There are a range of novel equipment that vendors are offering to mining contractors. Some of them are quite unique
A recent industry forecast has predicted that rising metal prices and an increase in output from metal mining will lead to global demand for underground mining machinery climbing 4% a year until 2022. Supporting the demand for underground mining equipment will be the increasing use of the latest purpose-built machines in mature markets, while developing economies will also increasingly shift to more sophisticated machinery types. The report goes on to state, however, that with the rise in natural gas production and with many countries transitioning to renewable fuel sources, the demand for coal will climb at a subpar level globally.
Around the world, mainly in developed markets, there is an increasing use of state-of-the-art underground mining equipment, and a shift toward more sophisticated machinery types in developing nations, which will also support underground mining equipment demand.
In India, although the mining sector has been facing its own issues in terms of bans by the government, the fact that mining equipment manufacturers continue to churn out novelty in equipment shows that there’s still some hope for the industry. Generally, mining operations require heavy intensive equipment. Mining applications are broadly divided into light, medium and heavy mining. Varied applications like stone quarry, iron ore mines, coal mines deploy tippers for extracting ores. Mining applications need rugged heavy duty vehicles with very good manoeuvrability and gradeability. Tippers for mining operate in tough conditions and hence the vehicles need to be strong, sturdy and reliable.
Rajesh Kaul, VP & product line head, M&HCV, Tata Motors, says, “On the features front, customers wish for performance enhancing features, which will add to the safety and provide a better operating efficiency in-terms of payloads, carrying strength, mileage and easy serviceability and lower maintenance.”
Tata Motors’ Prima, Signa and LPK, designed with 300HP, 250HP and 230HP engines, range of tippers such as Tata PRIMA Lx 3130, PRIMA Lx 2530, LPK 2523, Prima Lx 2525.K and Tata Prima Lx 3125.K are best suited for some of the off-road applications such as quarry and crusher applications. They are considered as tough performers that can tackle challenges in heavy-duty operations offering above 60% gradeability with crawler gear.
Interestingly, the industry per se is very concerned about aftermarket services as the vehicles plying in mines usually run for two shifts in a day and are exposed to extreme conditions. Customers look for OEMs who can partner for the long term and help them maintain their fleet in best condition. The aftermarket services are indeed a strategic differentiator. Keeping this in mind, Tata Motors offers variety of annual maintenance contract (AMC) options for the consumers. The onsite service being one of the major attractions.
The system works
The mining contracting segment is growing in size, in view of increased overburden removal contracts by the CIL and SCCL. These contractors look for reliable and productive equipment, backed by an efficient after-sales support (spare parts, service & training) system. In terms of innovation, one company that has been at the forefront of the industry is L&T who works closely with Komatsu to provide users with more value in asset deployment and utilisation. Partha Mookherjee, head, mining equipment business, Larsen & Toubro, says, “Komtrax Plus is the vehicle health monitoring system that helps customers in effective utilisation of the resources at site. Further, through our application engineering team, we work alongside our customers for continuous improvement programmes in order to enhance the benefits derived from our fleet of equipment.”
With the increased role and involvement of private contractors for OB removal projects, L&T has found ready acceptance of Komatsu machines. The flow of technology from Komatsu plants across the world have enabled Indian customers derive the best advantage in terms of meeting the global standards of performance and productivity. In recent years, the company has seen private players enter the mining industry as an MDO (mine developer and operator) which is a new phase in mine development.
One global player that announced its foray into the mining segment only in 2016 is Sany. Today the company has off-highway mining trucks, roadheaders, coal mining equipment, scraper conveyor, and electric shovels. Dheeraj Panda, BU head and VP, excavators, Sany India, says, “The mining trucks are largely used in large surface mining sites for transportation of OB, coal, iron ore, limestone, bauxite, and in quarry segment. The trucks are equipped with high-strength frame and are 20% stronger than any other product in the same category.”
What to expect
In terms of vehicles, construction and surface transport customers look for higher capacity tippers with features like better mileage and enhanced driving comfort. The features should provide better operating efficiency in terms of payloads, capacity and mileage. Here there may be a requirement of light duty as well as heavy duty suspension and body design depending on the application. For applications like e-commerce, vehicle speed as well as loading span is important.
Kaul says that for light & medium mining segment (which includes coal, iron ore, lignite mines and for bulk limestone movement in off-road applications), it has Prima which includes vehicles in 25T (Tata Prima 2530.K) and 31T (Tata Prima Lx 3130.K) categories, powered by a high-performance CRDi engines. They are considered as tough performers that can successfully tackle every challenge in the heavy-duty operations offering above 60% gradeability with crawler gear. These vehicles run overtime to ensure maximum work is done so uptime is very critical and so is the reliability and ruggedness.
Sany has a unique equipment in roadheader. It’s a kind of combine machine which cuts, loads, acts as a conveyor, automatic moving, spreading fog and cleaning dust. Used in tunnels of coal mine, the range of roadheaders is greatly developing. Panda says, “Our high quality roadheaders are one of the most reliable and offer advanced performance in the industry. Such is the equipment that it does not need to be lifted out of the well for overhaul or a period of four years.”
In terms of advancement of telematics, Kaul says that Tata Motors is the first OEM in the country to deploy Electronic Stability Control (ESC) for select variants of PRIMA and SIGNA trucks. The advanced safety features such as automatic traction control (ATC) and hill start aid (HSA) that has been added in select models, will help prevent accidents and make roads much safer. The ESC technology will provide vehicle stability, and reduce accident risk, repair cost, and improve vehicle uptime. Tata Motors was also among the first OEMs to adopt Fleet Management technology and integrate it into its offering in India, under the brand name of Tata FleetMan. The Tata FleetMan offers best-in-class solutions to help customers track and control vehicles anywhere in the country with a wide range of features like real-time monitoring, geo-fencing, trip review, alert reporting, and trip management. It also monitors any unauthorized vehicle movement and determines the exact location of the vehicles with a user-friendly graphical map.
In current scenario, rental system of versatile equipment is expected to gain traction in the mining and construction industry which in turn, is projected to boost the growth of continuous miners market. The demand of renting construction equipment in medium and small sized enterprises is quite high, so the prominent vendors in the equipment manufacturing sector are providing continuous miners on rent.
Going forward, the mining equipment sector is going to see some traction.