One of the most significant developments in the market is the potential combination of Caterpillar’s and Bucyrus’s assets this year, bringing together the leading truck player with a leading rope shovel and hydraulic excavator supplier. However, the deal has had its own knock on effects.
According to local Aurora, Illinois-based newspaper, The Beacon News, Caterpillar is suspending development and capital investment for large mining -class hydraulic excavators that were to be manufactured at the company’s Aurora plant. The company apparently said the suspension was effective immediately and was a direct result of the pending purchase of Bucyrus, which of course includes its successful mining excavator business, based out of the former O&K facility in Dortmund, Germany. Many of Caterpillar’s key global dealers already offer this range in conjunction with Caterpillar mining trucks.
It was in June 2010 that Caterpillar announced that it had selected the Aurora plant for production of a new line of mining excavators. But the Beacon News reports that Caterpillar officials want to evaluate the Bucyrus shovel programme to see exactly what resources the company needs to dedicate to any new or different products. Of course the basic reason is that there would be little efficiency gained in developing a whole new line of mining excavators when like models already exist within the Bucyrus portfolio, from the RH90 up to the RH400.
The mining excavator programme was seen as somewhat of an offset to the jobs the Aurora plant is due to lose when Caterpillar moves its small to mid-sized excavator line to Texas in 2013. Aurora has been the exclusive place for production of US-made excavators by Caterpillar since 1972.
It has been a busy year for Liebherr, having opened its new factory and development centre dedicated to mining excavators in Colmar. After an investigation of the best location for the factory, a final decision was taken to have it in close proximity to the existing plant and adjacent to Colmar’s regional airport.
The capacity of the new facility is some 200 machines annually (both diesel and electric). The company plans to manufacture 211 units in 2011, which may increase further to 250 units should demand warrant it. The facility produces eight mining excavator types, from the 6.8 m3 bucket R9100 through the 7 m3 R984C; the 15 m3 R9250; 18 m3 R9350; 21-22 m3 R9400; 26.5 m3 R995; 34-36 m3 R996B and 42 m3 R9800.
The 800 t R9800, which was six years in development, is Liebherr’s newest and largest mining excavator and three have now been built, two for contractor Thiess and a third for another customer. In its Autumn 2010 newsletter, Thiess published a dedicated article on the first unit it received which has been working at Peabody Coal’s Burton Downs operation since December 2009. As of October 2010, the new R9800 had operated for 4,500 h with no major problems and faster cycle times of under 30 seconds. Thiess itself has stated that it is achieving a 30% improvement in production versus the 660 t Liebherr R996.
Thiess’ General Manager for Plant Bruce Kenny commented: “The R9800 will deliver us a lower unit cost per bank cubic metre of overburden, which means added value for our client…. we were looking for technology that would improve production by 30 percent and this is what Liebherr has been able to do by starting from the ground up and with an understanding of our operational requirements. The initial testing looks extremely good, as we are exceeding that target at times.”
The productivity gains are not just down to the extra 10 m3 available in the bucket, but also the improved cycle times, which have been reduced compared with the R996. All drive system components have been developed in-house within Liebherr, and the entire hydraulic system optimised to ensure maximum circuit efficiency in order to improve cycle time performance. The R996 can load a nominal 230 t truck in four cycles, so the goal for the R9800 was to do it in three.
Outside Liebherr’s largest market of Australasia and Indonesia, growth markets include Mongolia, where there are already two R996 machines at SouthGobi Resources Ovoot Tolgoi coal mine with a third R996 due for delivery by 2012.
Komatsu Mining Germany has announced that the PC8000-6 is now available with a 42 m³ backhoe rock bucket designed to load material up to a density of 1.8 t/m³. The bucket carries a wear package two and is equipped with Hensley XS 800 GET system solution as standard. With respect to the mining customer requirements an ESCO GET S 145 system is also available on request.
The increased capability of the machine is due to the changes in the undercarriage and the boom cylinder size. The undercarriage is wider compared to the PC8000- 1, while the boom cylinder has increased from 450 mm to 460 mm. These changes result in both higher machine stability and an improved boom cylinder pressure level. The standard scope of supply for the latest PC8000-6 backhoe also includes hand rails and tie off points on the boom structure providing a convenient working environment.
Komatsu PC8000 machines are operating worldwide in iron ore, coal, gold and other mining applications and are the best selling hydraulic excavators in this class, with over 80 units now operating. Notable recently delivered machines currently working include a unit at Imperial Oil’s Kearl K2 mine, the latest addition to the Alberta oil sands mines. Komatsu already has four PC8000’s working for contractor KMC Mining (Klemke) in the oil sands. The initial development at Kearl is more than 50 % complete and is progressing on schedule with expected start up in late 2012. The production rate for the initial development will start at about 110,000 bbl/d.
High altitude mines constitute tough conditions for excavators and trucks alike. Currently, the assembly of three PC8000’s is underway for the Pascua Lama mine on the Chile- Argentina border is underway. These machines will load a fleet of Komatsu 930E haul trucks. The mine, owned by Barrick, is the highest surface mining operation in production with a 5,200 m base level but running up to 5,800 m.
In Australia at the KCGM Super Pit, featured in this month’s Great Mines article, four PC8000 excavator already constitute the main loading fleet but are soon being joined by two more units, brining the total to six.
Rope shovel developments
P&H in early 2010 began placing the first ACdrive P&H 4100XPC electric mining shovels into service following a strong and successful rollout of AC-drive P&H 4100BOSS machines in Canada’s oil sands region in 2008. The company stated recently: “P&H electric shovels have traditionally featured highly reliable and maintenance-friendly DC drive systems, even as AC-drive technology was applied in recent years to various kinds of mining equipment . P&H mining equipment in fact has a long history of AC motors and drives design, manufacturing and applications experience dating back to 1893 when it acquired facilities formerly owned by the Gibbs Electric Company before that firm was acquired by Westinghouse Electric Company.”
P&H Mining Equipment says that its modern-era preference for DC drive technology began to shift with the 2004 introduction of Centurion, a powerful supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system. The Centurion SCADA platform made possible unprecedented information processing gains with ample reserve capacity, resulting in material gains in P&H electric shovel productivity and reliability performance. It also provided a platform for a state-of-the art AC-drive system supplied by long-time P&H Mining Equipment drives technology supplier ABB.
Two years after P&H Mining Equipment moved to develop an AC-drive shovel, the first such machine underwent a smooth start-up at Suncor. That P&H 4100BOSS – and the four that followed in subsequent months – have exceeded customer expectations for productivity and reliability performance value, according to P&H.
As with the AC-drive P&H 4100BOSS shovels, P&H Mining Equipment engineering and manufacturing teams went to work to configure the AC-drive P&H 4100XPC electrical, mechanical and structural systems for optimal fit and performance. While many aspects of the new 4100XPC will be identical to the DC-drive version – and that includes the superb ergonomics, sight lines, controls and access to machine performance and systems health information that comes together in the operator cab or “Loading Control Center” – many other features have been upgraded to handle the increased demands and performance associated with the AC-drive P&H 4100XPC.
In China, by the end of 2010, China National Coal Group Corp added another 20 Mt of capacity with a large and expanding fleet of P&H 4100XPC shovels. Since 2007, seven P&H 4100XPCs have been placed into service with China National Coal subsidiary, Pingshou Coal. To help push coal production to over 120 Mt, China National Coal is adding three new P&H 4100XPCs sourced primarily from a well established manufacturing infrastructure in China along with service support provided by P&H MinePro Services in China.
Russia’s leading rope shovel producer, IZKartex (part of OMZ) has signed a new supply agreement with leading Russian coal miner Kuzbassrazrezugol (KRU). The deal covers a 2010-2015 delivery program and involves the delivery of 23 new excavator models produced by IZ-Kartex. It covers 12 EKG-18R shovels with 18 m3 buckets, 8 EKG-32R shovels with 32 m3 sbuckets and two EKG-50 shovels with 50 m3 sbuckets. The parties have agreed that the excavators will be supplied under financial leasing provided by ZAO Gazprombank Leasing, Gazprombank’s designated leasing company.
The long-term agreement is the latest in a series of deals between the two companies. In 2008, KRU and IZ-Kartex signed an agreement which involved KRU acting as a base facility for field testing of new IZ-Kartex machinery . Within the framework of the agreement, Taldinski coal mine was supplied with a new EKG-1500R shovel with a 18 m3 bucket. Testing of this new model began in January 2009 and it was commissioned in May 2009. During the test run the shovel reached a maximum productivity of 480,000 m3 per month.
Additionally, at the end of 2009, the two companies signed a contract for the delivery of two EKG-18R and one EKG-32R shovel, the latter being the most powerful shovel ever produced in Russia. These units are in the process of being delivered.
Continued operation with worn shovel teeth reduces the effectiveness and efficiency of a shovel, resulting in increased digging forces, longer cycle times, and an increased likelihood of missing teeth or adapters. According to Motion Metrics, an unplanned change-out can result in up to two hours of unexpected downtime and, when factoring in the cost of lost production, can cost up to 13.8 times more than a planned change-out (according to a 2009 case study of an American copper mine). To prevent loss of productivity due to tooth failure, careful monitoring of the shovel teeth and an optimal change-out strategy is crucial.
WearMetrics builds on the successful platform of the flagship ToothMetrics missing shovel tooth/adapter detection system, by incorporating automated tooth-wear monitoring. According to Motion Metrics, this system is the “first of its kind” and provides a new approach to tooth-wear monitoring that eliminates the need to manually inspect the status of a shovel’s teeth.
The system uses a harsh environment camera mounted on the shovel with a clear view of the dipper and applies advanced image processing algorithms to automatically monitor the shovel’s toothwear status. The status of each shovel tooth is periodically logged in terms of the tooth’s remaining usable length as a percentage.