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Elmer Larson Breaks ’Stone Ceiling’ in IL

Mon August 02, 2004 - Midwest Edition
Darryl Seland

Things change –– in business and in life. And in order to be successful, you have to adapt. Elmer Larson LLC, a quarry that has been in operation since the late 30s, has done just that.

Mike Larson, vice president/general manager of Elmer Larson LLC, has seen such a change in his company’s market. “Our sales used to be heavily skewed toward base material. We did produce chips and binder stone for the asphalt plants and concrete aggregate for the redimix business, but we see that market changing and there is going to be less base material and more of the chips and binder and concrete aggregate going on into the future.”

In November 2003, the company decided to upgrade its secondary plant, replacing its Cedarapids Hammermill 4033, which was purchased in 1965, with a Canica 90 vertical shaft impactor (VSI) crusher. With the new crusher the company has increased production from 350 to as much as 700 tons per hour, said Larson.

The Canica 90 crusher was purchased from Finkbiner Equipment and, according to Chad Cailteux of Finkbiner, the machine is not the typical crusher you see in many quarry operations.

“It is a secondary or tertiary machine in the stone crushing process and what it does is reduce the amount of fines in those stages and cuts down on the percentage of the waste products,” he said.

This so-called waste product is a fine material used by the Ag market. Because of the sheer volume of the dust-sized material the market cannot absorb it all.

“Guys are giving it away just to get it off their property and make more room,” said Cailteux. “You’re talking millions of tons of unsaleable product.”

Larson refers to it as the butter and margarine mix – the margarine being base material and butter being the higher priced chips and binder material.

“We are going to be able to produce less base material and more chips and binder,” said Larson. “That will be certainly advantageous to our average selling price and our product mix. We will be able to expand our markets further out.”

The reason Elmer Larson LLC stayed with an impact crusher on its secondary is for particle shape, a necessary consideration when having to meet Illinois’ asphalt requirements. The state requires cubicle particles for its asphalt mixes and the VSI produces such particles, compared to a compression impactor that produces flat and elongated particles.

“It doesn’t work well in Illinois’ asphalt design mixes,” said Larson.

The company, with the help of Finkbiner Equipment, has done some fine tuning on the machine since mid march. Elmer Larson LLC was plateauing at 600 tons per hour at maximum amps until it adjusted the tension on the belts of the twin 250 hp drives.

“We got the belts fine tuned and the amps have dropped down and the tons have gone up,” said Larson. “We were hoping for 550 and we are doing 700. We are very happy.”

A variable speed drive also gives the company the ability to turn up or slow down the turntable, providing a better product mix.

“We are not beating up the stone so much and we get more chips and binder and less fines –– and that’s what we are after,” said Larson.

Back in 1999, Elmer Larson LLC came to what might be described as a crossroad. “Previously, we were mining 35 feet of selerium deposit and that was slowly getting thinner and overburden was getting thicker so we were at a point where we had to make a decision,” said Larson.

The company was moving about 65 ft. (20 m) of overburden to get roughly 25 ft. (8 m) of stone, so the decision was to switch from expanding horizontally to going down vertically into the existing floor.

“We realized it would be more costly to go down into the floor of the quarry. We would have to remove 100 feet of overburden but eventually get 400 feet of recoverable stone that we could process and sell for various products,” said Larson.

In the last three years the company has moved approximately 2 million yds. (1,828,800 m) of overburden to uncover stone.

“As we were moving the overburden we were trying to do two things at once –– remove the overburden and continue to process the raw material,” said Larson.

The removal of the overburden has provided Larson with several high-grade products to process, including 204 ft. (62 m) of Galena and 144 ft. (44 m) of Platteville stone that are rated at super structure quality by the state of Illinois.

The work to remove the overburden, however, did initially result in a loss of production, which fell to about 500,000 tons“because we just couldn’t get the raw material to crush, and still remove the overburden,” said Larson.

Around the time it upgraded its secondary plant, and with the company back to having ample supplies of raw material again, Larson also began thinking about its primary plant.

“We were running equipment that was producing 350 to 425 tons per hour through our secondary and we were also able to produce about 600 to 700 tons an hour through our primary from a double impact breaker,” said Larson. “But we needed to increase the capacity and change type of crushing we were doing.”

In the early days, when the company was producing material from the selerium deposits it needed to impact the stone in order to upgrade it and enhance quality.

“With the new stone, we are able to go back to compression crushing, at least at the primary, to reduce our costs per ton in terms of wear parts.” Larson, who is currently working with Finkbiner on changing its primary impact crusher to jaw-type compression crushing, hopes to increase production to 1,200 to 1,400 tons per hour.

The next step, according to Larson, will be to continue upgrading the secondary plant, most likely with another Canica to get that machine up to 1,000 to 1,200.

The Public and

Elmer Larson LLC

Nearly 12 years ago, Larson noticed cars parked along side of the road leading to the quarry. People were actually climbing the 12 ft. berm that obstructs the view of the quarry from the road to see what was happening on the other side.

So Larson had an idea –– invite the public to see the plant in full operation.

“We give them coffee and rolls and have guessing games –– how many stones are in a jar –– we have equipment parked outside and let the kids get pictures and give them a tour of the facility.”

The annual event draws about 300 to 350 people who show up on a Saturday morning whether its raining or sunny, noted Larson.

“We’ve had people who have told us they have come every year for the last 10 years and it has become sort of a ritual for people to come and see what the quarry is about,” he said.

The company is not at a loss for a sense of humor during these tours.

“We’ll pull around the corner of a ramp to go to the lower part of the quarry –– about a 17 percent slope that is pretty steep –– and people who haven’t been on the tour before will gasp and ask, ’Are we going down there? How are we going to get out,’ and we tell them we always bring the bodies back and they have a good chuckle,” Larson laughed.

Over the years, the tours have drawn interest from many groups, including school groups, brownies and scouts that will come out looking for fossils and take part in the tour.

“It’s been good publicity. People can see we are not the big bad guys that quarry operators are thought to be. We are happy the way it has worked out.”

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