How big is big?
When we think of the mining industry, you immediately think big. Big mounds of earth being moved. Big machines. Big money. Big companies. Big owners. Big, big, big, big. Even what’s considered a ‘small mine’ is still massive when you consider the scheme of elements being moved, production figures and the machinery operated relative to the everyday rise and grind of regular business. But in an industry that is renowned for stupendous extremes, what is considered big among the big? Let’s take a lot at what is considered extraordinarily “big” among the sector of mining.
A Giant Open Pit Mine – Bingham Canyon
Located south west to Salt Lake City, Utah, the Bingham Canyon is one of the world’s largest open pit mine. Owned by Rio Tinto, the mine boasts some incredible dimensions. All other open pits pale in significance when compared to Bingham. Covering a total land area of over 900 hectares, the mine is 1.2km deep and over 4 km wide. The mine harvests vast amounts of copper producing over 300,000 short tons per year, as well as 13.7 short tons of gold, 137 short tons of silver and 10,000 short tons of Molybdenum.
When you compare Bingham to one of its open pit counterparts in Chuquicamata, a fellow copper mine located in Chile, the degree of dimensional difference is impressive. Chuquicamata does boast an impressive width span of 4.3km, outdoing Bingham, but only stretches as deep as 850m, almost 400m shy. What’s even more than breathtaking is when you compare the figures of Bingham to say, an average, standard mine. Take Prominent Hill Gold Mine in Australia for example. It measures a width of only 1.2km and a depth of a mere 480m. A mammoth difference when compared to the astonishing proportions Bingham hosts.
As we know, mines are big, deep, long and wide projects of earth manipulation. As geologists search far and wide for new resource opportunities, there’s no knowing whether these will be close to the surface or far underneath. It readily depends on the resource itself and it’s place in the earth. What is also truly amazing is the construction efforts and innovations performed to unearth the minerals the world so heavily desires and utilises.
To get a greater grasp of what is truly big and great in the mining industry, look no further than Chile’s underground copper mine, El Teniente. This mine is the biggest underground operation in the world, and possesses features of incredible quantities.
The Biggest Underground Mine Operation – El Teniente
Owned and operated by Codelco, the world's largest Copper producer, Chile’s El Teniente started out operations in in the early 1900’s, and today is the sixth biggest producer of copper worldwide. But where El Teniente really stands out is in its constructive innovation and design. Undergoing a $5.4billion mass revamp in 2011, the mine is now home to a 3.5km access road to the exterior of the site, with its shaft piercing as deep at 1.5km. Since it’s inception, the mine has developed over 3,500 km worth of underground tunnels and over 1500 km worth of underground roads.
A snapshot of El Teniente's underground dimensions
As a result of the redevelopment of the mine over the past few years, El Teniente has been given an additional 50 years of production life. It now has access to over 2 billion tonnes of copper firmly cementing itself as one of the great industrial mining wonders of the world. This all wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the technological ingenuity behind the machinery capable of making El Teniente what it is today.
The World’s Biggest Mining Machinery:
In the day to day operations of mines, as well all know countless machines are used to optimise productivity and extract minerals. What you’re mining, combined with the location, and many other geological variables, can heavily determine what machinery is employed to dig up valuable resources. Some mining sites call for standard machinery, but some mineral extraction projects call for bigger, more extreme earth moving instruments to get the job done. Here we’ve pooled together a list of the biggest tools used in our mining industry, and the specific models including trucks, draglines, excavators and bucket wheel excavators – all of which are disproportionately bigger than machines of any other industry.
Bucket Wheel Excavator
Bucket wheel excavators are the earth diggers in large, open mine projects. Their primary role is to continually dig up mounds of earth to create access to valuable resources. This machine is the largest on any mine site. In fact, one of its most renowned models, the Bagger 293, is actually one of the largest land vehicles ever constructed.
The Bagger first entered the scene in 1995, and sports specifications that read 96m in height, 225m long, and weighing in at 14,200 tonnes. Exercising this machine is no solo mission either, taking up to 5 people to operate it while active. The bucket wheel of the bagger measures an impressive 21m in diameter, with over 20 buckets of which can hold 15 cubic metres. And when it comes to optimising productivity in a mine site, the Bagger trawls through 240,000 cubic metres of dirt and earth in a single working day.
For a while, the biggest Hydraulic shovel on the mining machine market was the Terex RH400. This beast weighs in at a whopping 980 tonnes, 100 more than its closest counterpart, the Hitachi EX8000-6. It exerts a max power of of 3360KW and sports a bucket capacity of up to 50 cubic metres.
The Terex RH400’s biggest claim to fame, other than dominating its category, is it’s brief appear in Michael Bay’s transformers 2, in which it assumed to infamous Decepticon role of Demolisher.
However, the innovators at CAT have more recently engineered a match to the RH400, developing their own equivalent, the 6090 FS model. This development just outdoes the RH400, flexing a bucket capacity of 52 metres. That may sound like only a slight increase compared to the RH400, but when one considers the difference in can make it day to day productivity, 2 metres can be worth millions.
The biggest mining truck in the market is the BelAZ’s 75710. Released in late 2013, the 75710 is operated via two, 65 litre, 16 cylinder, four cycle diesel engines allowing it to gain speeds of up to 64 km/hr, and 40 km/hr when fully loaded. The truck is fitted with 8 wheels to navigate throughout mining sites, sporting 59/80 specs . This monster can carry up to 496 metric tons, It measures 20.6m in length, over 8m in height and 9m in width.
This machine is so big, it’s turning radius measures roughly 20m. The Belaz 75710 can also reach a pretty impressive peak torque of 13,738 lb/ft (18,626Nm) – that equates to about 24 times what a Formula 1 car’s engine can manage. The truck also has an estimated fuel consumption of 1,300 litres per 100 km. The “haul truck’, as it's colloquially known, can limit its exertion, opting for the use of just one engine when not loaded to save on fuel.
Now compare this to it’s closest competitor, the Caterpillar 797F. This haul truck measures on 14.8m in length, 5m shorter than the BelAZ 75710. It can only haul 400 tons of load, 96 shy of the aforementioned front runner. Yet while the 797F doesn’t pack as big a punch in terms of bulk, it can reach speeds of up to 70km/hr when under no load, and can offer a bit more versatility in terms of maneuvering. Still a dramatic difference when it comes to the big of big.
When it comes to dozers in the mining industry, Komatsu leads the way in the form of its D-575A-3 Super Dozer. As the name suggests, the model is the biggest on the market and in the industry. It has been since it entered the mining fray in 1991. Weighing in at over 152 tonnes, when sporting a standard blade, the super doze can move, per pass, up to 70 cubic metres of earth/material . Yet, when equipped with certain modified blades, this dozer can shift north of 100 cubic metres of material per pass; a breathtaking statistic. This Komatsu model measures a height of 4.88 metres, 12.5 in length and 7.3 metres in width and has an operating capacity of 858 KW.
The next model trailing behind is CAT’s D11T CD Bulldozer, which has a working weight of 113 tons and maximum power of only 671 KW, almost 200 short of the D-575A-3. A massive amount of difference.
In the category of Crushers, Metso’s Lokotrack LT200 polls in at number 1 in the industry. Currently installed at Altay Polimetally LLP copper mine in Kazakhstan, the LT200 weighs in at 368 tonnes and has an operating capacity of 2300 tonnes per hour. An absolute beat of a machine.
LeTourneau’s L-2350 sits on the throne of wheel loaders. This claim is backed by its recent entrance into the guinness book of records. The L-2350 operates at a weight of 260 tonnes and exerts 1715 KW of power. This model can carry a payload of up to 72 tonnes with the support of its 53.52 cubic metre bucket. The mass of its existence doesn’t stop there either. It’s wheels measure 4m in diameter and it thrusts a horsepower of 2300, hence its price tag north of $1.5million.
The closest model to this giant is LeTourneau’s little brother, the L-`1850. To gauge an understanding of just how big the L-2350 is, the L-1850 weighs in at only 230 tonnes, and has a payload capacity of only 45 tonnes. It does flex similar dimensions in terms of wheel size, however the L-1850 falls dramatically short in horsepower, reaching only 2000. While that figure is impressive, it’s vastly below the mammoth workrate the L-2350 can manage.
Draglines are a common, traditional feature among many mines, especially those extracting coal. While most measure similar figures in terms of size and shape, there is one model, dubbed “The Big Muskie”, that surpasses all.
Technically named the Bucyrus 4250-W, is the biggest of any dragline, bucket digging machine ever constructed. Unfortunately, this industrial wonder no longer exists, being shut down in 1991, however there has yet to be a model or development to take its place.
Weighing at 12,000 tonnes, it possessed a bucket capacity of over 170 cubic metres. Measuring 70m in height, its boom stretched to 94 metres, and width of over 45. With the boom down, the machine measured longer the 150m. It was powered by 18, 750kw, and 10, 466kw DC electric motors.
Operating for over two decades starting in 1969, it sadly met its demise in 1991 when the mine it was operating out of, South-East Ohio Coal, closed. During its years of operation “The Big Muskie” removed over 450 million cubic metres of overburden (almost double the earth shifted upon the building of the Panama Canal), unearthing over 20,000,000 tons of coal.
As mining technology developed and strategies of extraction evolved, there became little need for draglines of such excess. However, while the “Big Muskie” no longer exists, it still remains one of the great engineering feats of the industrial world.
In the field of Borers, German mining manufacturer, Herrenknecht, takes the cake with its more than impressive EPB Shield S-300. This beast was constructed to develop some of the biggest tunnels in the world. It has a central cutting wheel that measures 7m in diameter built on top of an exterior cutting wheel that sports a excavation diameter of 15 metres. It reaches a total length of almost a 100m and is used in more than just mining projects. While it assumes more roles than just mines, it’s still number 1 in borers used in mining projects and has capabilities beyond amazing. This mechanical phenomenon is safer than underground blasting, and weighs in at 4363 tonnes with a monster thrust force of 316000 Kn at 400 bar.
There is another Borer, named “Bertha”, currently situated in Seattle that dwarfs the S-300 in dimensions, however it is yet to set foot on a mining project, leaving Herrenknecht’s masterpiece the biggest machine in the mining borer game.
While we know the mining industry is synonymous with the word big, these mechanical wonders of world go to show just how big, big can be. Whether open pit or underground, or whatever machine, mining will always espouse awe-inspiring statistics and figures. While we search for more resources around the world, challenges will certainly present themselves, meaning new machines, mines and innovations, of no doubt gargantuan measurements, will be developed to cultivate the valuable minerals we are yet to find.
This article was brought to you by Tuff Stuff experts in excavator and undercarriage parts Australia.