Site Sim proves a little gem for garnet mine

by Brian O’Sullivan

Keeping the family legacy alive is the job of Volvo CE-equipped Barton International, a garnet mining specialist that relies on Volvo Site Simulation to find the right equipment for the job.

Just a few hours’ drive north of New York City, the Adirondack Mountains offer a tranquil respite for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple. The outdoor life is also good for business. Working in the Adirondack Mountains is Barton International, a family owned business that has produced the world’s highest-quality garnet abrasives for more than 130 years.

Established in 1878 by Henry Hudson Barton, the company started out harvesting garnet, a mineral known for its hardness and sharp edges. Barton’s fascination with the dark red gemstone first glittered while working at a jewelry store.

At the time, there was a need for a better abrasive for sandpaper. Garnet is a naturally inert sharp crystal with a hardness that falls between 7.5 and 8.5 on the Mohs scale — not far from diamonds, which rank as a 10 — making it the perfect abrasive for woodworking applications. “My great-great-grandfather reflected on his experience with garnet and soon, he began his career mining and milling garnet for the sandpaper industry,” says Chuck Barton, chief operating officer.

A jewel of sandpapers

Barton says his ancestor researched and discovered a good garnet source in the Adirondack Mountains, in New York State. “He ended up buying an entire mountain,” he adds. The original mine operated for 104 years before it was moved to Ruby Mountain in 1982, where the company still operates. Seven generations later, Barton still provides high quality Adirondack Garnet to sandpaper manufacturers for the discerning woodworking craftsman.

Barton says he’s grateful to his great-great-grandfather for starting the family business and wants to honor his memory by passing on a thriving company to the next generation. “There’s special pride in being part of the business,” Barton says. “There’s also an enormous responsibility to make sure that the business grows as the family grows.”

The cutting edge

But mining the mineral has not been without its challenges. In the early years, operations were limited to the warmer months, although collecting and workers on horses, wagons and winter sleighs carried out transporting the ore for processing year-round during the snowy Adirondack winters. Miners worked with picks, shovels, and dynamite. “They used to do hand drilling, load the holes with dynamite, light the fuse — and run,” says Barton.

“Now, it’s much more sophisticated. We have 3D models to better understand the deposit and efficiently access the garnet,” adds Barton, noting the influence of Volvo Site Simulation on the growth of his fleet and business.

Creating a virtual site

Using Volvo Site Simulation, Barton and his team worked closely with Eric Yeomans, Volvo CE product manager, to build a highly detailed, computer assisted report and simulation. “The simulation was quite complex because it included four different haul roads with different road surfaces, grades, angles, curves and even potholes,” says Yeomans. “We used GPS to accurately capture the haul road information.” Site specific information, including speed limitations, work schedules, density of the materials were also considered.

After analyzing the data, Kevin Fish, Barton’s quarry manager says he was happy to recommend Volvo machines. “It helped show how we could improve with the new Volvo equipment in today’s operating environment, and also where we could go in the future,” he says.

The company now operates a fleet of machines from Volvo to excavate, load and transport a much greater volume of garnet ore. “Site Simulation was a big part of the decision making,” says Fish. Barton’s fleet includes Volvo EC700C and EC480E excavators, as well as A40G full suspension articulated haulers. Respected dealer, Vantage Equipment, located nearby in Upstate New York, has supplied the machines.

Proper professionals

The larger Volvo excavator is equipped with a longer boom, allowing excavating at depths of up to 10 meters (3.2 ft). “When the rock is blasted, there is oversized material that won’t go through the crusher,” explains Jeffery Osborne, territory manager of Vantage Equipment. “We were able to prove that it was easier to sort the oversize with the EC700C and set it aside.”

Joining the excavators is the Volvo A40G Full Suspension articulated hauler. Given its ability to adapt to the specific rigors of Barton’s site, Osborne says Volvo Site Simulation helped him illustrate how Barton could benefit from using Volvo articulated haulers. “It’s a much smoother ride,” he adds. “It’s less stressful on the truck, the drivetrain, and most importantly – the operator.”

The articulated hauler has proven popular among the crew. “We used to have old rigid frame trucks,” recalls machine operator, Colby Gage. “They had basic suspension and would virtually bounce you out of the seat. The Volvo articulated trucks are smooth and quiet in the cab. They float and adjust themselves as you drive, so you stay in the seat.”

Safety was an important factor in Barton’s equipment decision. “With the Volvo equipment, the safety features have been absolutely outstanding for us,” says Barton. Also, because the company has a strong sense of environmental responsibility, Barton says fuel efficiency and the quality of emissions were paramount. “There’s no doubt that those Volvo machines help with our environmental objectives.”

What a gem of an idea

Barton continues: “All of these factors rolled up to a decision that, at the end of the day, was actually a little bit easier than we expected. Volvo’s maintenance program, with all its bells and whistles, the financing program and the flexibility there, the safety aspect – the Volvo equipment clearly was the winner.”

Barton still mines and processes garnet for abrasives in the Adirondacks. Over time, the Barton family has developed the business to include new markets, products and applications. The company also produces and distributes garnet for water-jet cutting and blasting media.

Reflecting on the evolution of the company, Barton beams with pride. “I think my great-great-grandfather would marvel at where the business is today and how the markets and technology have evolved,” Barton reflects. “I think he would be quite surprised at what the business has done since he started it 138 years ago.”

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