EQ Group’s business methodologyof investing in a natural stone quarry starts from identifying unique formations in granite, marble & other exclusive natural stones. We evaluate investing and operating in natural stone mines using a thumb-rule of 5 factors:
- Uniqueness of the stone
- Structure & formation of the quarry
- Mine-ability (getting the right sized blocks)
- Logistical access to processing & ports (roads, transportation & storage)
- Feasibility of quarrying operation versus the market demand
We have 3 types of quarries that include Government Auctioned land, Private land purchased by us or private land owned by someone & Leased by us.
Once we’ve ‘explored and prospected’ a suitable natural stone, we conduct a ‘generic feasibility study’ which includes ‘core drilling’ across the identified area and sending samples for analysis to certified labs. This outline 3 key findings:
- Quality of stone
- Deposit quantum or size
- Formation of the structure
Once this is done we undertake a study on area requirement, topography, licenses & permission required, the application timelines and a broad plan that would outline feasibility, royalties and timeline for productive quarrying. The department of mining in the local Government would give a prospecting license or PL after which the we undertake a market study as well as quarry out samples to outline prices of Blocks (Gangsaw & Cutter), Slabs & Tiles in various markets and submit a project report for the application of a Quarrying License. The applications submitted with supporting would vary from one local / state Government to the other (including royalty rates) but since natural stones come under the minor minerals category in most countries the permissions granted upto a specific size of land would be granted by the local office of the Central Governments Department of Environment. The timeline for this entire process varies from 90-180 days by when our team works out capital expenditure, working capital and budgets other resources to be deployed to operationalize the quarry. The royalties to be paid to the Local Government / relevant authority are decided once a Mining Plan is submitted which would be increasing year on year. This can be revised based on the demand pattern for the stone. Sometimes royalties are taken in advance by the local Government and in some cases where the land is privately owned and leased the owner also gets a share in the royalty.
Our method of stone extraction adopted is a combination of ‘blast’ and ‘stone cutters’ based on the quantum of overburden, topography, structure formation & fracture formation.
We also are in the process of establishing our own state of the art automated processing facility near some of our quarries to access the ready made tile markets in Europe & the Middle East and the local markets for slabs & tiles.
Once blocks of stone reach the processing facility, they are cut down into smaller more manageable pieces. For tiles, this means cutting the stone into billets before polishing. For slab materials, gang saw is used for further processing. A gang saw works has many adjustable blades that allow for the thickness of the slabs to be adjusted. The thickness varies from 16mm to 22mm based on the market or buyer requirement. The gang saw can cut the entire block of stone into slabs at one time. More delicate materials may require the use of a diamond wire saw to gently cut one slab at a time with less trauma to the stone. The most recent technology involves multi-wire gang saws which have the potential speed production on exotic materials exponentially. After slabs are cut on the gang saw, they are moved one at a time to the polishing line, where they are laid horizontally on a large conveyer type line called a polishing line. There, they pass under polishing heads which begin with very coarse diamond abrasives, and then move to finer and finer grit abrasives, just like sanding wood. Travertine slabs and some marbles, will receive a cementicous or epoxy compound to fill the natural voids of the stone. Part of the way through this line, slabs of granite, marble, and onyx will receive a coating of a resin treatment, which will fill in any pits or micro fissures which are inherent to the stone in order to make the final surface easier to clean. Most of the excess resin is removed by further polishing, with only 1% remaining on the finished surface. For materials where the final surface is to be honed, the process will stop with a lower grit abrasive than materials with a polished surface. Slabs are bundled together and braced with a wooden framework, custom built to ensure the slabs stay upright during the shipping process. All materials are loaded into standard 20 foot shipping containers and braced to prevent any shifting or movement which could cause damage to the material. Due to the immense weight of stone, many containers are not fully packed, but are loaded to maximum weight limit of 20 tons. Some countries have a specific weight or volume restriction which is not based on the container size or capacity.