mining is one of the earliest mechanized industries. Early engineers applied steam power to machines designed to move large amounts of earth quickly and economically. Although the technology improved over the centuries, the fundamental need to move large amounts of earth and rock has not. Images of lone prospectors with a pack mule and pick axe is supplanted by massive machines lifting tons of material and moving earth long distances to processing facilities in a matter of minutes.
Mining equipment Power
Mining machines must be powerful. Breaking rock, coal seams and impacted soil requires vast amounts of horsepower and torque. Modern mining machines, whether hand held or operated by several technicians, are powered by electricity, diesel or gasoline engines and strong hydraulic systems.
Some earth-moving machines used in wide-open strip-mining operations are diesel electric, similar to a locomotive. A diesel engine with thousands of horsepower creates the electricity to power the moving treads, digging booms and ancillary systems. Some of the machines are so large they house several workers for shifts days long.
Under the earth both diesel and electric motors power machines used for boring, digging and removing material. The major factor determining the type of power is the hazards from flammable or explosive gases in the mines.
Mining Machine Efficiency
Mining by its very nature is a volume business. Miners will move tons of ore to extract a few ounces of gold. Diamonds have even less of a return for the amount of rock mined. Coal is brought out of mines by the ton per minute. Moving this much material means machines must able to hew and lift large loads quickly. Front-end loaders large enough to carry a car and boom shovels able to lift small houses means moving more material with one load. The time saved moving more at once offsets the huge capital expenditure needed to own and operate these machines.
Mining machines are also subjected to very harsh environments and worked continuously around the clock. The engineering and construction quality for this equipment must be the same as for airplanes or laboratory equipment. Down time for repairs is lost revenue and every minute the machine is working is profit. Mining machines must be dependable and easily repaired and maintained in field.
Mining Equipment Specialization
Mining equipment is specialized to do one task and do it well. A boom shovel lifts and moves material a short distance to a waiting truck or conveyor . A front-end loader moves smaller amounts further distances. Dump trucks move earth, rock and ore from the site to processing or shipping facilities.
In the mines machines with large rotating discs fitted with carbide steel teeth auger away coal. Other equipment quickly transports the coal out of the mine. Drill operators continuously bore into the seam to place explosive charges to expand the mine even farther into the Earth. There is little or no cross-application for this equipment.