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Annual Conference 2009 Review

Quarrying – A Northern Ireland Approach

For the first time ever, this year’s Institute of Quarrying Annual Conference was hosted by the Northern Ireland branch, marking a welcome departure from the customary mainland conferences for all those who travelled to the province, and for NI members themselves, whose local branch will celebrate its half century in two years time!

The conference itself took place at the prestigious Europa Hotel, in the bustling heart of Belfast, where not surprisingly guests were treated to some traditional Irish hospitality. Given the prevailing economic circumstances, the support for this year’s conference was outstanding, with guests arriving from far and wide, even as far afield as Trinidad. 

At the traditional welcome dinner, the 130 guests who attended were well entertained by the virtuoso performance of local singer/fiddle player ‘Fiddler Adam’, whose highly energetic country & western tunes got everyone’s toes tapping. The following day, a total of 163 delegates took part in the formal conference symposium, while 338 enjoyed the subsequent evening dinner dance.

The straightforward theme of this year’s conference symposium – ‘Quarrying: A Northern Ireland Approach’ – was chosen to highlight and promote the local quarrying industry’s achievements both nationally and internationally. Following a brief welcome and introduction by John Gibson, chairman of the Northern Ireland branch, the formal proceedings of the day commenced with the traditional presentation of prizes and awards by David Sharman, President of the Institute of Quarrying (see below for a full list of the winners).

With the prize winners back in their seats, a highly regarded ambassador for the Northern Ireland quarrying industry, Prof Alan Woodside, Professor of Highway Engineering at the University of Ulster, set the scene for the rest of the day’s presentations with his keynote address, before handing over to Dr David Woodward, Reader at Ulster University, and Reza Shahmohammedi of the Lagan Group for their joint presentation on the importance of Co. Down gritstone and its use in thin surfacings.

They were followed by another joint presentation by Andrew Watson of Mine Rescue Services Ltd and Eamon McKenna of Fire & Rescue Service NI, who explained some of the emergency response procedures employed in the mining industry and how they might be utilized to improve health and safety in the quarrying industry.

Next to take the stage was Declan Loane, specification manager with Quinn Group, who described how, over the past three-and-half decades, the one-man business founded by Sean Quinn in 1973 has grown and diversified into one of Northern Ireland’s largest privately owned companies, with interests ranging from quarrying, cement and concrete products to glass-making, health insurance, hospitality, green energy production and real estate, among many others.

After a short coffee break, delegates heard a joint presentation by Gordon Best, regional director of QPANI, and Malcolm Downey, Principal Inspector with HSENI, who together discussed the proactive approach to health and safety issues and legislation being adopted within the quarrying industry in Northern Ireland. They were followed by Stephen Robinson, director of Robinson Quarry Masters Ltd, who examined Northern Ireland’s contribution to quarrying around the world, focusing in particular on the province’s engineering heritage and the present day crushing and screening industry in the region.

The final presentation before lunch was delivered by Tony Convery, chairman and founder of CDE, who spoke about the company’s cutting-edge experiences in pushing the boundaries of sand production globally, including the delivery of the largest washing plant in the world to a customer in the Middle East.

Before the start of the afternoon symposium session, Mike Phillips, general manager of the Institute, was invited on to the stage to say a few words about the Institute’s Corporate Professional Competence (CPC) scheme and to call upon Terry Last to sign and accept Certificate No. 002 on behalf of Tarmac Quarry Materials. Terry said he was delighted to accept the second certificate following on from Lafarge’s lead.

The afternoon session opened with a presentation entitled ‘At the Cutting Edge’ by Dawson Stelfox, chairman of the Consarc Design Group and president of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects. As the first Irish man to summit Mt Everest, he connected his climbing experiences with the use of naturally sourced building stone worldwide and also provided an introduction to the Northern Ireland Natural Stone Database.

Next to take the floor was Garth Earls, director of the Geological Survey Northern Ireland (GSNI), who informed delegates about some of the interesting outcomes and findings of the Tellus Project – a recent survey of Northern Ireland’s rock deposits using state-of-the-art technology.

The final presentation of the day was by Laverne Bell, biodiversity/geodiversity officer with the QPANI. She explored the diversity of wildlife to be found in Northern Ireland’s quarry operations; highlighted examples of biodiversity awareness, involvement, action and partnerships; and introduced delegates to a new UNEP/UEPG biodiversity toolkit for the quarrying industry.

After the formal conference proceedings were over, the 2009 event concluded with the Northern Ireland branch’s annual dinner dance, more commonly known as the Stone Crushers’ Ball. With local comedian Gene Fitzpatrick acting as compère for the evening, guests were entertained by a table magician, a ‘Riverdance’ style show by the Royal Tara Dancers and music from the band ‘Brazil’. A charity auction held on the night raised £5,500 split between Marie Curie Cancer Care and Starlight – the children’s charity.

In thanking all the conference sponsors for their generous support, John Gibson also expressed his gratitude to Lyn and Debbie from the Nottingham office by presenting each of them with a piece of traditional Tyrone crystal.

Examination Prize Winners

Leonard Clugston (Average of all ten modules)
Prize Winner: Richard Giles (Sibelco UK)   

Reginald Coles Award (Health, Safety, Legislation & Practice)
Prize Winner : Adam Holmes (AI)
Runner-up: Richards Giles (Sibelco UK)

Peter Preston Award (Quarry Operations)
Prize Winner : Ben Keverne (Imerys Minerals)
Runner-up: Adam Holmes (AI)

Ransomes Rapier Award (Quarry Engineering)
Prize Winner: Richard Giles (Sibelco UK)
Runner-up: Tom O’Brien (JA Wood)

Rexnord Award (Quarry Operations Blasting)
Prize Winner: Brandon Rampersad (Coolsan – Trinidad)
Runner-up: Philip Sanders (Tarmac)

Goodwin Barsby Award (Construction Materials Testing)
Prize Winner: Anthony Dennison (Hanson)
Runner-up: Tom O’Brien (JA Wood)


Tilcon Award (Business Management)
Prize Winner: Stephen Lark (Sibelco UK)
Runner-up: Ben Keverne (Imerys Minerals)

Longcliffe Calcium Carbonates Awards of Excellence
Foundation Year (Average of three modules)
Prize Winner: John Robson (Tarmac Quarry Materials)
Runner-up: John Evans (Tarmac Quarry Materials)

Certificate Year (Average of four modules)
Prize Winner: Rebecca Slater (Tarmac Quarry Materials)
Runner-up: David Wilson (Lafarge Aggregates)


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