Mining Machinery Developments (MMD) has developed a mobile feeder solution that transforms traditional truck and shovel operations to deliver productivity and safety benefits.
The project took two years to develop, but this time has paid off for MMD, as the fully mobile surge loader has earned its maker the CDE Global Minerals Processing of the Year Award at the 2019 Australian Mining Prospect Awards.
MMD’s innovative piece of equipment eliminates the need for the intermittent loading typically seen in truck-shovel mining.
The fully mobile surge loader decouples the shovel from the truck without having to wait for trucks to arrive. This turns the time saved into significant productivity improvements for operators.
MMD managing director Lee Hillyer considers the surge loader to be a great achievement considering it is the first unit of its kind.
A rope shovel with the highest capacity (i.e. 12,000 tonnes an hour) can seldomly reach 6000 tonnes an hour, purely because the excavator shovel is waiting on trucks, according to Hillyer.
MMD’s surge loader, however, has proven to increase shovel utilisation by nearly 95 per cent. It also maximises the truck payload without overfilling or underfilling it.
“A truck is usually either overfilled or underfilled. So, this unit will not only improve the production rates, but also fill a truck accurately every single time,” Hillyer tells Australian Mining.
“If a truck is overloaded then you can have safety incidents – tyre blowouts, greater maintenance issues and risks of material falling over while loading the truck.
“If you underfill a truck or are running trucks that are 80 to 90 per cent full, then you’re incurring higher operating expenditure with more trips and causing damage to the environment.”
Rio Tinto, the first company to show interest in the surge loader, has realised the innovation’s benefits since introducing it at the Kennecott copper mine in the United States.
Stephen McIntosh, group executive, growth and innovation at Rio Tinto, credits the surge loader for improving productivity at the site.
He says spillage from trucks at Kennecott has been reduced as material rests in the centre of the truck bed as a result of better loading.
“The fully mobile surge loader is a proof-of-concept project that would allow diggers and trucks to operate almost continuously, without needing to wait for each other,” McIntosh, speaking at the Macquarie Australia Conference, says.
“It is designed to act as a temporary store for material from the digger, which is then delivered to haul trucks autonomously.
“The main production benefit is the digger no longer needs to wait for the truck to reverse into position – it can continue digging at the face and loading the surge loader.”
Safety has also been a huge focus on the surge loader project, with the proof of concept hitting almost 30,000 hours of running time without a single lost time injury.
According to Hillyer, Rio Tinto communicated its initial interest to use the surge loader at Kennecott in 2017, marking the start of the project.
MMD delivered a few simulations to Rio Tinto that demonstrated the unit’s ability to improve mine productivity, before progressing the product into manufacture and installation.
Hillyer, who’s been working at MMD since his 16th birthday, says the company now looks forward to seeing the loader installed at other mine sites around the world.
In the meantime, Hillyer will personally visit the Kennecott site as the surge loader drives into the pit before the end of the year.
“I’ve been heavily involved in this project since the first phone call – I consider this project to be very close to my heart,” Hillyer says.
“It’s been a real worldwide collaboration and fantastic team effort by all the MMD companies – in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. This project is a massive opportunity to put MMD on the global map.”
This article also appears in the December edition of Australian Mining.