Underground mining equipment has grown heavier and bulkier over time. Australian company, Beltor Engineering, is making sure buried equipment in all weight classes is recovered safely and quickly.
When Aldo Beletich, the founder of Beltor Engineering, invented the first Beltor Mine Extraction Device – or MED Puller as it’s commonly called – back in the 1980s, mining equipment was much lighter than it is today.
In the 1980s and 1990s, continuous miners had an average operating weight of around 30 tonnes. But the increase in commodity prices in the first decade of the 21st century led original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to build larger mining equipment. Today, the average continuous miner weighs more than 150 tonnes.
With the increase in size and weight of underground mining equipment, there was a need for stronger extraction devices to help recover buried or bogged equipment.
Beltor Engineering therefore introduced higher capacity MEDs to ensure that underground mining operations could get back on track with minimum delay.
“The MED was invented in response to complaints from underground miners having difficulties extracting bogged equipment without damaging the mine or negatively impacting production,” says Mark Beletich, who is the son of Aldo Beletich and the current managing director of Beltor Engineering.
While the first MED, with a pulling capacity of 90 tonnes, was introduced by Beltor Engineering in 1988 to meet the needs of the underground thermal coal miners in and around Newcastle, the product soon gained nation-wide recognition across the mining industry.
Beltor subsequently introduced the 150-tonne and 210-tonne versions of the device, MED150 and MED210, in line with the industry’s growth. In addition to the retrieval of buried equipment, the higher capacity models are also capable of extracting drill rods embedded in the rock face.
The expansion did not stop there. This month, Beltor will release the largest version of its extraction device, the MED360, with a pulling capacity of 360 tonnes, for larger underground coal and hard rock miners.
As Beletich explains, Beltor’s MED has “revolutionised” the way buried underground equipment is extracted.
“What makes Beltor’s MED unique is that it does not rely on traction,” Beletich says. “After the MED is towed into the mine, the boom is raised against the roof and the wheels are lowered on the floor. A bridle is interlocked onto the teeth of the MED racks. These MED racks are then pulled via hydraulic cylinders.
“This is in contrast to using wheeled or tracked tow vehicles that can result in damage to the mine wall or floor or both in an attempted extraction process, all of which can add further delays to the restart of production.”
As a solution provider for both underground and surface mining operations, Beltor Engineering has expanded its product portfolio over the past five decades, introducing a range of solutions to the industry.
The Beltor Pipe Trailer, an automatic pipe loading device, is one such product, according to Beletich.
“Like all Beltor products, the Beltor Pipe Trailer, the first pipe trailer to ever be introduced, was developed based on feedback we received from our customers looking for a solution to increase productivity, while also reducing the level of manual handling for their underground teams,” Beletich says.
“The Pipe Trailer uses Beltor’s ‘Spin & Lift’ technology to load pipes with 150-millimetre, 200-millimetre or 300-millimetre diameter onto a trailer featuring twin hydraulic lifting arms. Beltor offers the Pipe Trailer in single or dual axel with QDS or RAS attachments.”
Beletich says all of Beltor’s products have been designed on the back of feedback received directly from the industry.
“Discussions with our customers continues to feed our innovation. Our customers collaborate with us for the purpose of designing and manufacturing products that will help them complete a task in a safer or more efficient manner,” he says.
“Our ‘Pitcher’ range of removal tools for Ground Engaging Tools (GET) is just one example of the positive results that can eventuate from this type of collaboration.”
With all of the solutions Beltor has introduced to the mining industry over the years, Beletich says the company has pursued one goal: To propose safer and faster ways for miners to carry out their operations.
“Safety and efficiency are at the heart of everything we do at Beltor and it is what our customers expect. We even have the words ‘Safer & Faster’ printed in our general workshop and on our promotional gifts, because this is what drives us every day,” Beletich says.
In addition to manufacturing new implements and conducting overhauls, Beltor also provides on-site labour, engineering and fabrication services to coal handling and preparation plants (CHPPs) in New South Wales’ Hunter Valley region, as well as design and fabrication of conveyor systems for these mines.
The 25-acre Beltor plant near Newcastle also hosts an in-house hydraulic hose replacement facility where the team provides complete repair and overhaul of pumps and hydraulic equipment. Beltor also specialises in blasting and protective coating at its facility.
From the second half of 2020, Beltor will launch its condition monitoring subsidiary. Fuse NDT will provide non-destructive testing and condition monitoring services to Beltor clients.
This article also appears in the September issue of Australian Mining.