The mining equipment company has delivered Queensland’s first CAT MD6250 drill to the Bluff coal mine east of Blackwater. Ewen Hosie reports.
Hastings Deering has cemented its reputation as one of Australia’s premier Caterpillar suppliers with the delivery of a product that is setting new standards in the drilling sector.
The Brisbane-based company has supplied Queensland’s first and only Cat MD6250 rotary blasthole drill to contractor Mining and Civil Australia (MACA) at the Bluff open cut coking coal operation.
MACA operates both drill-and-blast and load-and-haul operations at the Bluff mine thanks to a 10-year, $700 million contract with owner Carabella Resources.
The contactor is set to benefit from the crawler-mounted drill’s advanced features that are designed to maximise fuel efficiency and improve drilling.
Its features include a Cat C27 engine, variable compressor output controls, drill depth indicators and virtual head stops for operators.
In addition to the expected productivity benefit, the drill will prove attractive to MACA for another reason beyond the bottom line, according to Hastings Deering product manager, drills and large motor graders Adam Davis.
“It’s an interesting site as there are restrictions around noise,” Davis tells Australian Mining. “MACA had experience with the MD6250’s predecessor model and believed they could get the same value and production out of the new model.
“The MD6250 has proportional hydraulics, which means the machine makes less noise during operation and the fan circuit only operates when it needs to. The machine only creates horsepower when needed, which cuts down on heat, noise and energy.”
Davis says the mine’s implementation of the MD6250 drill is emblematic of a wider industry trends towards using high-tech, mid-size drills that are suited for drilling holes smaller than the 270-millimetre sizes historically common in the Bowen Basin.
The MD6250, for instance, is equipped with a hole diameter range of between 152–250 millimetres.
“In places like the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, it’s the norm to go for mid-size machines with this kind of technology, and it’s possible that this could also happen in Queensland in the future,” Davis says.
“Once the larger coal seams begin to shrink in size and the work moves to higher-grade coal seams, smaller machines are used as they are better suited to such applications.”
The delivery of the drill required precise logistical planning on the part of Hastings Deering’s specialist team. The drill initially had to be transported in components by road from Caterpillar’s Denison factory in Texas, United States for shipping to Brisbane.
Like the United States arm of the trip, the 607-kilometre road journey northwards from Brisbane to Port Curtis in Rockhampton required that Hastings Deering load the drill in components onto three trucks, including two large prime movers and one smaller truck.
The prime movers were used to haul the drill’s chassis and mast, while the smaller truck took care of the various other accessories. The journey took two days, with the trucks being restricted to 80 kilometres an hour for the duration of the trip due to safety regulations.
“The MD6250 doesn’t have the size of footprint of an off-highway haul truck, for example, but it is still big enough that we required a pilot vehicle and police escort to make the journey safely,” Davis explains.
Once the components were delivered, Hastings Deering’s team of engineers set aside a week to assemble the drill before delivery to the Bluff mine site to the west of the city.
Ensuring all delivery milestones were met between MACA and the mine site required some quick thinking on Hastings Deering’s part.
“Hastings Deering worked with another dealer to secure inventory and change the configuration to a Hastings Deering configuration — dealers will work together to support customers’ requirements, so that really helped us to get the project done in time,” Davis explains.
Hastings Deering’s other challenges included working around the MD6250 itself, which was a new model for the company. This required training its staff to familiarise them with the machine.
The training covered assembly, maintenance and operation of the drill. A Caterpillar expert was engaged to help Hastings Deering’s trainers, who in turn instructed site staff to ensure proper employment of the machine.
Hastings Deering also arranged spare parts to bolster the company’s stocks in case of maintenance requirements in the future.
“With the introduction of several new models in addition to the MD6250 there are exciting opportunities for Hastings Deering and its customers. There is currently a lot of positive sentiment in the market for new drill products,” Davis says.
Hastings Deering’s success on the project was not by accident; it called on the company’s considerable experience with heavy duty delivery and assembly, and a trustworthy team.
This experience was exemplified by the company’s choice of its leading hand for equipment assembly, Joe Mastroieni, who celebrated his 43rd anniversary with the company in June.
Mastroieni, who has held various positions over the years and had a hand in building over 100 units for Hastings Deering, suggests the industry is always presenting new challenges.
“The technology is always changing; the way the future is going, everything is getting more electronic,” Mastroieni says. “You never stop learning, there’s always something new, and always ways to improve. I must like something here since I’ve been here so long.”
This article appears in the June 2019 issue of Australian Mining.