Features

Elphinstone switches to sustainable solutions

Since reforming as a company in 2016, Elphinstone has continued to evolve its underground hard rock mining product range to add value to its customers’ businesses and to meet the ever-changing requirements of a global market.

Elphinstone is a world-renowned designer and manufacturer of quality products for the global underground, surface mining and rail maintenance industries.

The brand’s legacy evolved with the underground load haul dump (LHD) loaders and trucks. While being subjected to harsh conditions, the machines aided the design and development of the company’s current range of underground hard rock mining support vehicles.

Headlining the range is the WR810, a purpose-built and highly configurable 10-tonne nominal base platform available in forward- or centre-mount cab configurations.

Designed and manufactured in Burnie, Tasmania, the WR810 range comprises a scissor-lift, an agitator (6m³), a fuel and lube truck, a delivery with crane, and an innovative water cannon.

All machines feature an integrated Caterpillar powertrain, electro-magnetic retarder, and oscillating hitch, delivering optimum performance, handling and reliability in the harsh underground environment.

The WR810 machines are available in Tier 3 and Tier 4 engine arrangements, providing the customer with more sustainable alternatives. 

Two Tier 4 machines were recently delivered to Toromont, an authorised Caterpillar and Elphinstone dealer located in Ontario, Canada.

Toromont has a longstanding relationship with Elphinstone, and with Canada governed by more stringent emissions standards, Toromont requested a Tier 4 machine and Elphinstone delivered.

“Canada is leading the way in the underground mining equipment market, and they’re pushing the industry towards equipment which produces fewer emissions resulting in the development of battery-electric vehicle (BEV) solutions,” Elphinstone global sales and marketing manager Tim Mitchell said. “Hence why there is an increase in mining companies trialling these types of machines, not only in Canada but in Australia also.”

The Tier 3 and Tier 4 WR810 models may look the same on the outside, resplendent in yellow, large and robust, but the distinguishing feature is the engine management software.

“They utilise a different exhaust control system to manage emissions. The Tier 4 machine uses AdBlue which, when mixed with the exhaust gas, breaks down the nitrogen oxide into harmless elements,” Mitchell said.

The WR810 is available in Tier 3 and Tier 4 engine arrangements.

 

The WR810 is designed to operate for no fewer than 20,000 hours, and up to 30,000 hours, provided the recommended maintenance schedules are followed.

“If you were to compare our machine to others in the market, the WR810 has a larger, more robust chassis, providing greater structural reliability. Engineered to outlast our rivals in the field, the WR810 provides greater value and a lower cost of ownership,” Mitchell said.

Maintenance of all mining equipment is important, and the design of the WR810 has made the serviceability of the machine simple and easy to access.

“Ground access to all major service points has reduced the need for maintenance staff to climb onto the machine”, Mitchell told Australian Mining.

“If they need to climb onto the machine, there are handrails and steps ergonomically positioned to allow access to critical components and service points.”

The flagship of the Elphinstone range, the WR810 Water Cannon, is a specialised dual application machine, operating both as a production and support vehicle.

As a production machine, the water cannon uses high-pressure water to blast and wash valuable ore fines from difficult to access areas of the mine. 

Additionally, the water cannon can wash down the internal surfaces prior to the shotcrete process to recover ore fines. 

As a support vehicle, the high-pressure water cannon can be used to unblock open stopes by blasting the fines and smaller rocks away, as well as dislodging the remaining material. 

In addition, water spray valves mounted at the rear and sides of the tank suppress dust from the haul roads, improving the operating conditions and resulting in improved health and safety. 

The water cannon can also be used in the case of a fire emergency to fight the fire from a safe distance.

“The dual application reduces the need for multiple machines, reducing capital, operational and maintenance costs plus the amount of heat and emissions produced. By combining two applications into one, you gain more value from the use of one machine.” Mitchell said.

Three WR810 Water Cannons have sold within Australia, operating at mines in Western Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales. 

Two units were initially on trial, exceeding the customers’ expectations and resulting in machine sales to different mining companies. 

“In both cases, the water cannons were trialled at gold mines where their primary purpose was ore recovery. The third machine was delivered to a copper mine that suffers from high temperatures so the dust suppression system will also be used for cooling” Mitchell said.

All machines feature an integrated Caterpillar powertrain.

 

Elphinstone products have been designed and manufactured in Burnie since the business began in the 1970s.

In 2000, Elphinstone was bought by Caterpillar, which continued to operate the Burnie facility for another 16 years before moving offshore to Thailand.

A community of 20,000 people faced losing a considerable portion of its highly skilled workforce, so Dale Elphinstone took it upon himself to keep the journey going.

“Dale decided to restart Elphinstone primarily for the local community,” Mitchell said.

“If we didn’t keep those high-skilled people here in Burnie, they would have either gone to the mainland or somewhere else looking for work.

“There was a lot of talent amongst those people of which Elphinstone was able to retain here.

“It’s vitally important for the local community, and Australia as a whole, to have a manufacturer of underground hard rock mining equipment in this country.”

Elphinstone has a varied product range that it has developed in only six years from when the company reformed in 2016.

Having invested a lot of resources into product development, Elphinstone has its eyes set on the future.

“We have the Tier 3 and Tier 4 engine – our next step is to add battery-electric to the WR810 and underground grader models as well,” Mitchell said.

Elphinstone envisages that the battery-electric vehicle project will also create further opportunities and growth in the state and local communities, something Elphinstone has proudly supported for many years.

“We have a project team focused on battery electric, and we’re also developing other products in parallel while seeking customer feedback,” Mitchell said.

“Our ultimate aim is to add value to our customers’ businesses with our products while creating opportunities for growth.”

The battery-electric products are still in development, but Elphinstone plans to have them commercially available in 2024.  

This feature also appears in the March edition of Australian Mining.

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