Richie​ McCaw is getting into the mining game

Richie McCaw. Photo: Hagen Hopkins/ Getty Images.

All Blacks great Richie​ McCaw has taken a 10 per cent stake in a Canterbury quarry company to get more hands-on business experience.

SOL Quarries has a 15-year permit to dig millions of tonnes of shingle from a new quarry in Yaldhurst near Christchurch airport that is about the size of 25 rugby fields.

Joining SOL was a chance to learn about running a business, McCaw said. The company took two years and spent half-a-million dollars to get approval for the quarry.

After retiring from rugby McCaw joined Christchurch Helicopters as a director, shareholder and employee, but he said seeing the complexity of SOL’s consent process was something else.

“For me, I had no bloody idea. I haven’t done anything except to stand and observe. And that was one of the reasons I was keen to be involved.”

It was different to his business ambassador roles, he said. “Obviously as an ambassador, whether the business survives or goes well or not, you are not really affected, but when you’re a shareholder you take a different sort of interest.”

McCaw said he had known SOL co-owner Ben Dormer since playing rugby with him in a Crusaders Colts team 15 years ago.

He had been involved in small businesses previously and “some had gone alright and some hadn’t”. Being a silent partner hadn’t always worked for him, he said.

“Putting money into something and just hoping for the best – to be honest I’ve had a wee dabble at that a couple of times … you sort of have to trust someone else and I don’t think that’s always the right way.”

SOL seemed like an opportunity considering demand for shingle in the Christchurch rebuild, and local road-building, he said.

Shingle supply is keenly contested in Canterbury and operators have to demonstrate their quarries won’t contaminate groundwater.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) is opposing a move by eight other quarry operators around Christchurch to dig up to three metres below the groundwater level. The quarry sites involved in that proposal are in Yaldhurst, McLeans Island and near Prebbleton.

Digging deeper would provide an additional 30 million tonnes of gravel and provide enough aggregates for Christchurch’s roads, infrastructure and housing, said the eight operators, which include Isaac Construction, Fulton Hogan, Christchurch Ready Mix and Winstone Aggregates. It would reduce the need to open up new land for quarries, they said.

SOL is not allowed to dig deeper than a metre above the water level and will have to return its quarry area to its original condition using cleanfill.

Dormer said Canterbury’s existing consented quarries would be “stretched over the next 15 years” and the shortage would be compounded by tighter rules for gravel extraction from the Waimakariri and other Canterbury rivers.

Dormer founded SOL with a school-mate, managing director Simon Apperley, in 2014​. The business is also backed by Christchurch-born businessman and philanthropist, Michael Watt.

Watt worked in construction and oil drilling for 15 years before starting a sports marketing company that negotiated international television rights for football, rugby and cricket.

This article was originally published on Stuff.co.nz. Read the original article here.

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