Hastings Deering is delivering the productivity, green and safety needs of its mining company partners with the release of the Cat R2900 underground loader. Australian Mining writes.
There are growing calls for mining companies to improve how they tell the stories of their achievements to make the industry more sustainable.
The escalating demand for sustainable practices has equipment suppliers such as Hastings Deering offering new products that contribute to this cause without compromising safety or productivity.
According to Hastings Deering product manager, underground hard rock vehicles Rob Shea, the Australian mining sector’s sustainability credentials are not always spoken about, but the country “leads the world in a lot of respects.”
“Caterpillar does a lot of its product development and testing in Australia for the Australian market because we lead the world,” Shea tells Australian Mining.
“We have always been at the forefront of environmental sustainability in mining here in Queensland, but also Australia in general.”
Mining companies are acquiring the latest mining equipment with the highest emissions standards not only for their social licence to operate, Shea says. They are also motivated by a constant willingness to improve.
“We have customers in Australia that are still willing to adopt these standards because they’re the global best practice, not because regulations require it,” Shea says.
The Australian mining community is well aware that other parts of the world, like North America, pose stricter legislative requirements.
It is also why an original equipment manufacturer like Caterpillar developed its latest R2900 underground loader with regulatory compliance in mind.
The loader is known for its stage five-friendly engine, boasting the highest emissions standard that anyone can attain for a machine in the industry.
“The EU stage five standard is not legislated in Australia, but we have got mining companies who are looking to reduce emissions because of their own social and corporate responsibility and for the safety and wellbeing of their people,” Shea says.
“We’ve chosen to bring in one of the R2900s because customers are aggressively pursuing their green targets and chasing the latest technologies, and this machine appeals to them.”
Unlike surface mining operations, air in an underground mine is confined by the virtue of being inside a tunnel. And despite having proper ventilation, workers are exposed to exhaust emissions in an underground mine.
Operators have the option to use Caterpillar’s ventilation reduction system as an alternative to the EU stage five engine package. It uses wall flow diesel particulate filters for improved underground air quality.
“This new design is more of an evolutionary change. It builds off the strengths of its predecessor, with an updated engine package and frame design to enable better sustainability and maintainability,” Shea says.
The R2900 has a modular architecture whereby parts are no longer welded into the machine.
It provides greater flexibility for mining operators to perform maintenance activities, particularly for parts that are difficult to maintain or may require regular maintenance.
These parts can now be removed from the machine and replaced with another, keeping the machine going for longer.
“Safety is always one of Hastings’ key drivers, the same with Caterpillar. But so is sustainability,” Shea says.
“Even before sustainability was a popular theme in the industry, it has always been part of the fabric of Cat designs and machines. They’re built to be rebuilt, not used for one time.
“The biggest focus that we’re going for in this machine choice is health and safety. That’s achieved through different avenues.”
The release of the R2900 is timed ahead of a sector-wide mobilisation of underground autonomous loaders.
The Cat MineStar Command solution enables various levels of automation with the R2900.
This MineStar technology provides semi-autonomous guidance and assistance, so operators can stay off walls to reduce impact on the machine and infrastructure, through to full automation.
“We’re working on autonomous haulage systems with Caterpillar, and as part of that we’re not only employing people with digital skills but we’re also upskilling our existing people to have that greater tech capability,” Shea says.
This equips them to use R2900’s onboard diagnostic system that informs operators of any issues ahead of time and remotely.
It helps mining companies get the most out of their machine in its lifetime while achieving production targets.
“The R2900 can support mining companies in their journey to be more sustainable in the long-run. Its focus on health and safety improvement doesn’t compromise its status as a benchmark in productivity for the size class,” Shea says.
This article also appears in the February edition of Australian Mining.