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Castlemaine Slate & Stone Quarry

by editor

Way back in 1953, Ray Multby started chipping away at a small vein of a very unique stone in the hills just north of Taradale in Central Victoria- the Castlemaine Slate and Stone Quarry was born.

For over 50 years, Ray, along with his sons, mined Castlemaine quarry producing what has become one of Victoria’s most iconic stone products.

In 2005 Yarrabee took over the operation at which time Yarrabee & Castlemaine Stone Solutions was born.

The stone forms in layers (laminates) of varying thickness which allows a large portion of the rock taken out to be split to form the Castlemaine Random paving we have all come to know so well over the years.

The large sections of the stone wall were extracted using a “gentle” black powder explosive which virtually cracked and opened up faults in the wall causing large sections to fall away. This extraction practice has been almost ceased with the introduction of large excavators with heavy jack hammers which produce the same result.

The pieces are then broken down by the excavators to man handleable size and transported from the quarry face to the works yard in Taradale.

Back in 1953 the pieces were split down, the natural laminates produced random paving of various thicknesses and done by hand with a coal chisel and a mash hammer. And believe it or not, that method is still used to this day.

The thickness of stone between each laminate varies from about 10mm up to 200-300mm. Yarrabeen & Castlemaine stone solutions sort anything less than 70mm thick into paving. Each piece is placed into a stillage with like sized pieces for example 10-20mm thick, 20-30, 30-40, 40-50 et cetera. This ensures there is not too much thickness variation in a batch supplied to a contractor for any project.

One of the challenges comes from the fact that they do not know what thickness wise they will get from a piece of stone until they work it. The thinnest laminate lines are located and the stone is split down those lines. They may get lots of 10-20mm thick stone or it may be all 60-70mm. More often, though, it is a combination of all thicknesses. This makes it difficult to be to be too accurate with timing estimates for production of a certain thickness- the best they can do is work on averages which sometimes don’t eventuate.

The stone that does not split for paving is sorted into various categories of walling stone. The very best pieces with a nice flat top and bottom and a relatively vertical face are sorted out by hand and labelled as “Spalls”.

Pieces with a less vertical face and a little less regular in shape in general are our Builders Wallers. Yarrabee & Castlemaine Stone Solutions use a combination of Spalls and Builders Wallers to produce their Country Blend. The Country Blend was used at the RACV Resort in Cape Schanck to build the huge “monolith” on which the resort sits.

A smaller version of the Spalls, more often used to clad fireplace surrounds indoors, is their Strata Walling- flat top and bottom, relatively vertical face but sawn at the back to a maximum depth of 130mm. And of course there is the smaller again version of this stone which is used to fill their Gabion baskets.

And finally, once everything is sorted into these various products, they are left with stone that is too big for walling and won’t split for paving- their landscape rocks.

Yarrabee & Castlemaine Stone Solutions have many years of stone still in the ground and look forward to supplying this amazing stone to the landscape industry for many years to come.

For more information visit www.yarrabee.com.au

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