NOTE: Graymont personnel provided an outstanding and educational tour of the limestone quarry and processing plant near Exshaw, AB. Any factual errors in this post are entirely due my poor memory.
This last week of spring break we had the privilege of touring a limestone quarry and processing plant, thanks to one of Mr. GeoKs’ close business associates. After the Graymont staff at the plant office fitted us with steel toe covers, high-visibility vests, safety glasses and hard hats, we drove several minutes west along Highway 1A to the limestone quarry at the base of Grotto Mountain. This quarry has been in operation for over a century and it will be many decades before the high-quality limestone is exhausted.
After touring the quarry from end-to-end and enjoying yet another perspective on the Three Sisters area of Canmore, we headed back to the plant site. The Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep are attracted to the roadway to lick the salt contained in winter sanding mixes spread by highway maintenance crews.
Several things particularly impressed us during the plant tour:
the obvious emphasis on safety (of all plant personnel, contractors and drivers);
the pride the operators take in making their facilities run well;
the continuous investment in dust-control and other pollution-control measures (CO2 is the biggest outstanding challenge, as it is with many processes);
the wide- and ever-growing range of products produced (who knew limestone is one of the materials used in kitty litter, cattle and chicken food supplements, glossy paper, asphalt shingles, steel and so much more – in fact after air and water, lime is the third most common industrial input);
the consistent focus on maximizing the value of all the raw inputs (everything from closed systems that purify and re-use fresh water rather than always using a new supply to using waste from the pellet facility for dust-control on the quarry roads);
the heat radiating off the kilns, which would provide a welcome chance to warm-up if working outside in freezing temperatures; and
the fact that the plant manager gave up almost half his work day to explain the quarry and processing operations to us, making sure to include a demonstration or two that really appealed to the GeoKids.
Thanks very much to Graham for arranging this tour, to Sira and Dennis for investing so much time teaching us about your business, and to all of the Graymont personnel for your willingness to let us peek over your shoulders for an up-close look at things.