BCAConsulting is a re branding of Bell Cochrane & Associates (aka Basil Natoli). Whilst not branding around the “R” word just yet, Basil is pulling back from the managing/administration side of the business to focus on what he truly enjoys, consulting, “marketing” and grandchildren.
Bell Cochrane & Associates has been in the extractive industries since the early 1970’s. Basil has an unfathomable knowledge of the extractive resources with in Victoria, developed over a lifetime of working in resource identification, evaluation and approval.
Basil’s connection to the extractive industries started with an early interest in geology at secondary school in the mid 1960’s and after matriculating in 1967 Basil enrolled in the RMIT Associateship Diploma course. Part of this course was the completion of 3 months vacation experience work which he started in late 1969 at the Country Roads Board (CRB). This work commenced in the Materials Research Laboratories under the supervision of Elmer Nyoeger and later in the geology section under Alan Muir.
In early 1970 when the nickel boom was in full swing Basil decided to get a full time job and complete his diploma on a part time basis. Basil contacted a local geological consulting group E. A. Webb & Associates and was interviewed later that day. He was asked to cut a thin section of a rock sample, examine it under the microscope and prepare a petrographic description. Basil was employed as a petrologist starting the following day- with no experience. Luckily BasiI was given plenty of mentoring by Elmer Nyoeger who also lectured in petrology at RMIT.
E.A. Webb & Associates was founded by Eric Webb in the mid 1960’s and had established a client base of mining and mineral exploration companies as well as a significant number of quarrying companies. Their office then occupied the ground floor of the Readymix Groups building in Burwood Road Burwood. BasiI was given the task of processing, identifying and analysing samples from various sites around Australia. At that time the CRB had introduced and specified Secondary Mineral Content (SMC) limits for basalts used in their construction works. SMC testing on Victorian basalt samples became a significant proportion of the work BasiI undertook. Some of the basalt quarries and sites BasiI was involved in assessing then included Deer Park, Wollert and Pakenham.
In the heady days of the mining boom geologists were in short supply and well paid jobs were always on offer. Eric Webb’s motto then was to make sure you finished your work before going out to lunch because you probably wouldn’t be capable of doing much after lunch. Towards the end of 1971 the mining boom was faltering and cut lunches from home were eaten in the office. In early 1972 Webb’s started downsizing from around 14 geologists to one being Geoff Bell who continued the consulting practice and changed the name to G. Bell & Associates. Eric Webb was no longer involved in the practice as he had gone on to found publicly listed companies Endeavour Resources and Endeavour Oil.
At that time employment prospects for geologists were slim and many went into other areas such as teaching and taxi driving. BasiI’s will say he was licky, but others will say it was his knowledge and expertise, but Readymix had just opened up a new basalt quarry at South Morang which contained a significant proportion of high SMC basalt and were looking for someone who could carry out SMC testing. BasiI started at Readymix in early 1972 and was put in charge of a new investigation and testing facility set up at their Alpha quarry in Epping.
Readymix then was a very progressive company and set up this facility to make sure that the mistakes of the past wouldn’t be repeated. They invested in all the equipment to carry out the full range of CRB source rock tests and a new diamond drilling rig for site investigations. This was a state of the art facility with 7 people employed and was set up as a resource to be used by interstate and overseas divisions of Readymix in South Africa and Hong Kong. The laboratory gained NATA registration later in 1972 and Basil was the NATA signatory and manager. The laboratory was relocated to the nearby Bundoora quarry in 1974
At that time in Readymix there was a plethora of very experienced quarry operational people who BasiI was fortunate enough to learn a lot from. These included David Sullivan, Stan O’Connor, Keith Clugston, Alan McKern, Cliff Box and Alex Graham. BasiI also grew up in this industry with quite a few younger operational people at Readymix including Dick DeLaRue, Bob Duncan, the Giobbi brothers, the Jones twins, Peter Carr, Murray Murfett and one particularly rough looking character based at South Morang quarry called Ron Kerr who went on to become very attached to one of the veranda posts outside the South Morang pub.
The work load then was very hectic and BasiI was involved in investigating and assessing reserves and planning development of many new sites some of which later opened up including Werribee quarry, Heatherton sand pit and Oaklands Junction quarry. As well as these greenfields sites BasiI was also involved in ongoing assessments and planning of Readymix’s Victorian managed quarries and sand pits at Epping, Brooklyn, Bundoora, South Morang, Clayton, Dingley, Yallourn North, Trafalgar, Army Road Pakenham, Smythesdale, Shelbourne East, Charlton, Tyrendarra, Berrigan and Cape Bridgewater. Basil’s responsibilities were extended in the mid 1970’s to cover production quality control of over 4 million tonnes per year from Readmix Victorian sites involving six onsite laboratories and one mobile laboratory.
Concurrent with these activities BasiI represented the Crushed Stone Association as a member of a Standards Association of Australia sub-committee involved in preparing Australian Standard test methods and specifications for quarry products. BasiI also represented Readymix on a committee overseeing research into the durability of Victorian basalts. This work was undertaken by CSIRO with oversight from other committee members including CRB, MMBW, ARRB, Boral and Pioneer. BasiI was later involved in peer reviewing CSIRO papers stemming from these investigations.
Following a few blasting mishaps in the mid 1970’s BasiI had to set up blast monitoring systems at Readymix’s Melbourne quarries and also undertook interstate blast monitoring on special projects. In the early 1980’s Readymix’s owners BMI and CSR decided to split the business Australia wide and Basil ended up on the BMI side and became responsible for resource assessment and development planning of additional quarries at Montacute and Noarlunga near Adelaide and at Launceston and Hobart in Tasmania.
In 1982 Boral took over BMI and despite assurances that no one would lose their job as a result of the takeover in 1983 BasiI became one of around 1800 BMI employees who did. BAsiI then set up my own consulting business trading as Sand & Stone Services Pty. Ltd. In mid 1984 following the sudden and untimely death of Geoff Bell BasiI acquired his consulting practice which continued as Bell, Cochrane & Associates Extractive Industries. This was in effect the consulting group BasiI first worked for in 1970 and am proud to be still part of today.
During the course of the 1980’s the practice gained the services of Ian Widdowson who is a very talented cartographer from the resources industries and Richard McCutcheon an ex Victorian Mines Department geologist with extensive experience in sand resource assessment. In the mid 1990’s Cameron Black a mining engineer joined the practice after 11 years at Readymix involved in quarry operations, management and technical services support. In 2004 Andrew Marshall a geologist with over 11 years experience in industrial minerals and construction materials resources assessment and operations at ACI and Unimin joined us to add to a total of over 100 years combined experience in extractive industries resources assessment and development planning.
The consulting practice has an extensive range of clients ranging from the mum and dad operations in rural areas to all the major public quarrying companies, numerous private quarrying companies, construction companies, government organisations and agencies, local government shires, financial institutions and multinational mining companies.
Whilst BCA are primarily focused in Victoria, where our expertise is widely acknowledged, we have, over the years, worked in all states of Australia, in the Philippines, New Zealand, Tasmania and the Middle East.
Regardless of the client, the location or the country, we are focused solely on quarrying and pride ourselves on delivering practical advice and plans for maximising the available resource, if indeed we believe there is a resource to develop. Whilst it might not be what the client wants to hear, if we don’t believe the resource is practical and viable, we will advise the client accordingly.