From the Ground Up
At the heart of mining-associated services in Australia, MacKellar Group utilises its historic know-how to keep the industry moving. Duncan MacKellar, Managing Director of the business, takes us through the company from past to present
Writer: Marcus Kääpä | Project Manager: Thomas Arnold
Australian industry is synonymous with mining.
The nation is one of the globe’s leading producers of lithium, lead, diamonds and many other minerals, most notably iron and gold.
Western Australia (WA) alone produces over 50 percent of the country’s gold and in excess of a staggering 90 percent of iron ore. So, it comes as no surprise that there are multiple players in the mining industry dedicated to a proud profession that harkens back to the roots of Australia’s modern history. One such company is MacKellar Group (MacKellar).
“The business was founded by my father, Alastair MacKellar, back in 1966,” begins Duncan MacKellar, Managing Director of the company. “Alastair started as an apprentice diesel fitter back when he was 17, through the South Australian Tractor company, which was the Caterpillar dealer in South Australia at the time.
“He worked his way up and later on purchased his own equipment, starting with trucks for civil projects and later had enough equity to expand into loaders and bulldozers. Over the last 55 years, we have gained valuable experience and grown our internal capability to be the robust and trusted partner to the mining industry that we are today.”
REPUTATION FOR RELIABILITY
MacKellar is Australia’s largest privately owned mining equipment and services provider, and was started from the ground up. Hard work, effort, dedication and a solid business foundation ensured an upward trajectory for the company, earning MacKellar an enviable reputation in the industry for performance and reliability.
Yet it is not only MacKellar’s history that has cemented its reputation.
“Our people are our number one asset, and we like to pride ourselves as being an employer of choice,” Duncan elaborates. “Some of our people have been with the company for well over 25 years, and many over a decade. We genuinely care about our people, treat them like family, and in turn we treat our customers the same. We are in a services business and have many long-term relationships from my father’s era that continue to this day.
“We also keep all of our employees safe each day whilst providing an excellent service, from small civil projects to large scale mining projects. Very few other companies are able to provide the diverse services that MacKellar can offer across a national footprint.”
Another unique aspect that has solidified MacKellar’s place in the industry is its in-house maintenance capabilities. With the recent acquisition of its Nambour facility and infrastructure upgrades, MacKellar is able to provide a full suite of component rebuilds for its own vehicle fleet as well as supporting its customers’ fleets.
“While providing all of this, we manage to remain flexible and nimble, able to react quickly to the needs of our customers,” Duncan adds.
MacKellar’s main solutions are in mining services and earthmoving. The company has flexible contract structures from the hiring of large mining equipment, through to fully maintained hire or complete mining and earthmoving services where it manages entire projects.
“Our major maintenance facilities are for component rebuilds, based in Blackwater and Nambour in Queensland. We also have many site-based maintenance facilities,” Duncan continues. “Our services projects currently span throughout Queensland, although we are always keen to expand and explore our service offerings to all parts of Australia and in all commodity spaces.
“Our capability and capacity to expand comes from these same values and we continue to be committed to delivering results by ensuring the highest quality equipment and service.”
MacKellar partners with large infrastructure companies to deliver civil earthmoving projects, and is proud of its earthworks and ability to provide accurate profiled finishes and meet specifications for road construction and other applications. These applications span the execution of highways, runways and motorways, through to railways and service roads, as well as drilling and blasting operations, loading and haulage of materials, grading, on-site stabilising, and even materials processing - MacKellar can do it all.
“Our clients choose MacKellar to carry out the earthmoving in projects because of our careful planning, knowledge and experience in delivering to design specifications,” Duncan says. “We have built this expertise over many years having completed a wide variety of water infrastructure, including but not limited to dams, creek diversions, and levee banks.
“Our professional and experienced team is equipped to deliver all types of surface projects, by preparing the foundations for extensive infrastructure works. We have carried out every type of levelling work imaginable, from airports, residential developments, industrial parks, and even solar farms.”
On top of this, with many years of experience in haul road and construction maintenance, MacKellar is well placed to offer clients an efficient and cost-effective solution for all road and construction works. The company can provide services to prepare, build and maintain haul roads of all sizes for mining equipment, civil equipment or light vehicles.
“We cover maintenance services, mechanical rebuilds, and stockpile management that has followed, and continues to follow, impeccable safety and production records throughout our history as a company,” Duncan adds. “Lastly, our earthmoving service for mine sites is a key part of our business.
“We have an extensive fleet of plant and equipment available for any project from dry hire to wet hire (with or without personnel). For full contract mining, including pre-strip, drill and blast and mining, MacKellar can deliver.”
PARTNERING ON PROJECTS
MacKellar’s many long-term relationships have been key to the consistent operational success of the company. One such long-standing relationship has been with Jellinbah Mine (Jellinbah Group), where Duncan’s father undertook the first box cut (initial mine development) back in 1989.
The box cut operation involved MacKellar providing small civil sized dump trucks, scrapers and excavators, and today it is the exclusive provider of water trucks to the site. MacKellar continues to provide support and operate as part of the integrated Jellinbah team, and Jellinbah has trusted MacKellar to deliver safe and efficient services continually over this time. The company also still manages and operates Jellinbah’s product stockpile at the Boonal JV rail loadout facility.
Whilst MacKellar’s services have varied over the years, it has always had a presence at Jellinbah to support operations through peaks and troughs in production requirements depending on market conditions. This particular relationship has spanned 33 years, and MacKellar still has a large presence at the site that continues to provide various mining services.
“We have established a five-year partnership contract with Bravus Mining & Resources (Bravus) in which our services are being used for their Carmichael Mine (Carmichael) project,” Duncan tells us. “The site is a greenfield thermal coal mine currently under construction in Queensland’s North Galilee Basin and is going to produce 10 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) of high-quality coal that will be used to generate affordable electricity for communities in the APAC region.”
With MacKellar currently providing clear and grub, topsoil removal and a mining box cut, the company has grown to provide the majority of services at this new mine.
“The Carmichael project for Bravus is an excellent showcase of what we can do,” Duncan continues. “We are providing a full-service spectrum, where we drill and blast, pre-strip approximately 95 million BCM (bank cubic metres) per annum, as well as offer coal mining services. This includes the provision of nine vehicle fleets plus project management, engineering, mine planning and operations, and full maintenance support for the fleets.”
Utilising multiple Cat 796 fleet being loaded by Liebherr 996B and 9800 excavators, coupled with the Cat 789C and related mining fleet, MacKellar is proudly set to deliver on these milestones. At present, MacKellar is constructing workshops, industrial areas, haul roads and ramps to mining pits and commencement of a long-term mining end-to-end service.
INVESTING IN THE FUTURE
To further expand its potential and customer offerings, MacKellar has invested in increasing the capabilities of its head office, especially when it comes to the areas of recruitment, ongoing training for operations and maintenance, engineering expertise, mine planning, apprentice programmes and capital equipment, to name a few that make up the company’s deliverables.
“Our apprenticeship programmes and traineeships are a big part of what MacKellar stands for,” Duncan tells us proudly. “Giving back to our younger generations and investing in the future is part of our DNA. In the past few years, we have had an intake of 20 new apprentices each year for our mechanical trades. More recently we engaged 60 new-to-industry trainee operators allowing many new starters to enter the mining market. It’s been a busy but very rewarding process.”
MacKellar’s investment in a new fleet brings the company’s total number of large mining machines to 375, and on top of this, it has also recently invested in a successful plant hire business in WA, called Western Plant Hire (WPH).
“With this investment in place we are able to expand into the WA region and into new commodities in the resource sector, such as iron ore and gold, while also enabling WPH to offer the WA market a larger suite of equipment,” Duncan continues. “WPH comes with an experienced management team and many existing long-term relationships in WA. The team are very like-minded and have built some outstanding partnerships with indigenous communities in which they operate.”
PEOPLE AT THE CORE
Expansion is truly the way forward for MacKellar. In the current Australian mining environment, the company is continually looking at ways to diversify in both commodities and regions around the country.
“We are growing in many areas, including seeking ways to reduce our carbon footprint through new machinery technology such as battery and electric,” observes Duncan. “We are seeking to add more rehabilitation services to our portfolio to give back to the environment, and are looking at ways to balance our workforce.
“Working alongside indigenous landholders is especially important to us, and we are seeking to support them and our local communities whilst striving for the best outcomes for all our stakeholders and for the benefit of everyone associated with MacKellar.”