Mining Quarterly correspondent
Gold mines that dot the landscape of northeastern Nevada are a boon to the economy, but those gold operations need quicklime, which Graymont supplies from its Pilot Peak operation 12 miles west of West Wendover.
Gold producers use the quicklime in their autoclaves, roasters and on their leach pads, as well as for reclamation projects. Lime lowers the pH content for treatment of acid rock drainage and for pit lakes.
“We do everything here in house, from drilling with two certified blasters, our own quarry personnel and our fleet hauling limestone” to the production plant. “We really do everything with Graymont employees,” said Terry McIntyre, the plant manager.
Pilot Peak puts limestone through a crusher after mining, and the crushed limestone goes into kilns that reach a temperature of 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit in a process called calcining to produce calcium oxide, also known as quicklime.
There are three kilns on-site and a hydrator, which is used to make hydrated lime for asphalt. Quicklime is the biggest seller.
Pilot Peak uses coal from Utah to fire the kilns.
The laboratory handles analysis of the stone and quality control for the quicklime that goes to the customers.
“There is very tight quality control for our customers,” McIntyre said.
Pilot Peak produces about 600,000 tons of lime a year, and the lime deposits will keep the operation in business for a long time, he said. High calcium limestone is the source rock.
“The big deposit runs through 35-50 years of proven and probable reserves,” he said. “We keep trying to add to reserves. The deposit is more extensive than thought, at depth and at strike length.”
Pilot Peak’s main customers are Barrick Gold Corp. and Newmont Mining Corp., said McIntyre, who has worked for Graymont 23 years and at Pilot Peak for 11 years.
Graymont’s Pilot Peak operation also supplies products to the giant Rio Tinto Kennecott copper mine at Salt Lake City, coal-fired power plants to capture sulfur dioxide, including the NV Energy’s plant near Valmy, and to Amalgamated Sugar in Idaho, where sugar beets are processed.
Lime also goes to SSR Mining Inc.’s Marigold Mine at Valmy, Coeur Mining Inc.’s Rochester silver and gold mine near Lovelock, and Alio Gold Inc.’s Florida Canyon Mine at Imlay.
Pilot Peak sells hydrated quicklime for highway paving in Utah, Nevada and Wyoming.
The quicklime is transported by rail cars from a rail spur on-site and by trucking companies. McIntyre said more of the product is shipped by truck than rail. The main trucking companies are Barney Trucking, Savage Trucking and Handy Trucking, but other companies also haul the lime.
“There can be upwards of 40 to 50 trucks a day, depending on trucking company schedules,” McIntyre said. The trucks fill up at the finished-product silos. “We’ve got people working 24 hours a day and seven days a week, even on holidays” to be on hand when the trucks arrive.
Graymont owns transloading facilities at Union Pacific Railroad tracks at Carlin and Golconda.
At Pilot Peak, Graymont’s fleet includes six 75-ton Caterpillar haul trucks, a loader, a bulldozer, two graders, two water trucks and three drill rigs. There are three quarries on-site.
“We blast typically once per week,” he said.
Graymont’s corporate goal is to work toward being the most reliable producer for customers “so the customers can rely on our brand,” McIntyre said. “Lime production is a competitive industry, so we have to be cost-competitive and have a good reputation environmentally and for reliability.”
The operation works to be better than regulation-compliant when it comes to the environment, although there isn’t much reclamation because mining continues in the open pits, he said.
Graymont has installed two bag houses for the two older kilns in the last couple of years for pollution control because of the dust from the kiln calcination process. The bag houses cost $5.5 million each.
“It’s real state-of-the-art technology,” McIntyre said.
Waste piles are nonchemical, low-grade limestone “so it’s not mine waste in the typical sense,” McIntyre said. Waste rock at gold mines may contain heavy metals and mercury, for example. Pilot Peak backfills at the quarries, as well, and recently started the backfilling at Quarry 2.
“Customers want to know if we are in environmental compliance and know our mine life,” McIntyre said.
Pilot Peak is on private land and nearly 400 acres of public land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The site is south of Interstate 80 and visible from the freeway. McIntyre said the company posts bonds with the BLM as it expands because of disturbance.
The Pilot Peak operation sells as much limestone as it can. The limestone on the waste piles is sometimes sold as road base. Dust from bag houses is sometimes sold to treat landfills. Screened stone is also sold. Reject quicklime is sometimes sold to Nevada Cement.
“We don’t waste valuable resources,” McIntyre said.
The Pilot Peak plant has 70 employees, both salaried and hourly. Kyle Jensen, a longtime employee who is a diesel mechanic, said “Graymont is without a doubt one of the best employers.” He said the plant has a low turnover rate of workers.
One of the longest-working employees at Pilot Peak, which opened in 1989, is Freddie Bhizacklea, who continues to work at the plant in maintenance.
“I was one of the first employees when the mine opened,” he said.
Pilot Peak also works with its sister plant in Delta, Utah, as well as plants in Townsend, Montana, and Tacoma, Washington.
“We work well together and work with the corporation folks, engineers for example. We really consider ourselves to be part of a team. Our common goal is to take care of customers, producing a quality product and being a reliable facility.”
Graymont is headquartered in Richmond, British Columbia, and has nine plants in Canada and nine in the United States. The company also operates in New Zealand after buying McDonald’s Lime, and Graymont holds 48 percent of Grupo Calidra in Mexico.
Companywide, the private company owned by the Graham family has roughly 1,100 employees.
Pilot Peak has an excellent safety record, with no fatalities, and has received a number of safety awards from the Nevada Mining Association.
“Our guys watch out for each other. It’s a dangerous industry, as you know. They’re dealing with kilns. We’re pretty fortunate,” McIntyre said. “We haven’t had a lost-time accident in 1,408 days,” he said on July 23.
Pilot Peak holds a barbecue for first-responders in West Wendover in appreciation of their work.
Pilot Peak’s community service also includes $1,200 scholarships to high schools in West Wendover, Wendover, Utah, and Wells, donations to sports, and employees volunteering in their communities, McIntyre said. Pilot Peak also provided crushed rock for West Wendover’s Leppy Trail System.
Employees live in Wendover, Wells and Pilot Valley, and a couple of them live in Montello.