To tide over the slowdown, mining equipment companies are tapping every opportunity. For them, better times hinge on the overhaul of purchase policies and greater adoption of technology. CHARU BAHRI explores the changes they´d like to see.
Mining had already slowed down, no thanks to government restrictions on activities in response to environmental concerns about illegal practices, when Coalgate happened, pulling down the sector even further. It´s a shame the industry and country could have done without. Mining contributes between 2.3 per cent and 2.6 per cent of the country´s GDP. Within the GDP of the industrial sector, it contributes between 10 per cent and 12 per cent. Not surprisingly, curbs on mining are adversely affecting India´s overall growth rates.
Suppliers of mining equipment are experiencing the negative impact of recent events. ´Demand from Coal India subsidiaries for blast hole drills has been rather subdued in the first three quarters of 2013´ says Sanjay Ahuja, General Manager, Atlas Copco Mining and Rock Excavation Technique, India.´Restricted activities of iron ore mining in Karnataka and Odisha have also taffected demand for surface drills in this segment and this is very clearly visible in the private sector. Demand from cement companies for limestone quarrying equipment has also been much lower compared to the same period last year.´
´Demand has slowed for equipment for open cast and underground mines,´ observes Anil Sachdev, President-Equipment Division, Salgaocar Engineers.
´Both the iron ore and coal mining segments are sluggish because expansions have been held up and greenfield developments are delayed,´points out Soumitra Banerjee, President, Sandvik Mining India.
And ´sluggish´ is how Aniruddha Bandopadhyay, Deputy Directort (Operations), P&H JOY Mining Equipment India, defines the mining sector.´In the aftermath of the Coalgate scam, the government has become very cautious about allocating coal blocks for private mining and expansion,´ he says. ´Accordingly, Coal India continues to do its own mining and we are yet to see mine development operators develop new blocks.´
Fortunately, there´s a silver lining to the dark clouds raining woes on the mining sector: the Government of India is prioritising coal production. ´This is prompting regular orders for equipment for open cast and underground mines from subsidiaries of Coal India,´ says Sachdev. ´Also, Hindustan Copper has an expansion programme for its Malanjkhand mines in Madhya Pradesh.´ ´Primarily as a result of state-owned companies in the coal and iron ore segments taking steps to increase production, capital equipment in the mining sector is looking better than last year,´ says Dipankar Banerjee, COO, TIPL, a dealer of Caterpillar. ´We are seeing some movement in FY14 whereas FY13 was flat. Such companies are in expansion mode, procuring a range of capital equipment including loading and hauling equipment, like excavators and dumpers. Coal India is taking steps to increase production to meet growing coal demand. We are yet to see such momentum in the private sector, possibly because land acquisition is still a major hurdle in the states of West Bengal, Jharkhand and Odisha.´
Some private-sector mining companies are in expansionist mode as well. ´In the private sector, Hindustan Zinc is planning to expand and modernise its mines, so they are in the market as well,´ notes Sachdev. ´They use trackless equipment in most of their mines, including drilling jumbos, low profile dumpers, utility vehicles, etc.´
´We are seeing a surge in demand for underground metal mining equipment from Hindustan Zinc because of its major expansion plans,´ shares Ahuja. ´This has spurred sales of different models of Atlas Copco face drilling rigs (boomers), underground loaders (scooptrams) and underground trucks (mine trucks) to fulfil needs in new underground mines.´
Another positive is the Government´s focus on the power sector. ´Some power projects are being fast tracked that can lead to faster development of captive linkages subject to clearances that can lift up demand for mining equipment,ö says Banerjee. Additionally, Ahuja is hopeful that the Government´s positive steps towards boosting the economy will clear the path for mining projects in the pipeline.
One common grouse of equipment providers is purchase procedural delays. Explaining this, Bandopadhyay says: ´Purchase policies need to be streamlined. In the present situation, state-owned mining companies such as Coal India ask for price quotes with very long validity, say six months or more, and thereafter, often ask for extensions. It doesn´t help that it can take 18 to 24 months for a tender to be finalised. This is particularly detrimental for global brands operating in India because it is challenging to predict currency movements in the medium to long term. Also, mining companies are insisting on ´FOR on site´ delivery terms instead of ´ex-works or FOB.´ As most such orders come with long and staggered delivery dates, this puts the onus on suppliers to predict ocean freight rates over the long term. Global brands manufacturing world-class equipment would not like to participate if terms are too stringent - which the Indian buyer ought to understand.´
In context, Bandopadhyay says a positive is that Coal India has authorised its subsidiaries to place orders for equipment they need, and those companies are better organised and take faster decisions. However subsidiaries are authorised only to procure small (up to 10 cu m) shovels. ´We expect the speed of decision- making for procurement tenders at Coal India subsidiaries to gather momentum over the next two quarters,´ agrees Ahuja.
In spite of the slowdown, it´s good to see mining companies in India gradually become more conscious about technology. ´Mechanised underground mining and the introduction of mass production technology can bring in equipment like continuous miners and allied equipment like shuttle cars and feeder breakers,´ adds Banerjee. This newfound awareness is inspiring vendors to widen their line-ups.
Case Construction Equipment India has recently introduced F Series wheel loaders in two models, 721F and 821F. According to Anil Bhatia, Director-Sales and Marketing, Case India, ´Case´s F Series wheel loaders are designed to operate in extreme conditions such as mining and quarrying sites and demolition areas that affect both the machine and the operator.´ Two salient features addressing these needs are the engines equipped with advanced engine technology and a comfortable ergonomically designed cab for the operator. Advanced engine technology includes a powerful FPT Industrial 6.7-litre, Tier 3 engine for the most demanding applications, the Case four-mode programmable power control to match the engine output with the task being performed, the unique cooling cube design of the radiators, and other features. Atlas Copco has recently introduced ´non-visible dust collection´ systems in its blast hole drills. To further enhance the efficiency of the drills, the company is in talks with customers to introduce systems such as a depth efficiency indicator for better monitoring of drill and blast performance, roller deck bushing for hole straightness and low deviation that results in better blasted material.
Further, Atlas Copco has acquired companies like GIA and MEYCO shotcreting equipment to enhance its underground mining product range. ´These products add to our offerings for the complete drilling and blasting cycle,´ shares Ahuja. ´Also, we have introduced rig control system (RCS) based equipment that comprises new- generation, productivity boosting machines. Individual customer requirements and applications guide our teams to develop equipment for specific applications.´
A key demand trend is mining companies opting for larger sized equipment. ´Demand is rising for high-capacity drills, jumbos and high-capacity loaders and trucks for underground use,´ reveals Banerjee. ´We have provided 50 tonne trucks to hard rock zinc and uranium mines.´
In tune with this movement, P&H JOY Mining Equipment India proposes to introduce India to different types of mining shovels, which is one of its specialities. Soumitra Mukherjee, Deputy Director (Sales-OE), P&H JOY Mining Equipment India Ltd, explains: ´Currently available, shovels have a maximum capacity of 50-55 cu m, we have recently introduced a very large shovel of 135 tonne payload (75 cu m), designed to load 400 tonne trucks in three passes.´
Additionally, Joy Global has announ-ced a first-of-its kind hybrid shovel. This game-changing equipment will combine the high productivity of electric mining shovels with the mobility and flexibility of hydraulic excavators. This machine is designed to deliver a 15 per cent total cost of ownership reduction compared to large hydraulic excavators through a combination of reduced fuel consumption, improved availability and decreased maintenance and repair costs.
Explaining the driver for this latest R&D, Mukherjee says, ´As the ´bigger equipment is better´ concept catches on with mining companies, it becomes necessary to match the capacity of the shovel and truck. There´s no point having high-capacity shovels with small trucks or vice-versa.´
This trend is, in turn, creating new opportunities. ´India produces most of the equipment used in open cast mines, with the exception of very large sized dumpers, bucket wheel excavators, rope shovels and hydraulic excavators,´ observes Sachdev. ´Our principal, Breaker Technology of Canada, specialises in manufacturing very large hydraulic rock breaking boom systems; its biggest machine is the TRX 45 with over 45 m of reach and a lift capacity of 6,400 kg. Also, some special equipment used in underground coal mines - such as long wall face equipment consisting of powered roof support, chokes and shields with conveyors and shearers - aren´t made in India.´
Clearly, the industry has a long way to go before modern mining equipment acquires a ´Made in India´ stamp. Until then, overseas companies and their Indian counterparts will compete on the surface as well as underground.
Equipment in Focus: Underground Trucks
User: Hindustan Zinc, Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL)
Efficiencies delivered: Powerful Sandvik underground haul trucks are safe, highly manoeuvrable and extremely reliable. They are designed and manufactured for tough working conditions in constricted spaces. All models with payloads from 15 tonne to 60 tonne are designed to operate fully loaded on long spiral gradients of up to 20 per cent at high speeds.
Equipment In Focus: Blast Hole Drills with Rig Control System
Manufacturer: Atlas Copco
User: Reliance Power
(3,960 MW Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project)
Efficiencies delivered: This state-of-the-art blast hole drill allows the operator to monitor vital drill data in the cabin and interface with the mine management system to improve equipment scheduling, a crucial part of mining operations.
Equipment in Focus: Pedestal-mounted Rock Breaker System
Manufacturers: Breaker Technology (BTI), Canada, and Karnataka Rock Drills Users: 65 units (34 Indian made, 31 imported) have been supplied to various mechanised underground mines in India including those of Hindustan Copper and Uranium Corporation of India. Also, surface coal-handling plants operated by subsidiaries of Coal India Ltd, i.e. Singareni Collieries, are using these systems for underground mining as well as in their open-cast mines.
Efficiencies delivered: A pedestal-mounted Rock Breaker System is a stationary unit, mounted over the grizzly, operated electrically to break and rake oversized boulders dumped on the grizzly. It ensures that the crushers are fed with the appropriate size of feed. These rock breaker systems prevent the unnecessary stopping of the crusher owing to the jamming of large boulders in both underground and open pit mines and offer high quality, high productivity and immense robustness. At the Jaduguda mine of Uranium Corporation of India in Jharkhand, a pedestal rock breaker has been installed 555 m (2,000 ft) below ground and has been operating effectively for close to two decades. ´We have faced no major problems except for some overheating in the system,´ says Pinaki Roy, Advisor, Uranium Corporation of India Ltd. ´These rock breakers are very rugged, versatile and easy to operate.´
Equipment in Focus: 40-tonne Cat Dumper Model 770G
Users: Coronation Construction, Dhansar Engineering
Efficiencies delivered: Off-the-road mining trucks can help coal mining contractors work more efficiently and safely. Caterpillar manufactures this model in India and supplies it to global markets; the model has found great acceptance in developed markets. Usage of off-road dumpers instead of on-road vehicles makes the mine operation much more efficient. On-road vehicles have a maximum life of three years whereas off-road vehicles of 40 tonne class can give an economic life of seven to eight years. Whereas the capital cost of off-the-road dumpers is almost double that of on-road models, the former are more productive and reliable and can offer savings of 10 per cent on the cost per tonne over the lifecycle of operations.
Equipment in Focus: Hydraulic loaders
wi40-tonne Cat Dumper
Manufacturer: Joy Global Longview Operations (formerly LeTourneau Technologies) Users: Reliance Energy for its Sasan power plant, Tata Steel, EMTA, Hindustan Zinc Efficiencies delivered: This hydraulic loader has SR electric drives, a technology developed by LeTourneau. Electric drives allow the loader to develop high torque very quickly and get 100 per cent energy recovery while braking, thereby reducing fuel consumption substantially vis-a-vis ordinary mechanical drives. Also, it is operator-friendly (no gears to shift). With over 60 per cent fewer moving parts compared to normal mechanical loaders, as these machines do not have power-robbing elements, these loaders require far less maintenance and thereby offer increased availability and productivity.