Boss of the underground environment

Astec Industries’ new line-up of underground equipment incorporates game-changing technology for the mining sector: the hydraulic wheel drive. 

Astec Industries has long been recognised as an innovative developer of equipment and technologies for the global underground mining sector.

Technologies incorporated into Astec’s range of mobile rockbreaking systems, utility vehicles and scaling machines have enabled operators to work smarter and safer in what is one of the industry’s most hazardous environments.

“Astec is one of very few truly innovative suppliers, and we have a pipeline of innovations,” Astec national product manager – mining, John Williams tells Australian Mining.

“We’re constantly searching for better ways to help miners do their job, developing technologies that deliver enhanced performance, greater longevity and improved maintenance outcomes.”

Astec’s hydrostatic drive system is the company’s most recent innovation. The technology removes all traditional mechanical linkages and braking systems so the equipment runs hydrostatically with fluid.

According to Williams, hydraulic drive systems are popular in the agricultural sector, but few mining equipment suppliers have taken advantage of the technology.

“In discussions with customers, we identified equipment longevity as one of their biggest concerns. Their vehicles just weren’t lasting long enough, so we developed one that does,” Williams says.

“The hydrostatic drive requires significantly less maintenance and makes our vehicles more fit for purpose for the mining environment.”

Astec has incorporated the hydraulic drive technology into its latest mobile rockbreaking system, BreakerBoss. An updated version of the company’s articulated carrier, BreakerBoss, will be launched this month.

According to Williams, the design of the new carrier was influenced by the company’s experience in the development of the Mine Runner, ScaleBoss and previous versions of mobile rockbreakers.

Operated via central articulation, BreakerBoss is capable of carrying an 8810-joule rockbreaker, equipment that typically would be used on a 40-tonne excavator.

“BreakerBoss is easily one of the biggest excavators on a site, yet it can travel at 15–20 kilometres an hour on wheels, so oversized rocks that would otherwise slow down production can be dealt with quickly and without the use of explosives,” Williams says.

“And the greater speed and efficiency of BreakerBoss in regular rock breaking operations delivers a better overall performance for the site.”

Astec has improved the ergonomics of BreakerBoss, too, with a redesigned cabin providing extra room and enhanced operator features, including air ride seating, automotive-style controls, climate control and enhanced visibility.

BreakerBoss is also teleremote ready so operators can remotely position the machine in a compromised area and continue rockbreaking risk-free.

Astec’s hydraulic drive system has been incorporated into the latest model of its underground workhorse, the Mine Runner.

According to Williams, successful innovation can deliver better maintenance outcomes, as well as enhanced performance at an operational level.

“On-highway vehicles are regularly used underground, but they fall short of the Mine Runner in terms of maintenance and operational life,” he says.

“The Mine Runner’s maintenance schedule is a minor servicing every 250 hours with a major service every 1000 hours.

“The Minerunner can be relied upon for an eight-year-plus service life, whereas a new on-highway truck is probably going to last only two years underground before it needs to be replaced.”

And the new Mine Runner is a more versatile performer. The vehicle’s extended 3.6-metre deck space means it can comfortably transport 12 passengers.

Astec’s hydrostatic drive system is the latest in the company’s long line of innovative technologies.

With expertise developed over decades and a detailed understanding of the requirements of underground operations, Astec global customers know the company’s next generation innovations are already in the pipeline.

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

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