition was not a big problem. “The only community opposition was not from regular residential homeowners, but there are a number of weekend homeowners with property right on the river, and we did have to address some of their concerns,” Lacey said.

Planning a Plant
In planning an aggregates plant for the Linden Limestone Quarry site, one thing was certain from the very beginning: almost all material produced would be leaving the site by barge. “Having a location right on the river gives us a tremendous advantage,” Lacey said. “Transporting material by barge is cost-effective and eliminates many of the problems associated with truck traffic, such as noise, dust, exhaust and community complaints.”

But coordinating barge transport isn’t as easy as simply making a phone call and getting a barge or two to sail on up to your loading dock. “You have to make a commitment to one of the companies that supplies these barges,” Lacey said. “That means committing to a minimum number of barges per month. And these companies want a long-term commitment of six months or more. We are currently in negotiations to strike just such a deal.”

Although barge transport will take the lion’s share of material, there will be some local and county businesses that will use trucks to move material off the site, according to Lacey. For them, Tennessee Materials installed a brand new Fairbanks vehicle scale at the front gate.

Initial Phase of Production
Linden Limestone Quarry has blasted out the initial bench where the production process at the site will begin. Austin Powder is contracted to do drilling and blasting. “We work with them at our other quarries and they always do a good job for us,” Lacey said.

In the initial phase of production, material will be crushed and screened using a portable plant featuring an Extec jaw and Powerscreen cone. A Liebherr excavator works at the muckpile and is used to load material into the crusher.

Material is then stacked a short distance from the river’s edge. From there, a Kawasaki loader cycles between the stockpile and a hopper at the loading dock, which feeds a conveyor that moves material onto waiting barges.

The plant will primarily make ¾-in. base material, but will also produce rip rap, gabion, and sizes #4, #8, #10 and #57 stone. Tennessee Materials Corp. Sales Manager Scotty Reed said that rip rap is a much-needed commodity in their market area, and base stone shipped to the gulf can command a premium price of between $20 and $30 per ton – making up the core of lucrative sales program for the company.

The barge-loadout station was custom-fabricated at the site by Tennessee Materials employees. “It typically takes two to four hours to load a barge,” Lacey said. “Our future plans call for installation of a radial stacker that could, however, reduce loading time to as little as 90 minutes.”

Other plans for the near future call for installation of a permanent plant at the site. The plant will likely be located on the exact spot where the first quarry face is now located.

“We’d like to be able to produce a million and a half tons per year here when we get a little deeper into this,” Lacey said. “This operation has tremendous potential, and we hope to make the most of it.”

While 150 to 170 million tons of reserves is the above-ground estimate at the site, that quite literally doesn’t scratch the surface. “There is no telling how much material is here when you begin to dig down,” Lacey said. “Suffice it to say they will be producing stone here long after we’re gone.”

Titans in Tennessee

Tennessee Materials Corp. is a major provider of construction aggregates, primarily limestone, crushed stone, sand and gravel. The company provides these materials for use in asphalt mix and concrete, and is committed to offering the best aggregates at a reasonable price.

Tennessee Materials Corp. has four locations in addition to Linden Limestone Quarry, with plans to open two more in 2012.

Location: Savannah, Tenn.
Type: Limestone quarry.
Products: Rip rap, gabion, size 4, 57, 8, 10, ¾ base.

The Savannah limestone quarry is an above-ground mining operation. Located in southwest Tennessee it serves the Memphis market as well as northern Mississippi and northwest Alabama.

Location: Stantonville, Tenn.
Type: Sand and gravel quarry.
Products: Concrete and asphalt sand, gravel, crushed rock, 57, 67, pea gravel.

The Stantonville, Tenn., plant is a sand and gravel operation producing state-approved product for concrete and asphalt plants, as well as other construction products, with a pug mill on site.

Located in southwest Tennessee, the Stantonville plant is able to provide quality sand and gravel products throughout western Tennessee, northern Mississippi and northern Alabama.

Location: Bremen, Ala.
Type: Sandstone quarry.
Products: Rip rap, gabion, size 4, 57, 8, 10, ¾ base.

The company’s TN AL Materials Corp. is located in Bremen, Ala. Just off of I-65 between Cullman, Ala., and Birmingham, Ala., this sandstone plant produces various sizes of crushed gravel and sand for middle Alabama.

Location: Mayflower, Ark.
Type: Granite quarry.
Products: Rip rap, gabion, size 4, 57, 8, 10, ¾ base.

The TN AR Materials Corp. location in Mayflower, Ark., is located on the Arkansas River just off of I-40 between Conaway, Ark., and North Little Rock, Ark. The quarry produces a hard sandstone product for the central Arkansas market. In the near future the company plans to open a barge-loading facility for service to New Orleans via the Mississippi River.