Peter Owens reviews one of the largest independent contractors in the South Island.
Rosco Contractors is owned by Ross Moore (Rosco) who originally left the West Coast in 1975 to start a career as an apprentice joiner in the Christchurch construction industry.
After a couple of years Rosco decided he was not cut out to be a joiner in Christchurch and returned to the West Coast, then taking a sharp turn to leave the building industry for mining in 1978.
Rosco started at Archer Brothers Mine and then worked at the historic Boatman’s underground mine, before gaining key industry qualifications in 1985 at the Echo open-cast mine.
He formed his own eponymous company, Rosco Contractors, in 1995 and initially did general rural contracting work before undertaking work for a number of West Coast mines.
These included Solid Energy mine sites in the Reefton District, Omya’s Bentonite mine at Coalgate in Canterbury, Greymouth Coal Company’s Spring Creek Mine at Dunollie, and the OceanaGold Mine in Reefton.
The company grew both in size and in the variety of works it undertook. Rosco Contractors built access roads, site development infrastructure at Spring Creek and at Rapahoe Mine sites, while the company’s rehabilitation work at Moody Creek Coal Mine resulted in an environmental award.
Rosco says he was driven by a desire to support the West Coast through the mining industry as a passionate West Coaster.
In 2004 the Echo and Roa open-cast coal mines, both owned by Francis Mining, became the two main mining contracts for Rosco Contractors.
Work at Roa included the development of mine access roads through difficult, steep terrain, to the top of the Paparoa Mountain range where opencast mining began on a small scale. This work is on-going.
Roa has grown significantly to a large mine with Rosco Contractors operating eight excavators, Cat D10 and Komatsu D475 bulldozers, 20 Volvo 40-tonne dump trucks, a drilling rig and grader.
The company has built a large workshop and facilities on top of the mountain to service this fleet. In 2008, with a rapidly-expanding business and a loyal and skilled staff, Rosco Contractors borrowed $6 million from its bankers to purchase a Hitachi EX1200 excavator and three Hitachi EH1100 70-tonne dump trucks.
Next, came the big Waikaia contract in 2014 with Waikaia Gold operating New Zealand’s largest alluvial gold mine in Southland.
For this Rosco Contractors moved some of its larger machines from the West Coast and purchased more machines to meet the demands of its open-cast mine operations.
The machinery operating at Waikaia included two 120-tonne Hitachi excavators, ZX870, ZX350 and ZX225 Hitachi excavators, seven 70-ton rigid dump trucks and four 40-tonne articulated dump trucks, three large dozers, a grader, watercart and a fuel truck.
This gear was used at the gold mining venture to strip down 17 metres of gravel over-burden and progressively rehabilitate into pasture the back-filled ground behind Waikaia Gold’s large floating gold dredge.
The year 2014 was a significant one for the company. It was offered the chance to buy Boatman’s open-cast coalmine at Reefton and it took it –with both hands. That was not all. Rosco has made no secret of his continuing support for the mining industry employment on the West Coast. This resulted in the additional purchase of one of Solid Energy’s main Reefton assets.
Other acquisitions outside of mining have resulted in many other West Coast business interests coming under the company’s umbrella, including a service station, a tourist helicopter operation, retail, and communications.
“We’ve definitely got to support the West Coast. Families’ lives depend on it [but] without good workers you get nowhere,” says Rosco.
“If you support them, they’ll support you. That’s what grows the business.”
As a community-minded company, Rosco Contractors supports Reefton sports clubs and organisations, including the Reefton Rugby Club, Reefton Trotting Club, Reefton Golf Club, St John, the Reefton Volunteer Fire Brigade and the West Coast Rescue Helicopter.
These days the contractor employs over 100 staff and has annual sales of $30 million. Ross is the sole director and shareholder of the company that is now involved in projects all across the South Island, providing services in contract mining, civil earthworks, mine remediation, drill blasting and plant hire.
“We are as busy as we have ever been,” adds Rosco.
“Reefton has had its ups and downs, but it is a positive place to be these days and as the largest employer in Reefton, Rosco Contractors is strongly behind that.”