A gold mine portal expansion in Western Australia was proving difficult for operators, with some soft limestone ruling out drill and blast processes. Luckily, CJD Equipment was able to deliver a bespoke solution, fulfilling the task and the people who worked on it.
At this world-class operation in the Pilbara region, a valued CJD client turned to the equipment distributor to go above and beyond its usual duties.
The issue was underground, on a slope, and of a nature few had known to be tackled in the industry before. At least, in the nature that CJD suggested.
CJD key account manager James Daniels explains why a traditional method wasn’t going to cut it in this scenario.
“They had a new development on site where they essentially needed a new way of expanding their portal,” Daniels tells Australian Mining.
“They couldn’t blast the rock because it was limestone, which would fragment and become unstable. Rather than do that they decided to grind away at the face and see how far they could get before they hit harder rock.”
The solution was a modified version of the Volvo ECR235E excavator.
Chosen for its reduced swing radius which suited the tight, underground working conditions, the excavator is fitted with a dozer blade, a grinding wheel attachment and a dust suppression system along the excavator arm.
Daniels says CJD has come to enjoy the opportunity to deliver interesting and effective machines.
“A large portion of our work is bespoke, and we’ve gotten it down to a fine art now, especially in underground mining. We’ve taken a strong hold of those responsibilities and do a lot of good, interesting work with those clients,” Daniels says.
“Then, when they throw us a curly one like an excavator to be fitted out for underground – which not many people have done before – it takes a bit of nous to find out how we go about it. Our Guildford workshop team were instrumental in getting it together for us.”
Once the machine was chosen and basic design agreed upon, the client handed CJD a list of specifications to meet their needs for the mine. These included isolators, emergency stops and fire extinguishers.
While a job of this calibre would usually take up to eight weeks, the workshop mechanics at CJD completed it in under five weeks.
CJD regional sales manager Anthony Brown says the team worked tirelessly on the build, such is the relationship with the mine operator.
“They actually love the challenge. There are a few guys in particular who get a real buzz and are well known with customers for the quality work that they do,” Brown says.
“This client gives us some good challenges from time to time, but the team seem to relish that challenge and often come up with something outside the box starting with a clean sheet of paper.
“I’d love to say that James and I worked really hard to achieve it. But the reality is there’s a lot of guys that put in late nights, weekends and early starts, which I take my hat off to. They all went above and beyond.”
While the ECR235E is already well kitted from the factory, with the case drain and both X1 and X3 hydraulic pumps standard on this model, CJD committed significant time into non-standard components.
First and foremost, the Simex rock grinding wheel supplied by Total Rockbreaking Solutions was the most important piece of the puzzle, while posing some interesting issues for the project.
One issue with fitting a grinding wheel to an excavator underground is adding dust suppression measures to a machine which typically wouldn’t come with this feature.
“We had to run a hose from the back of the machine with a valve on it, pass it through the cab to allow the operator to turn it on and off, and then run it all the way down the boom to the front where the grinding wheel was working,” Daniels says.
“It was just another curve ball that the workshop boys were able to solve for us.”
Another issue posed by the grinding wheel was the hydraulic capacity to keep it functional, which was made easier by the power offered by the excavator’s two-pump system.
All that was left to manage was the weight of the grinding wheel, as it presented overbalance problems and prompted extensive testing to ensure 360-degree stability.
To counter this, a dozer blade is fitted to the back of the excavator, which is used to leverage the machine into a level position, no matter the incline of the job.
Daniels says the testing was seamless and the client was impressed with the final product.
“We took it up to a site north of Perth where we were able to grind away at some rock and everybody was very impressed with it. The client had a number of people at the trial – their training and area managers and an operator,” he says.
“We even left it there over the weekend for the client to have a play around with. Their operator said it was fantastic and did everything they envisioned it would do.”
The operator has reported a quiet ride and ergonomic controls, both attributes Volvo prides itself on designing.
Brown says the comfortable cabin is another aspect that has won over the operator.
“One big factor was we had the base machine available in Perth, so we could get moving on it as soon as possible,” Brown says.
“And the low emissions, Stage IV compliant engine was another. It’s well-suited to underground work where you don’t want dangerous particles flying about where people are working in confined areas.”
As the excavator has allowed the CJD client to in turn satisfy its own client, there was no more fulfilling job than watching the modified ECR235E roll out of the workshop.
“The initial task that was set by their client – dealing with some unknown conditions where traditional practices of drill and blast were not going to be effective – and without a roadmap as to how to overcome that, it was all quite rewarding to do so,” Brown says.
“Then, to get that feedback from on site that it was going really well, and the operators love it. Now that the excavator is about the most important piece of equipment on site is even more rewarding for us.”
This story also appears in the October issue of Australian Mining.