Taking the Silver Cloud granite operation to a new level
Since the end of 2003, Italian stone producer Nikolaus Bagnara S.p.A. has owned the Silver Cloud granite quarry in Lithonia, GA. The site, which did not start producing dimensional stone until the late 1980s, sits approximately 20 miles outside of Atlanta, and is operated by Nikolaus Bagnara’s U.S. subsidiary, Broad River Quarries, LLC.
The Silver Cloud quarry has a checkered history. From the beginning of the 1990s until the new millennium, the quarry was operated by several different companies, and the production was always very limited, according to Armin Kompatscher of Nikolaus Bagnara S.p.A. During the mid-1990s, several other quarries in the area began producing the same material, and they all began to export their products.
“Nikolaus Bagnara had begun to purchase/import the material from the Silver Cloud quarry and other quarries in the Atlanta/Lithonia area,” explained Kompatscher. “At the end of the 1990s, we made an exclusive agreement, since we foresaw the best future for this quarry due to the high quality of the stone. Over the years, many other quarries had to close, mainly because of quality reasons.
“In 2003, we had the opportunity to acquire the quarry and, since we had the agreement and continuously visited the quarry, we decided to accept the offer and to purchase it,” Kompatscher went on to say. “This was strategically and operatively in line with our company’s development plan. We planned expansions with several quarries globally, such as in Africa, Spain, Brazil and Italy.”
Over the last decade, Nikolaus Bagnara has continuously invested in new technologies in order to develop an environmental-friendly and state-of-the-art quarry processing and production plant — meeting modern standards. “The quarry management has always focused on respecting nature and wildlife for a best possible coexistence,” said Kompatscher.
The quarry pit area spans roughly 60,000 square feet, and the quarry workers are always operating on benches that stretch approximately 60 feet in length and 30 to 35 feet high. The benches are cut with a width of about 4 feet, 6 inches to 6 feet, depending on the requirements [of a job]. On average, the block size is about 10 x 5 feet x 5 feet, 3 inches.
Silver Cloud granite is described as a “silver-gray magmatic, intrusive, medium-grained rock characterized by a fluidal structure evidenced by the presence of ribbon-shaped streaks of femic mineral.” According to Kompatscher, the quarry produces between 3,000 to 7,000 cubic feet per month, depending on the season. “We are using modern diamond wire saws, with different output power, to have the right equipment according to our needs,” he said. “In addition, we use pneumatic and hydraulic drill machines and try to avoid the antiquate method with explosives as much as we can. This type of production gives us the possibility to produce good-sized and first-quality blocks, to satisfy the standard, which the international market is requiring.”
At the Silver Cloud granite quarry, two Caterpillar 988 wheel loaders are in use, as well as two Italian Dazzini and one Chinese Skystone wire saw. For drilling, machines are from the Italian manufacturers Perfora and Novamac. Additionally, New Holland drills are used in the quarrying operation.
The quarry is operational year-round — only slowing operations down in the winter during bad climatic conditions. Including the production supervisor and the quarry manager, there are eight people employed in the quarry.
“Silver Cloud has a pretty wide range of applications, since it is really suitable for interior, as well as exterior use,” explained Kompatscher. “This granite can be used for construction, such as exterior walls, cladding, pavers, curbing and wall veneers. In addition, it is very suitable for the monumental business, such as tombstones and mausoleums.”
For interior use, the material is applicable for kitchen countertops, as well as various types of flooring. “The stone can have a regular linear pattern or a pattern with more movement, depending on the direction of the cut,” said Kompatscher. “This makes it pretty interesting for a wide range of applications and different markets.
“We do not really have any principal markets, since we strive to be present in different markets all over the globe,” he went on to explain. “The North American market — the U.S. and Canada — is handled by our subsidiary Broad River Quarries, which is managing the block sales to domestic stone masons. The Nikolaus Bagnara headquarters manages the global sales of the different products, such as Silver Cloud blocks, Silver Cloud slabs and finished products such as tiles or kitchen countertops. Through the strong internationally active headquarters, Silver Cloud is now available on every continent and found in different projects all around the world.”
Among the recent projects that Nikolaus Bagnara supplied Silver Cloud granite to are the Lake Tower — The Address Hotel in Dubai, UAE (80,000 square feet), the Ukrainian President Residence in Kiev, Ukraine (43,000 square feet), the Arcapita Bank headquarters in the Kingdom of Bahrain (237,000 square feet), the Metropolitan in Varsavia, Poland (86,000 square feet), the Casino Montecampione in Montecampione, Italy (107,000 square feet), La Desence Plaza in Paris, France (48,000 square feet), the Marina Tower in Beirut, Libanon (54,000 square feet) and the Sky Tower in Milan, Italy (16,200 square feet).