CW explores the use of bigger machines in mining and features that contribute to productivity.
Coal mining is the most important sector of the mining equipment market followed by iron ore and then limestone, according to Dimitrov Krishnan, Vice President and Head, Volvo CE India.
“Between 2015 and 2020, Coal India has targeted almost doubling its output to 1 billion tonne,” continues Krishan. “The iron ore market is stagnant because of a lack of new licenses for production owing to environmental clearance delays and lower commodity prices. Activity levels in the limestone market have been low over the past two to three years, with cement plants running between 50 per cent and 70 per cent of their capacity. However, we are seeing some investment in this sector, which is translating into new equipment purchases.”
Animesh Nandy, Business Line Manager-Drilling Solutions, Epiroc Mining India, outlines the prospects of the key segments: Coal, iron ore and limestone.
“The coal segment comprises about 80 per cent of our blasthole drill business; this segment is dominated by the government and growing at a snail’s pace,” he elaborates. “That said, 2020/2021 looks good as planned capital investments of Coal India are being implemented. Purchases of 381-mm drills by South Eastern Coalfields and 311-mm drills by Northern Coalfields along with 250-mm and 160-mm replacements are encouraging. Requirements of drills and feeder breakers are expected to be lined up at Singareni as well. Opening up the sector to 100 per cent FDI might attract global mining companies and boost demand in the long term.”
“The projected demand for iron ore and spike in global prices has boosted demand for drills,” continues Nandy. “We see movement from small private contractors as well as biggies such as NMDC, Steel Authority of India, BSP, Tata Steel, etc. Enquiries have increased for popular models like IBH10, IDM 30, IDM 45 and DMH. We hope investments by the likes of the Vedanta Group, JSW Steel and Tata Steel will augment market potential.”
“Limestone is one of the most exciting segments we are eyeing now, as Epiroc offers an exhaustive range for this segment,” he adds. “This segment currently leads in technology implementations in surface heavy earthmoving machinery (HEMM), typically because limestone is a highly price-competitive commodity and any variation in the cost per tonne can make or break the health of a project. Also grade control for the limestone factor is critical for the type of cement being manufactured.”
Krishnan is positive about the long-term prognosis for mining, expecting a CAGR of between 5 per cent and 7 per cent in the next three to five years.
Mining excavators have been growing at 6-8 per cent YoY, while the dumpers market is cyclic as it depends on corporate buying, shares Hemant Mathur, Assistant Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Tata Hitachi.
Tata Hitachi offers excavators of 45 tonne capacity and above, rigid dump trucks and wheel loaders.
“The market for drills, loaders and shovels is growing as mines are becoming larger and longer-lasting, say 20-25 years,” says Samaresh Mitra, National Sales Head-OE, Komatsu Mining Corp Group, Joy Global (India). “Conveyors can dispatch coal from mines to plants in the most environment-friendly way. Pipe conveyors, in particular, are becoming more popular as they minimise spillage and waste during the transportation phase.”
Volvo’s 90-tonne EC950E excavator and L150H wheel loader are the frontrunners for the coal sector, the biggest buyer of mining equipment.
Tata Hitachi has launched three wheel loaders in the 6.5-11 tonne segment for three mining applications (and for use in ports): Mining, slag handling and block handling. These include the ZW310-5A, ZW370-1 and ZW370-1 models, all of which are imported.
Komatsu offers shovels, loaders, drills, draglines and long-distance conveyors and crushers. “We are hopeful that Komatsu’s high-angle conveyor will be deployed in Indian mines soon,” adds Mitra.
“After the success of the Mark-I IBH 10 with customers such as UltraTech Group and Technoblast Mining Corporation, both in the performance and support areas,
we are planning to launch the Mark II version in early 2020 for limestone and iron ore mining,” shares Nandy.
“Technoblast is planning to procure one more Mark-1 IBH 10 for its expansion projects,” says Sachin Saxena, Vice President, Technoblast Mining Corporation.
“Also, we offer a range of electric drills made in India for customers who have access to cheaper electricity,” adds Nandy.
Bigger is better
Larger, highly productive machines allow mining companies to do more with fewer operators and fewer machines allow fleet size optimisation and have lower maintenance needs,observes Krishnan.
In this context, two popular Volvo products are the EC950E crawler excavator in the 90-100 tonne class and the A60H hauler, which sets new productivity standards for open cast mines and other large infrastructure projects. EC950EL excavators are operating in the cement industry (Sagar Cements) and for coal overburden work (VPR Mining Infrastructure). The EC750DL in the 70-85 tonne class has been deployed for coal overburden work and mining for iron ore, bauxite, zinc and barite, as well as in the cement industry.
Demand for state-of-the-art large mining equipment is being driven by mechanised underground mines and large-capacity surface mines, according to Mitra. “Coal India is one of the biggest buyers of such high-capacity equipment. However, with a lot of coal blocks being developed by state-owned power companies and NTPC, we are seeing a surge in demand from that sector as well.”
“Our large range of blasthole drills, which are RCS (rig control system) ready, are in use at Sasan (Reliance Power) and Gevra/Dipka in South Eastern Coalfields,” notes Nandy. “Normally, large diameter drills are preferred for coal overburden and iron ore owing to the large volumes involved. In India, coal seam, quarries and limestone normally use small and medium-size drills, between 4-1/2” and 6-1/2”. We expect the more organised and technology-driven players who are dominating limestone mining to show demand for mid-size equipment and automation.”
“We are now using 65 tonne trucks, 21 tonne loaders and M2C jumbos,” says Suprabhat Sarkar, Vice President, Tekmonin Construction. “Higher-capacity machines are preferable from the productivity perspective but necessitate sufficient planning so as to benefit from the extra capacity. Otherwise, the machines remain underutilised. For instance, higher-capacity machines need different sized drives and can use different parts. Also, operators and service personnel need to be trained in the special needs of bigger machines.”
Safety, productivity features
Safety and productivity technologies to look out for in Hitachi dumpers and excavators include the Arial Angle system, which gives the operator an integrated 360° view to remove any blind spot around the machines.
Additionally, Tata Hitachi mining equipment – especially the dumpers – are fitted with anti-collision and proximity devices. The roomy cabins comply with the falling overhead protective system, the highest safety standard. They offer enhanced visibility and a user-friendly console. Silicone-filled cabin mounting restricts the vibrations felt in the cabin. This, along with ergonomically designed seats and air-conditioning, reduces operator fatigue, facilitating long shifts and uninterrupted working.
One of the key ways to improve productivity is to keep machines in the best possible condition.
Mining company Hilltop Hirise was targeting 5,000 hours of operation per year with the Volvo EC480DL but achieved 7,000 hours per year! For four years, the excavator worked up to 22 hours a day in the toughest of environments, averaging an uptime of over 90 per cent. The company had opted for a Volvo service package.
Contractor SS Chhatwal and Co. uses CareTrack to gain insights and data on Volvo excavators working at the Gondegaon coal mine, to track fuel consumption and reduce machine idle time and downtime.
Telematics technology, which enables the remote monitoring of machines, is increasingly cited as a way to reduce downtime.
“At Komatsu Mining Corp, most of the latest technologies facilitate the remote monitoring of the health of equipment, essentially cutting direct human intervention, and prognostics, anticipating the failure of components in advance and taking preventive measures to reduce downtime,” says Mitra.
“We have used our global database and advanced analytics to make accurate predictions.”
“Telematics-enabled equipment is helpful provided it is implemented properly,” opines Sarkar. By that, he means bottom-driven implementation not top-driven, because telematics should be owned by workers on site. And for this to happen, they must be aware of the benefits of the technology and trained in its usage.
Mining machines fitted with Internet of Things (IoT) and telematics enjoy higher uptime but Mathur emphasises the utility of full maintenance contracts (FMC). “With a rich experience of two decades in implementing FMCs, which involve deploying technically qualified and equipped manpower 24×7 at the mining site, we ensure over 95 per cent availability during working hours,” he says.
Demand for versatility
Versatility allows a machine to work in varied conditions, thus contributing to productivity. “To maximise performance, Komatsu products can be programmed for specific operating conditions,” says Mitra. “The products come equipped with sensors that capture data, which complex algorithms translate into visual information that can predict significant changes in operating conditions in the mine to further optimise performance.”
“Versatility is inbuilt in Volvo machines in many ways,” says Krishnan. The advanced drum control system allows the operator to adjust the frequency and amplitude for the machine to work in changing soil types and conditions. Machines adjust to the material depth through the adjustable dynamic force of the drum. Meanwhile, the traction system is well suited both to steep inclines and slippery surfaces.
Indeed, every measure to boost productivity is welcome.
- Charu Bahri
“Recent coal mine developer and operator (MDO) contract announcements have kept demand for equipment high. Making MDO-styled contract announcements for mining segments other than coal, possibly for iron ore and limestone, will bode well for mining,” believes Hemant Mathur, Assistant Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Tata Hitachi.
“Also, consolidation in the cement industry (like UltraTech acquiring Binani Cements) and in the iron ore industry (like Tata Steel acquiring Bhushan Steel) will push demand.”
“While India’s thermal coal output has been growing at 4.3 per cent annually, the equipment market, specially blasthole drills, is growing slowly owing to the increase in outsourcing contracts where contractors prefer to use crude methods and equipment, skipping safety,” says Animesh Nandy, Business Line Manager-Drilling Solutions, Epiroc Mining India. “The situation would improve if tendering authorities laid down stringent specifications of HEMMs.”
“Robotic mining equipment should be made in India,” says Suprabhat Sarkar, Vice President, Tekmonin Construction. “Robotic-driven equipment such as remote-controlled rock breakers and drones used for surveys is suited to large-scale mining, which is the need of the hour. However, to ensure that the switch to mechanisation doesn’t deprive too many people of their jobs, we need to ensure that the machines are made locally so people will be better employed in the production, operations and servicing of equipment.”
“A lot of vendors are offering high-end equipment but what the industry needs is vendor involvement on site so that the buyer makes arrangements to fully absorb the equipment,” he adds. “Large machines have a long time lag between ordering and receiving, which can be used for such planning.”
“Also, underground mines need underground fuel stations, stores, offices and washing bays so that time isn’t wasted in taking the machines to the surface for servicing, etc,” Sarkar points out.
Benefits of advanced automation
“We recommend advanced automation,” says Samaresh Mitra, National Sales Head-OE, Komatsu Mining Corp Group, Joy Global (India). For instance, the Centurion electrical control system fitted into shovels, draglines and drills can supercharge an analogue shovel, taking several seconds off each dig cycle, thereby increasing the units moved per hour and assuring the lowest cost per tonne compared to competitive drive systems. The Faceboss control system in all Komatsu’s underground equipment enables operators to achieve an optimal balance of production rate and cost per tonne using a powerful tool set. The
LINCS II network control system in Komatsu’s surface and hard rock loaders helps operators work in the most demanding surface mining applications with a dash-mounted interactive touch screen that displays instant, real-time feedback, vital statistics and an easy-to-interpret graphical format.