Customers in Action

RECON

ENVIRONMENTAL CONTRACTOR MAKING GREAT STRIDES IN FINAL RECLAMATION OF MCKINLEY MINE

January 06, 2015

Switch to Komatsu equipment improves production

RECON

For nearly 50 years, McKinley Mine near Gallup, N.M., supplied low-sulphur coal for energy consumption throughout the Southwestern United States.

McKinley Mine’s operations began in 1962 and were shut down in 2009; however, initial reclamation began in 1980 and was ongoing during the mine’s operation. Remedial Construction Services, L.P. (RECON) is currently working to finalize the task that will bring the McKinley Mine relatively close to its original elevation and back to its original contours. RECON Project Manager Collin Olie estimated that RECON will have moved about a half million yards of earth during the process.

“Our work involves two steps, and we’re close to the end of the first, which involves bringing the mine back to its original contours and within 10 feet of the original elevations,” explained Olie. “That’s primarily done in bulk excavation using materials on the property to balance the site. I like to think of it as moving mountains. The mine pushed through them to get to the coal, and our task is to rebuild them. Additionally, we’re constructing drainage channels and ponds, installing erosion control and seeding with a native mix. We have a full-time engineering group that ensures everything is done properly.

“Once that’s done, the next phase is maintenance, which will be handled by a small standby crew, whose responsibility includes minimizing erosion issues,” he added. “For instance, after a rainfall, they will check the site and repair anything that may have been damaged, such as replacing silt fencing. That phase could last as long as 10 years.”

Many of the 50-plus employees are working on reshaping the mine, some areas of which are located on Navajo land, so that workforce has been hired locally. “We have an outstanding group of professionals, many of whom are native Navajo,” said Olie. “That’s unique to this project, but it’s not unique to us as a company. RECON typically hires locally on large and long-term projects.”

Full-service company

RECON

Coal Contractors has been mining the 600- plus acre Stockton site since 2000. It had previously mined and has nearly completed reclamation at the Gowen Mine near Nuremburg, Pa. The ratio of overburden to coal at Stockton is a little more than 10-1. There are more than 2 million tons of reserves remaining at the site.

Hiring locally is a necessity for RECON, a large environmental remediation, geotechnical construction and civil construction contractor that works in all 50 states and internationally. Headquartered in Houston, Texas, the company has U.S. regional offices in Kentucky, California, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Michigan. It also has a Canadian office in Montreal, Quebec. The McKinley Mine project is one of many jobs that the company has going on at any one time, as part of its drive toward 5,000 projects completed since its founding in 1989.

RECON’s customer base includes industrial, commercial and governmental clients with about 85 percent of its work from repeat customers. It’s consistently listed as one of the Top 200 specialty contractors by Engineering News Record, which has also named RECON one of the Top 400 contractors and one of the Top 20 firms for all environmental, hazardous waste and excavation/foundation categories.

RECON has three divisions: environmental remediation services, geotechnical and civil services. It handles a variety of projects, such as soil and groundwater remediation; landfill-cell construction; hazardous-waste-site demolition; site preparation and development; and underground barrier construction.

“When it comes to environmental work, we’re a full-service contractor,” said Olie. “We handle everything from design-build to complete construction and/or demolition. Our experience and expertise sets us apart and are reasons why customers choose to work with us.”

Switch to Komatsu improves production

RECON

Olie noted that as a company, RECON uses Komatsu equipment, but when he began working at the McKinley Mine, that wasn’t the case. After an assessment of the project, that changed.

“I evaluated the cost of the equipment we had on site and knew we could do better,” he said. “I contacted several dealers, including Eric Hirengen at Road Machinery. We use D65 dozers extensively, especially the low-ground-pressure PX models for doing landfill caps. They’re some of the finest pieces of equipment I’ve ever used. That familiarity was a good starting point, but when we talked in terms of support, it was even clearer that Komatsu was the right choice.”

RECON began renting a wheel loader and dozer, then kept adding to its rental fleet, which now includes a Tier 4 Interim PC360LC-10 and six PC490LC-10 excavators, HM300-3 and HM400-3 haul trucks, D65EX-17 dozers, two GD655 motor graders and a WA470-7 wheel loader. RECON recently purchased the WA470-7 wheel loader, along with a D65 and a D51 dozer.

“One of my concerns with rental units was the condition of the machines, but Eric and Road Machinery put that to rest quickly,” said Olie. “Much of the equipment was practically brand new, so I didn’t have to worry. As an environmental company working in sensitive areas, that’s important to RECON. It told me that the equipment was well-maintained and would be productive and reliable. As a project manager, I’m focused on uptime. If a machine is down, it’s costing us time, which ultimately equates to money.”

Road Machinery provides motivation

To further ensure RECON’s Komatsu equipment remains productive, Road Machinery dedicated a full-time service technician and truck to the McKinley Mine. Additionally, Road Machinery provides complimentary scheduled maintenance on the Tier 4 machines through the Komatsu CARE program.

“Both the on-site technician and the Komatsu CARE program were big motivating factors in our final decision to use a uniform Komatsu fleet,” said Olie. “That level of service is outstanding. We have lower and more-fixed maintenance costs, which allows me to put resources elsewhere. Eric and Road Machinery have done, and are doing, a great job of meeting our needs with excellent equipment and with lower operating costs.”

Focusing on the future

Olie expects to keep much of the Komatsu equipment for two to three more years as RECON continues heavy hauling of materials to bring the McKinley Mine to full reclamation. He’s also looking at other opportunities in the area for future work.

“Obviously, if you’re already in an area, it makes sense to see what else is out there,” said Olie. “RECON has never been a static company that focuses solely on the present. It takes a forward approach. As a company, we have about 500 employees now, and at our current pace, we will likely double during the next two years based on our performance and customer demands.”