Astec Australia’s Mine Runner is recognised as one of the most conveniently designed pieces of machinery used in underground mines. The new EWB model takes the design even further.
The latest Mine Runner extended wheel base (EWB) model builds on the original design loved by underground mining companies across Australia.
More than just a piece of underground machinery, the service vehicle is designed to safely transport people throughout a mine while keeping maintenance costs low.
As Astec Australia national product manager John Williams explains, the EWB’s updated
features take an already innovative piece of equipment to the next level, ensuring users are al-ways ahead of the grade.
“The original Mine Runner vehicle itself is very ground breaking because it uses hydrostatic drive,” Williams tells Australian Mining.
“So instead of using mechanical linkage like in a normal car, it uses hydraulics to power and motor the vehicles.”
The benefits of hydrostatic drive are more reliability and lower maintenance costs, meaning the equipment can be run for longer at a lower capital for the company.
Astec’s main change to the original Mine Runner, which has been on the market since 2015, is the higher carrying capacity that a longer tray at the back of the vehicle offers.
This development caters to feedback from clients and can be used to carry mine workers or equipment, or both at the same time, depending on what the workers require on a certain day at work.
“There are two carrying modules,” Williams says. “If you put the people carrying module on the back, each can carry six people, so all up it can carry 15 people fully laden.
“Depending how many modules you want to use at one time, you can carry anywhere from three to 15 people, with two in the front, six in the first module then another six on the back module.
“It’s got flexibility, so you can use both modules if you want or just have one, depending how many people you want to move around at one time, or use the deck space for tools, plants or equipment.”
Although this change offers a range of new benefits for Mine Runner users, the exclusively underground design doesn’t differ too much from the original, allowing it to carry heavy loads but in a small format suited to thin underground mine roads.
The majority of Australian mines are built to a standard size, with main tunnel roads in and out of the mine five metres wide and high, meaning that vehicles being used underground are ideally less than 2.5 metres in width to allow for safe passing by other vehicles within the mine.
“The Mine Runner fits this bill, being closer to two metres wide,” Williams says.
“Normally to carry loads you would need to go for a larger truck which is not suitable for an underground mining environment.
“The Mine Runner EWB is the same width as the initial Mine Runner, but adding that extra length and capacity to take extra weight in the back without increasing the width.”
The wheel bates have also been extended by 1.5 metres, giving the suspension required to carry loads of up to 3295 kilograms, an increased capacity from the original model’s 2700 kilo-grams, while maintaining the thin design.
Mine Runner EWB is also one of the safest underground vehicles on the market, equipped with roll over protective structures (ROPS) and falling object protective structures (FOPS) to protect occupants from rock fall or other underground accidents.
Astec has also partnered with other organisations, including MineARC Systems; combining the Mine Runner’s safety-based design with MineARC’s MineSAFE Refuge Chamber technology, which is designed to shelter workers in the event of an emergency.
“MineARC designs refuge chambers for underground mining and they have developed an
Rescue Vehicle chamber that can be installed on the rear of the Mine Runner vehicle to be utilised by emergency services – so that’s one of the really exciting new innovations we have,” Williams says.
“MineARC’s MineSAFE Rescue Vehicle model is ROPS and FOPS certified as well, so it’s been a welcome development for the Mine Runner to be able to integrate with some of MineARC’s technology.”
As well as safety features for emergency situations, the Mine Runner EWB is equipped with safety features for everyday use, such as electronically limiting the speed.
According to Williams, a major problem on mine sites is drivers travelling too fast for the mine’s roads, but the Mine Runner’s electronic management system counters this.
“Generally, speeds in underground mines are limited to about 35 kilometres per hour because it’s a combined space with a lot going on,” Williams says.
“One of the nifty features of the Mine Runner EWB is the speed can be electronically limited and the electronic management system allows managers to set a customised speed that employees won’t be able to change.”
As mining companies continue to mine deeper in search of different orebodies, the cost of ventilation to remove emissions becomes more expensive.
Williams believes electric vehicles like the Mine Runner will be the future of underground mining in Australia to overcome this.
This is the direction Astec is moving, looking to power vehicles with electric motors instead of diesel.
“We’re currently working on different scenarios for electrification, instead of having a diesel motor powering the hydraulic system, we would put in a battery powered electric motor,” Williams says.
“If you’ve got a fleet running electrically, there’s no emissions like there is with diesel. There are still questions to be answered regarding electric vehicles, because mining machinery tends to work 20 hours a day and electric vehicles need time to recharge, but we’ve got that on the drawing board and it looks to be the next step.”
This article also appears in the March edition of Australian Mining.