Giant plane helps Epiroc service Pilbara miner

Image: Epiroc

Mining equipment manufacturer Epiroc has chartered one of the world’s largest cargo planes to ensure it does not hold up a Pilbara iron ore miner’s activities in Western Australia.

Faced with a tight deadline to deliver two 25.5m long and 21,000kg heavy Pit Viper 271 rotary blasthole rig towers from its Texas manufacturing facility to the Pilbara 17,000km away, Epiroc decided to charter the Antonov An-124 to deliver its vital cargo.

The An-124 touched down at Perth International Airport at 6.30am yesterday. Once unloaded and secured on to low-loader trucks, the two PV271 towers were taken to Epiroc’s Reid Road facility near the airport for preparation for their final journey – on road – to Epiroc’s Newman customer service centre in the Pilbara, about 1500km north-east of the WA capital.

Epiroc considers the Pilbara iron ore province as one of its most important mining regions, with more than 150 of its Pit Viper blasthole rigs in use by the sector’s operators. The company also has more than 20 of the PV271 rigs operating autonomously in the region.

Danny Moore, Epiroc national sales manager parts and service, said the company was faced with a situation where time was of the essence and the traditional route to deliver the Pit Viper masts from the US facility to the Pilbara, via sea transport, was no longer an option.

“Although the cost of chartering the Antonov 124, one of the world’s largest heavy haul cargo planes, is significant, it was a cost we were comfortable to bear because customer service had to come first. This approach is reflected in Epiroc’s vision of being united in performance, inspired by innovation,” Moore said.

“We look forward to the PV271 towers arriving at Newman so we can carry out the mid-life rig rebuilds as part of our commitment to ensure that our customers at all times have well-maintained and safe equipment.”

Moore added it was quite clear to Epiroc that momentum and confidence were returning to the West Australian resources sectors after a few tough years.

Image: Epiroc


“That makes it even more important for us to ensure we do not hold up our clients’ work, and continue our pursuit to be the mining sector’s leading global productivity partner through our speed of innovation, passionate people and leadership in automation,” he said.

The Antonov An-124, which has a payload of up to 120t, is known for its unique cargo capacity and proven high performance. In terms of carrying capacity, the An-124 is only pipped by the its slightly larger sibling, the An-225 – which can carry up to 250t of cargo and celebrated its maiden voyage to Perth in 2016 – and Boeing’s 747-8F.

After taking off from George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston last Thursday, the An-124 and its two-tower cargo had stopovers in Honolulu (US), Nadi (Fiji) and Brisbane before flying into Perth yesterday morning.

Epiroc started the autonomous conversion of the rigs in March 2016, with the last of this series coming into full autonomous production earlier this year. The rigs have shown increased productivity through a mix of greater consistency, less downtime and greater reliability.

A number of major miners are in the process of reviewing the automation capabilities of their current fleets, according to Eprioc, with its automation experience and multi-compatible software offering being evaluated and trialled both in Australia and overseas.

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