Prosper Valley Enterprises

By on April 5, 2016
Photo of cows grazing at Prosper Valley

DAVID O’BRIEN, Managing Director of Prosper Valley Enterprises provides an insight into his family’s venture into quarrying.

I feel most readers may be somewhat surprised that a tiny quarry which operates with no power, no plant, no buildings, no fuel storage facilities, only limited machinery and produces per year what the bigger quarries produce in a day is being featured in “Sand and Stone” this month. Well here is our story . . .

In 1975 my wife and I purchased a partly cleared property on Prosper Valley Road, 25kms south of Morwell which included a small gravel pit in one section. During the investigation of the property, prior to purchasing, we discovered that although the gravel was of a high quality no gravel had been removed from the quarry for the previous three years by the Morwell Shire and the Country Roads Board (CRB) for local road maintenance due to a dispute over royalties.

Before purchasing I contacted the relevant members of the Morwell Shire and the CRB and was advised that under no circumstances would they use gravel from the quarry whilst the current owner owned the property. However, they both stated if the ownership of the quarry were to change and the royalty was acceptable they would have no hesitation in using the gravel for their road maintenance.

The day we took possession I contacted the engineers of the Shire and CRB who both suggested they meet with me at the quarry that very day to discuss our future dealings. At our meeting it was made clear they were both keen to use my gravel but it was dependent on the royalty price which had initially caused the problem.

SITE PHOTO: Trucks being loaded

SITE PHOTO: Trucks being loaded

I suggested as I had no knowledge of such matters, they should put their heads together and come up with a price which was fair to them and to me. After walking away and discussing it for about a minute they returned shook my hand and announced the new royalty figure – which coincidently was the same as the previous owner had set three years earlier. The next day there were Shire and CRB bulldozers, loaders and trucks in the quarry going for it. In those early days I had no equipment or machinery so whoever removed the gravel had to push it up, load it and transport it. All I did was receive the royalty and that was how I ventured into the “Gravel Business”.

In 1979 I was visited early one morning by an elderly gentleman, a Mr Hall who claimed to be the Mines’ Inspector, and he announced I was breaking the law selling gravel and I would have to immediately cease the practice or he would impose a hefty fine on me for every truck which left the quarry.  I was somewhat annoyed by his threats and reminded him gravel had been sold from the quarry for over 50 years and the gravel was the reason I had purchased the property.

I demanded to see this so called “legislation” in writing.  To my horror he returned in the afternoon with copies of the legislation with the appropriate segments clearly highlighted. With the assistance of the Morwell Shire Engineer and Mr Hall, I finally gained an Extractive Industries Licence No. 1002 about eighteen months later. This license was extended for ten years in 1987 (Extractive Industries License No. 1002-1) and for another ten years in 1997 (Work Authority 368).

In the late 1970s when the Government was conducting a feasibility study into whether to build a new coal fired power station at Loy Yang or at Driffield, Farley and Lewers test drilled our property for gravel with a view of using it if the Driffield Power Station got the nod. Unfortunately for us, Loy Yang was chosen. After three weeks of test drilling I was verbally advised there was approximately 6,000,000 cubic metres of good quality gravel on my property.

In 1999, after ceasing my “off farm” employment, I purchased my first tip truck and ventured into the gravel delivery field using my tractor and bucket to load.

Our customer base, usually within a 30km radius, comprises of farmers who want their tracks maintained, Latrobe City to maintain their gravel road system, road construction and road maintenance companies who have won local contracts through VicRoads, local building and concreting contractors and individual members of the community.

Over the years, we have purchased equipment including a Komatsu WA 320-3 Loader, a Komatsu D4-1E Dozer and three older Mack Trucks. This has enabled us to win, load and cart the gravel without having to rely on outside contractors. When we have larger contracts to fill, other local tip truck contractors are engaged to assist. For over ten years we have employed a couple of valued multi-skilled workers on a casual basis to operate the dozer, loader and drive the trucks.

SITE PHOTO: Dozer pushing up gravel

SITE PHOTO: Dozer pushing up gravel

Several years ago my son Brent started his own local excavating business “Prosper Valley Excavations” that enables our two businesses to work together on many projects. Over the past few years Brent has taken an increasing role in the quarry management, operation and sales.

In 2010 we were forced to apply for a Work Authority and Work Plan Variation as we had mined the maximum we could within the licensed area taking into account slope of the batters. We were extremely grateful to the CMPA who assisted us in offering timely advice and assisted us to negotiate and navigate through what seemed a very drawn out and  expensive process. Even our local solicitor created additional delays as he had little understanding of the process but once we changed to a solicitor recommended by the CMPA (Mr Andrew Lumb – Nevitt Ford Lawyers) the blockers were quickly eliminated and the Work Authority and Work Plan Variation was finally granted. We now have a licence to extract approximately 900,000 cubic metres.

It has always been our practice to rehabilitate the mined areas as soon as possible after quarrying so the land can be re-sown into pasture and incorporated into our beef cattle business.

Needless to say . . . the gravel pit is by far my best cow!

 

60 Seconds with a voting member . . . 

What is your name? David O’Brien.

Photo of Brent & David O’Brien

Brent & David O’Brien

Who do you work for? I own Prosper Valley Gravel.

How many years have you worked for this business? 40 years.

How many years have you been involved in the industry? 40 Years.

What is your role at the company?  Owner / Operator / Managing Director.

What does your job involve? Oversee quarry operations and sales, load trucks and occasionally deliver material.

What is the best part of your job? Liaising with customers and progressively handing the management responsibilities of the quarry over to my son Brent.

 

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