Northern Alberta’s Big Rock quarry has become indispensible to local oil sands operations. Run by GMS Aggregates, the quarry offers an excellent selection of high quality, specialty products.
The array of products sourced from a quarry can range from screened sand to bedding sand, washed sand, manufactured fines, clay, washed rock, screened rock, insulating rock, asphalt aggregate, and treated winter sand. GMS’s Big Rock quarry is situated in an ideal location for oil sands operation. Only 112 kilometres North East of Fort McMurray, Big Rock is 2.5km from Husky Sunrise, 10km from Suncor Firebag, and 16km from Esso Kearl. These sites depend on quarry products for a range of applications, from road base and drilling pads to concrete applications and bridge decks.
“We have top quality rock, very good petrographic numbers and no ironstone, which is not good for gravel application,” explains GMS Aggregates President Herve Faucher. “We have all different sizes and types of rock which means we can make virtually any type of product needed.”
Geologists and civil consultants alike agree with Mr. Faucher’s assessment, declaring the site to be an excellent source of concrete quality aggregates. The quarry also won’t run dry anytime soon as the deposit at Big Rock quarry boasts approximately 10 million tons of aggregate resources.
Reliable rocks aren’t the company’s only accolade; GMS Aggregates has also earned the loyalty of the local oil industry through its dependable service. “We are known for our reliability,” says Finance Manager, Rachelle Dubeau. “We are open practically 24/7. Our customers know they can call us on a Sunday morning when another pit might not be available.”
GMS Aggregates’ small size and hands-on management are what make this accessibility possible. “While maybe not on scale of production, but in terms of management, we are a mom and pop shop,” Ms. Dubeau explains. “We are a tightknit family. It’s not a Monday to Friday, nine to five type job for us. The owners are operating this business; they are eating, breathing and sleeping the company.” Mr. Faucher agrees. “We are never away from our phones,” he adds. “The phone rings at 5:00 in the morning, or 9:00 in the evening, there’s always someone who will answer.”
Unlike many of the larger competitors, the company’s directors and owners all live in the area, rather than in distant cities with conflicting time zones. The result is efficient operations and satisfied customers. “We are owned by family and friends,” Mr. Faucher explains. “We don’t have numerous approval processes or levels to go through. The directors sit down together and decisions are made immediately. That level of responsiveness and ability to take immediate action is what makes the difference.”
Keeping the staff of GMS Aggregates local is also very important to the company. “We don’t go to the US to headhunt a VP or pit manager,” Ms. Dubeau reports. “Rarely do we have to go far and wide to find top notch employees. We always start local.” This local-first policy is paired with an equal opportunity staffing policy that is extremely beneficial to the community.
News of the company’s accessibility and hands-on approach is spreading fast. “We are very reliable, and that has been passed on through word of mouth,” Ms. Dubeau reports. “We have never had to advertise, which is pretty incredible for us. Word of mouth has resulted in significant growth for our company.” Supplying Esso Kearl has helped give GMS a firm foothold – and that foothold continues to grow. “One of our big contracts was to supply Kearl with a big percentage of their gravel and wash product needs over the last three years,” Mr. Jim Biblow, Director of Operations shares. “We have been very reliable and thankfully that [reputation] has spread.”
For GMS Aggregates, delivering on their promises comes hand in hand with their reputation. “If we can’t deliver on a proposed contract, we let them know. We don’t make promises we can’t keep. We have always had sufficient inventory to be able to supply and deliver. A key aspect of that is ensuring we’re always truthful and transparent with our customers,” states Mr. Biblow.
There are challenges within the industry at the moment, of course. “The price of oil has dramatically come down, but we won’t know until the spring what the possible effects could be,” Mr. Faucher admits. However, he remains optimistic. “We are still doing a lot of bidding. These oil companies won’t just shut down; it may just mean that they slow down on some of their new work.” With an industry as important as the oil & gas sector, production must continue, albeit at a reduced pace. As a result, the team predicts the effect on their business will be relatively slight. “They are still going to need gravel, wash rock, concrete and we will be here to provide it for them.”
With the diversified portfolio of products that GMS Aggregates has, they plan to cater more towards the area of specialty products. “If we can’t produce [these specialty products] they have to go quite far to have access to some of those rocks. Our advantage is we have it all right here.” An increasing number of oil sands operations have discovered this fact – and are taking advantage of all that GMS has to offer, from top quality rock to reliable, ‘round the clock service’. “Quality, reliability, and customer satisfaction is what GMS Aggregates strives to achieve.”