Mining is a primary industry and key economic contributor to Australia, which has mining activity in all states and territories. This activity is supported by thousands of pieces of mobile mining equipment, from the drills that start the mining process to the trucks that haul ore to the crusher.
Relatively new to the Australian mining market are rotary blasthole drills built by Caterpillar. In the last several years, these drills have begun to make a significant impact in some of the country’s most prominent mining regions, like the Hunter Valley in New South Wales and the Bowen Basin in Queensland.
The Cat® MD6420B, for example, delivered record-breaking results in its first year on the job at a coal operation in the Hunter Valley, with engine hours well above the industry’s “good” and “excellent” ratings. With an industry average of around 5,000 hours per year, two MD6420B’s on site topped that number by about 2,000 hours. Supported by Cat dealer Westrac, the drill also delivered well above the industry average on the maintenance side, giving mines the availability they need to keep production high.
“What this means is the MD6420B is a low-maintenance drill,” said Caterpillar’s Andrew Elbourn, a product support representative for the drills product line. “The performance of these drills has been incredible. It just keeps on drilling.”
As Hastings Deering introduces the model into its territory in Queensland, the Cat dealer is finding similar results.
“When I was given the opportunity to be the manager for the MD6420B, obviously I jumped at the chance,” says Lenny Osborne, Equipment Maintenance Manager for Hastings Deering. “When it hit the site and was able to perform with exactly the specifications that Caterpillar promised, that probably was one of my prouder moments. I told the customer exactly what it was going to achieve and it has not only achieved it, it’s gone above and beyond what we actually thought it was going to be able to achieve.”
Delivering impressive results
To begin getting its customers comfortable with the drill, Hastings Deering started out with a lease arrangement with a surface coal mine in the region. Osborne said it wasn’t long before the mine was experiencing positive results.
“Two weeks into the contract, it had impressed everyone,” he says. “It was impressing the fitters, the operators, and then, most importantly, the customer. The feedback we’re getting from everyone with this drill is all very positive.”
The MD6420B was a good choice for the site as it can drill to an “incredible depth,” says Osborne. It drills up to 74 meters and can routinely drill up to 30-degree angles, even in imperfect conditions. The low center of gravity gives the MD6420B the edge over other drills on site.
Machine availability is very high, with above-average results for two key metrics: Mean Time Between Shutdowns (MTBS) and Mean Time to Repair (MTTR). MTBS quantifies the average frequency of machine stoppages based on both reliability and maintenance effectiveness, while MTTR quantifies the average duration of those machine stoppages — how quickly or slowly a machine is returned to service once a downtime incident occurs.
“It’s easy to diagnose if there’s a problem,” says Osborne. “The drill itself will help diagnose its own faults, so from a technician’s point of view, they absolutely love it. If they are able to diagnose a problem quicker, then they get it back on track … and that keeps the mine happy.”
Osborne calls the drill’s availability “just purely impressive.”
“We’ve hit above our targets meters-wise and we’ve done back-to-back thousand-meter shifts,” says Osborne. “We’ve also delivered over 90 percent availability every month, which, in the customer’s eyes, is magic.”