Stevin Rock stays optimistic about growth prospects

24 July 2017

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Stevin Rock

Ras al-Khaimah (RAK) may not have much oil and gas, but as the UAE’s mountainous northern outpost, it makes up for this with an abundance of rock. The rugged Hajar Mountains, sweeping down to the blue waters of the Indian Ocean, mean the emirate is well positioned to exploit industrial niches that complement other economies in the region.

For more than 40 years, Stevin Rock has been an essential link in the supply chain for the construction and development sectors in the Middle East and beyond. Owned by the RAK government, the firm has the capacity to produce more than 60 million tonnes a year of high-grade limestone, gabbro rock, concrete and asphalt aggregates for construction and manufacturing markets in the UAE, the Gulf region and Asia. The three quarries it owns and operates in RAK – Khor Khuwair, Al-Ghail and Kadra – contain 7 billion tonnes of surveyed reserves.

Stevin Rock products have been used in nearly all of Dubai’s megaprojects, including Palm Jumeirah, the Dubai Metro, Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall. Little pieces of RAK can also be found in many of the region’s other large schemes, whether in the form of concrete or asphalt aggregates (for example Qatar’s Ras Laffan New Port expansion and Bahrain’s New Hidd Port expansion), or rocks for sea defence (for example Kuwait’s waterfront development). Stevin Rock is, in addition, a supplier to numerous steel plants in India, cement factories and chemical manufacturing facilities.

Clear vision

General manager Naser Bustami says the firm’s management approach has remained consistent: to maintain its core strength as a world-leading aggregate producer while at the same time building flexibility into its operations to allow for quick adaption to emerging markets and changing demands.

“This is demonstrated by our continued high market share throughout the region in our traditional markets while achieving strong growth in supply to specialised chemicals industries such as glass, steel and nickel producers,” he says.

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Stevin Rock landscape

Go-to rock supplier

The firm has built up numerous strong customer relationships since it was founded in 1975, but is particularly proud of its links with the UAE’s national oil companies. “For many years, we have been the go-to rock supplier for many key strategic oil and gas installations, both on and offshore,” says Bustami. “We are delighted to be able to play our part in the betterment of the UAE by using our expertise in marine-grade rock production, logistics and transportation to contribute towards the recovery of this country’s greatest natural resource.”

Sustainability ethos

Environmental control measures have accounted for about 10 per cent of Stevin Rock’s capital expenditure over the past five years, during which time the firm became the first aggregate producer in the Middle East to be awarded the BES 6001 standard in recognition of its efforts in the areas of responsible sourcing, supply chain management, streamlined operations and a strong sustainability ethos. The latest drone survey technology allows the company to keep up to date with its expanding and increasingly complex operations, and also assists in areas such as mine planning, stock control and asset utilisation.

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“We have always been broad-minded and quick to identify innovative opportunities from both inside and outside our traditional spheres of operation, mitigating our environmental impact on the local ecosystem and neighbouring residential areas,” says Bustami. “This led to us identifying the potential to adapt turbine-driven water cannons (which are typically used to create artificial snowfall in alpine regions) into powerful dust suppression systems. These units give us the added advantage of preserving precious water resources while effectively combating fugitive dust emissions.”

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Carbon footprint

Over the next five to 10 years, Stevin Rock’s environmental focus will take two distinct directions, he says. “We will continue to optimise our operations through investment in the extension of our in-pit crushing and conveying system, which, with the help of gravity, allows us to generate electricity while simultaneously reducing the need for haul trucks. This has a double benefit of reduced carbon emissions from our haul fleet and reduced power consumption by our processing plants.

“We are also investigating the environmental benefits of introducing larger capacity mobile equipment in order to reduce the number of active machines and further reduce fuel consumption per tonne of output.”

Workforce culture

Continuous professional development is encouraged through multiple initiatives that are made available to all of Stevin Rock’s 2,600 employees. Representatives from the UK’s Institute of Quarrying are regular visitors and provide a tailor-made diploma course for engineers and supervisors, as well as more practical skills training for the general workforce. “We have also invested heavily in our own dedicated education and simulator training facility, where training in international best practice in quarry and mining operations is available to all personnel,” says Bustami.

Health and safety

The harsh environment, combined with the challenges of a physically demanding industry, means the health and welfare of employees is of paramount importance. “Every employee is not only provided with private health insurance, but is also cared for proactively through health screening and continuous monitoring initiatives,” he says. “We encourage a healthy lifestyle through participation in internal and external sporting tournaments and competitions, which are very popular with the workforce.”

As well as sponsoring sports tournaments, other corporate social responsibility initiatives have included supplying information technology (IT) capabilities to local schools, providing free construction materials to local residents, and developing entrepreneurship by hiring any mobile plant needed from locally owned companies.

Bustami also points out that the firm has been the market leader in recruiting Emirati nationals to work in the quarrying industry. “We are proud to have 60 Emirati nationals (men and women) working in various departments, including technical and commercial.”

Positive outlook

So what are Stevin Rock’s prospects for the coming year? “Despite the many challenges we are facing today, such as the restrictions on trade with Qatar and increased competition from other operators in the region, our outlook remains positive for the year ahead,” says Bustami. “We are continuing to invest in research and development to identify new markets, and are confident we can expand our current product range and secure additional contracts.”

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