In the hunt for contracts in Queensland’s coal sector, MacKellar Mining has turned to Liebherr for the supply of equipment that offers a competitive advantage.
MacKellar Mining wanted a new fleet of haul trucks that would give it a point of difference when bidding for a contract with Anglo American in 2019.
The Queensland-based mining services company was aiming to secure an agreement to supply the trucks to Anglo American’s Dawson metallurgical coal mine in the Bowen Basin.
Successful with its bid, MacKellar Mining won a two-year contract to supply and commission five new Liebherr T 264 electric drive mining trucks at the site.
The agreement not only diversified MacKellar Mining’s 350-machine fleet with the Liebherr trucks, but also expanded its partnership with the original equipment manufacturer (OEM).
MacKellar Mining’s relationship with Liebherr started in 2016 when it acquired the first ultra-class excavator in the company’s 54-year history through the OEM.
Up until that point, the company had focussed on dump trucks and other mining equipment. Its fleet of dump trucks had mainly been the popular Caterpillar machines.
For Dawson, however, MacKellar Mining recognised a competitive advantage that the T 264 trucks offered after they were updated by Liebherr in 2019.
Liebherr increased the payload capacity of the T 264 trucks from 220 tonnes to 240 tonnes, an upgrade that captured the attention of MacKellar Mining managing director Duncan MacKellar.
“The extra payload, to get a true 240-tonne machine compared with other trucks in that class is a massive advantage – the customers love that about the T 264,” Duncan Mackellar tells Australian Mining.
“They are physically a large truck and we look at them as a mini T 284, which has been a market leader for Liebherr.
“The operators at Dawson have loved the trucks. They are carrying the loads well; they are fast and they have generally been well received.”
Liebherr has designed the upgraded T 264 to provide a unique combination of a high horsepower engine (2013 kW / 2700 hp), a Litronic Plus AC drive system and electric wheel motors (3300 kW / 4425 hp) to deliver faster cycle times.
The upgraded wheel motors and rear gear ratio boosts torque and acceleration to provide similar cycle times alongside the payload increase.
“We wanted to go down the electric path and we saw that Liebherr would be at the forefront of the technology for trucks that size,” Duncan MacKellar says.
“Given the relationship we have with Liebherr, we were willing to take a risk on a new product knowing we would be well supported by Liebherr not only in Australia, but also their factory in the United States.”
Liebherr-Australia sales and marketing executive general manager, Tom Juric, says the payload increase is just one aspect of the competitive advantages that the T 264 offers.
He says the cost profile of the machines and the OEM’s aftersales service are other factors.
MacKellar Mining’s contract win at Dawson also represents a major breakthrough for Liebherr in its quest to roll out the T 264 at more Australian mines.
“Liebherr hasn’t had a presence at Dawson, indirectly or directly for many years,” Juric says. “As I understand it, these trucks are the first Liebherr units at Dawson in a very long time.
“They are brand new and the only ones of their kind on that site – they are pioneers from a Liebherr perspective.”
And the trucks not only diversify MacKellar Mining’s fleet of haulers, but also Liebherr’s market presence in Australia.
Juric says the trucks strengthen the relationship between the two companies, building off the increasing number of Liebherr excavators that MacKellar Mining owns.
“It adds to the depth of the relationship and it shows yet again that Liebherr is not a one trick pony – we are more than an excavator provider. We have a capable product and a more than capable support offering to deliver results to our clients when it matters most,” Juric says.
While Liebherr and MacKellar Mining may have now diversified their partnership into dump trucks, their excavator relationship has also grown this year.
MacKellar Mining followed up the Dawson agreement by expanding its fleet of Liebherr excavators as part of a five-year, $500 million contract it won with Middlemount Coal in the Bowen Basin.
Five Liebherr excavators, including three R 996B and two R 9400 machines, will join more than 30 dump trucks at the coal mine.
MacKellar Mining’s existing experience with Liebherr excavators set the foundation to include the OEM’s diggers in this bid, which has become its largest contract.
“We had been chipping away on this contract for two to three years – we knew that we had a good opportunity there,” Duncan MacKellar says.
“It was certainly nice to wrap up that contract – Liebherr has been very patient and good to work with during that process.
“They understood the requirements to get the equipment on site and built. Liebherr was willing to be flexible and nimble – they didn’t act like a large OEM.”
The Liebherr excavators on this site are MacKellar Mining’s biggest one-off investment in ultra-class diggers.
Duncan Mackellar says the agreement reflects the reputation of Liebherr excavators, as well as the aftersales support that MacKellar Mining has received since 2016.
“My father (company founder Alastair MacKellar) steered clear of excavators due to the cost of moving them and the amount of attention they get because they are the main production machine – they need to perform,” Duncan MacKellar says.
“The R 996B excavator has such a strong market acceptance and they really are the excavator of choice in that 600-tonne class. They have been very reliable and cost-effective machine; they have added a lot of value to our business.”
Liebherr provides service for MacKellar Mining’s fleet from its Mackay base and on site for both mines.
At Dawson, the trucks are supported by four high-voltage (HV) technicians on a 24/7 basis, as well as two mechanical technicians.
The Middlemount project is directly supported on an around-the-clock basis by four site-based technicians, who are integrated into the MacKellar Mining maintenance team.
Liebherr conducts safety and familiarisation training for site operators and technical training for maintenance crews at both sites.
Wayne Maher, Liebherr-Australia regional manager in Queensland, says the OEM’s process begins by understanding the needs of a customer like MacKellar Mining, as well as the client the mining services company serves.
“Liebherr draws upon significant experience in mining services to tailor a package that meets or exceeds those needs,” Maher says.
“Liebherr, throughout its history has instilled a philosophy to put its best offer forward, even if the client hasn’t specifically asked for it.
“Ultimately, Liebherr aims to offer value and dependability, which is why successful businesses like MacKellar continue to work and grow with us.”
The relationship between MacKellar Mining and Liebherr is strengthened by these shared values, many of which stem from the family-owned nature of both companies.
As Duncan MacKellar reinforces, Liebherr’s support during the bidding process for the contracts never gave MacKellar Mining the impression it was working with a global OEM.
“Despite being a smaller business, we are also a family-run business and then we are also dealing with a family business in Liebherr. There’s value in that – you feel like you have a genuine collaborative working relationship rather than dealing with a massive conglomerate,” Duncan MacKellar concludes.
This article will appear in the October issue of Australian Mining.