Major Caterpillar OEM Elphinstone continues to deliver innovative and reliable underground support vehicles for hard rock mining after 45 years.
Underground mining environments pose their own unique set of challenges, and using the correct equipment is vital to ensuring productivity and efficiencies are optimised in a safe and effective manner.
Caterpillar OEM Elphinstone recognises this, having provided the industry with underground mining equipment for more than four decades.
The Australian company was founded in 1975 after Dale Elphinstone started repurposing Caterpillar equipment for hard rock underground mining environments.
Over its 45-year history, Elphinstone has grown to offer a wide array of solutions –most are independently designed in-house using Cat parts and components.
The relationship with Caterpillar was built on the principle that neither itself nor Elphinstone would release products that compete with one another, a strategy that has cemented Elphinstone’s name as a recognised OEM for underground mining equipment.
Based in Tasmania, the company has delivered their machines to locations across the globe exclusively through the Caterpillar Global Dealer network.
According to Elphinstone global sales and marketing manager Tim Mitchell, the company designs its products for multiple rebuilds, extending the life of the machine and reducing the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).
“Where some competitive machines are deemed throw away at first rebuild, the Elphinstone product has been designed in a way that it can be rebuilt multiple times and still provide the same reliability as new,” Mitchell tells Australian Mining.
“Rebuilding lowers the total cost of ownership and having a modular design means that the machine can be updated with new technology or upgrades.”
In recent years, Elphinstone has launched eleven new underground mining support vehicles, utilising the WR810 and WR820 base platforms and the UG20K and UG20M underground graders.
The WR810 and WR820 platforms are underground hard rock mining solutions which can be used for multiple applications through their ability to be configured to suit specific customer requirements.
Elphinstone’s 10-tonne WR810 platform is available in a centre mounted cabin and a newly developed front mounted cabin configuration using the same chassis and feature a three-seat operator station, perfect for operator training or transporting a crew into and around the mine.
“The smaller footprint allows the WR810 to fit into a smaller sized tunnel or drive,” Mitchell says. “It suits many applications where the mine plan is restricted on the size of the machine.”
Mitchell says both machines have multiple configurations, including agitator, water cannon, fuel and lube, delivery and scissor lift configurations for the WR810. The WR820 can be configured with a larger agitator and a water tank. The development of the WR810 and WR820 continues, and other configurations will be available in future.
“Rather than a unique machine design for each specific machine type, the base Elphinstone carriers have has been designed as a common platform for multiple purposes,” Mitchell explains.
“As an example, the common WR810 front frame can be configured with centre or front mounted operator cabin, fixed or hydraulic suspended front axle, Tier 3 or Tier 4 final engine and other configurable options.”
The two platforms have been designed for easy maintenance and safety, with both featuring a Roll-Over Protective Structure (ROPS) and Falling Object Protective Structure (FOPS) compliant to ISO standards.
“Other safety features include superior braking systems, onboard test systems, machine interlocks, centralised isolation, firewalls and heatshields, optional integrated fire suppression system and emergency stops located at each end of the machine and in the operator’s cabin,” Mitchell says.
Elphinstone’s UG20K and UG20M underground graders also offer a proven road maintenance solution backed by Caterpillar’s near-100-year history in the motor grader business.
Based on the Cat 120K2 and 120M2 platforms, the Elphinstone graders are designed to suit underground environments with the purpose of road maintenance which increases haul truck productivity and reduces their maintenance cost.
“Having well maintained haul roads not only benefits the machines but also means the operators of the will have a smoother ride reducing long-term health issues,” Mitchell says.”
Elphinstone is currently developing a next generation grader which will incorporate the Voice Of Customer (VOC) from the current models.
Each Elphinstone underground support vehicle is designed to endure the harsh environments of hard rock underground mining, go to work, and stay at work.
“Reliability and availability are important to the productivity and return on investment to our customers,” Mitchell says.
A stringent testing process at the Caterpillar Burnie Proving Ground in Burnie, Tasmania that ensures the machines are prepared for underground environments.
Being a Caterpillar OEM ensures that Elphinstone’s machines receive high quality maintenance and support by its global dealers who are supported by a dedicated factory product support team.
“All Elphinstone machines are sold exclusively through the Caterpillar dealer network; the Elphinstone product support team provides technical support to the already establish dealer technical support team,” Mitchell says.
Elphinstone’s product support technicians are also available for the initial training and introduction of its products, as the company continues to roll out its innovative fleet of underground mining support vehicles.
This article also appears in the May addition of Australia Mining