How miners buy into technology

Over a dozen years ago a significant technological leap was introducing miners to a bigger truck, says Steve Berkebile, General Manager, North America, Caterpillar Global Mining division.

"Well the equipment is pretty big right now, and they are looking for that next thing," says Berkebile who was interviewed at the Caterpillar's Global Mining Forum in Tucson earlier this month.

The forum is a Caterpillar hosted event that is held annually near the company's testing grounds in Tinaja Hills. Select customers and dealers attend.

(NOTE: Brief camera slip is fixed at 40 second mark.)

To get cultural acceptance for technology, Berkebile says Caterpillar marketing is focused on reducing a miner's cost and increasing output per man.

"The customers we talk to today—especially around autonomy—are not asking if we can do it. They say: 'We know you can do it.' It's just a question of when as you adapt that to their particular application."

Berkebile says the cost savings from driverless trucks are not just the cost of the past driver's salary. Other cost savings are eliminating the camp, fly-ins and downtime due to shift breaks. Berkebile says all these factors need to be taken into account when adding up the cost equation for a new truck or other piece of equipment.

Berkebile, who started his career in the eastern US, discussed how coal miners are facing current hardships.

"They are really struggling. They have hunkered down and we fully understand. They are very capex limited."

Berkebile says coal miners are meeting production targets with the equipment they have. While coal miners struggle with government regulation and low natural gas prices, Berkebile estimates that pent up demand will build up the next 18 months.

"Coal is a commodity that is here to stay."