The new state-of-the-art Austral Bricks plant at Wollert, Victoria, is now well underway.

When commissioned early next year, the plant will produce low cost, high quality bricks. It is a $44 million investment in the Company’s future in Victoria.

Importantly, the operation of the brick plant will have a low impact on the environment – due to careful planning and technological advances.

Wollert is ideally located on 700 hectares on Melbourne’s northern fringes with fast, efficient access to key transport routes – providing links to city and country regions.

It is centrally located to current and future clay and shale reserves, reducing haulage costs, and promises to be one of the most resource efficient plants in the world.

The plant will operate 24/7 – with a small number of staff per shift – utilising robots to produce 85 million bricks per year. This equates to enough bricks for more than 12, 000 typical Melbourne homes. Wollert joins the two other brick plants on site, Craigieburn and Summerhill.

Clay and shale is mined from open quarries. Almost all of the minerals extracted are useable, with minimal overburden (the low value material covering a mineral deposit). To reduce dust, only currently mined areas are exposed.

After an area is mined, the pit is filled with organic waste and clean fill, and the land rehabilitated. Grasses and trees, native to the region, are planted and the area returns to nature.

The new kiln will be fuelled by natural gas. However, it will use about one third less fuel than plants presently operated in Victoria by Austral Bricks.

This will result in a significant reduction in green house gas emissions. A new state-of-the-art scrubber is being installed on the kiln stack to reduce emissions to well below legal limits.

Wollert’s good news story for the environment continues with the waste minimised or eliminated. All clay and shale is crushed and placed in the mix. Fewer brick bats – deformed or part bricks – will be produced and any faulty units will be crushed and recycled back into the mix.

Electricity consumption will also be significantly reduced, due to the replacement of large hydraulic power-packs with highly efficient variable frequency electric drives, which use only the power required to do the job.

This will eliminate the use of hydraulic oil and the subsequent disposal of hundreds of litres of oil per year as well as producing bricks with oil free surfaces.

The site has been self sufficient in water for many years. Run off water is captured from roofs and in quarries and stored in deep reservoirs on the site. The water is reused in the brick making process.

All brick packs will be polyester plastic strapped, eliminating the onsite disposal of plastic shrink-wrapping or metal bands, or the supply and return of timber pallets.

According to Lindsay Partridge, Brickworks managing director, this is just one of many such development projects across Australia that maintains Austral Bricks leadership record in the building industry.

“We are investing in the Company’s future prosperity and the future of the environment for all Australians,” Lindsay Partridge says.