Fujairah blasting for Dubai’s boom

Fujairah is currently benefitting from the current glut of construction projects in Dubai. At the front end of the aggregate business, the emirate’s quarries have witnessed a massive upsurge in production. Construction Week reports.

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By  Colin Foreman Published  April 2, 2005

Fujairah blasting for Dubai’s boom|~|66 Prod Ins Body.jpg|~||~|The sheer barren rockfaces of Fujairah pay testimony to the harsh environment where summer temperatures regularly nudge the 50ºC mark. The Hajjar mountains are formed by some of the hardest rocks known to man, and by a remarkable piece of serendipity also lie just over 100 km from what is currently the world’s biggest building project: Dubai. The demand for aggregate is immense. Every hour of every day, a steady stream of trucks make the journey from the quarries in the mountains, across the Sharjah desert to the world’s fastest-growing tourist destination. This demand is being felt at the front end of the aggregate food chain where the requirement for drilling and blasting is growing by the day. Tom Ross is the manager of Technical Drilling and Blasting, a Dubai-registered company but with its major operations located in Fujairah. Ross joined the company five years ago and helped predict and plan for the expansion that sees the company needing to double its workforce by the end of this year. “There are a lot of projects happening throughout the Gulf region,” says Ross, “In Dubai, they are creating three Palm Islands that will be seen from space and will virtually double the country’s coastline. There are new shopping malls and the world’s tallest building; in nearby Kuwait there are major rebuilding works going on. And at the same time, Dubai, Kuwait and Qatar have all put a ban on quarrying.” Ross persuaded the company’s owners, Muna Nor Inc. of the Sultan of Oman, that funds needed to be in place so Technical Drilling and Blasting could equip itself for the boom. And as the demand grew, Ross was in a position to order plant while his competitors were chasing capital. Tamrock has been the beneficiary of the equipment drive. Ross’s love affair with the Tamrock range started when he was working on the Khor Fakkan port project and he chose a Ranger 600 over the Atlas Copco D7. “We had the D7 in mind and felt we would demonstrate its capabilities, but the sales people were not as imaginative as Tamrock. “When I moved to Technical Drilling and Blasting, the company was operating a pair of CHA 660s. They both now have 13 000 hours on the clock and are continuing to perform well.” As Fujairah municipality increased the number of quarry licences to 68, Ross was able to call on the available capital, first by purchasing three Ranger 700-2 rigs and a CHA 700. The cab-less CHA 700 turned out to be less popular with the operators. “When working 24 hours a day in conditions often above 40 degrees, a cab is welcome.” The next stage was to order a further six 700-2’s, each fitted with the latest HL800 hammer.“When you think an average machine like this would be expected to work around 2 000 hours a year, our machines are operating four times that with around 600 hours a month,” Ross explains. “They have to be capable of performing, and working with Sandvik Rock Tools they are doing a great job. Depending on the quarry and type of rock, we are achieving between 60-600 drill metres life out of each Sandvik drill bit,” he adds. Every blast site is thoroughly surveyed with extensive details of each drill hole recorded. The blasts are planned two months in advance and the explosives ordered. The UAE police and security witness all of the blasting operations and carefully monitor the explosives used. The growth in demand has put strain on the force’s resources, and Ross is in the process of negotiating with the local authorities for a change in the restrictions. “At the moment we are only allowed to do two blasts of a maximum of three tonnes each day on a single site. I have demonstrated that a single blast of ten tonnes would make everybody’s life easier and allow the police and other authorities to visit more sites without taking any more time.” It is a battle he continues to fight. Staffing up to assign two engineers to each blast means he is prepared for the change. “We will have nine engineers and 75 other staff this year — and those figures could double again if we can increase the explosive levels,” Ross says. However, it’s not all sunshine and roses: “Margins are still tight and the weakness of the dollar (the UAE dirham is linked to the US dollar) means that Euro-priced equipment is expensive now — but we are doing it properly and our customers are aware of that. We will continue to grow.” ||**||

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