With a focus on optimising operations, whether surface or underground, large or small, Caterpillar and Cat dealers are dedicated to working with mining companies to resolve the issues that are most important to their success, according to the heavy machinery manufacturers.

Underground mining developments

Caterpillar recently announced a number of milestones as new underground mining machines are deployed, a mine development system using leading edge rock cutting technology is tested, and development of a battery-electric underground loader progresses.

“Over the past few months we have delivered the first AD22 articulated underground trucks—three of them to Glencore’s Mopani Copper Mines in Kitwe, Zambia,” said David Rea, global director of sales and product support for Caterpillar’s Underground Mining Division.

“At 22 tonnes capacity, the AD22 is the smallest underground truck in the Cat line, yet it offers greater payload than competitors’ trucks in the size class. It’s a robust and maneuverable design that will serve well in smaller underground areas.”

Regional Cat dealers also recently delivered a number of new R1700 underground loaders, the first of the next generation of Cat LHDs. The new loader is designed to help customers lower cost per ton through increased payload, improved pile penetration and greater breakout force.  As a safe and productive alternative to in-cab operation, Cat Command technology enables teleremote and semi-autonomous operation of the new LHD and others in the Cat line.

“Caterpillar continues to invest in research and development to address the needs that mining customers voice to us,” Rea said. “For example, testing work continues on our RH55 Rockheader, which is designed to deliver rapid, cost effective mine development using our proprietary rock cutting technology. And we recently took our proof of concept battery-electric LHD underground for testing. We are driving forward with new technologies.”

Surface mining technology

The extensive line of Cat surface mining machines and technologies continues to evolve as automation grows. Cat MineStar Command now includes systems for autonomous operation of large mining trucks and semi-autonomous operation of dozers and rotary drills. These systems enhance safety, boost production and lower cost per ton.

The latest model in the surface mining line is the MD6250 Drill, which is designed for both down-the-hole drilling in hard rock and rotary drilling in softer rock. The blasthole drill does single-pass drilling and multi pass, as well as angle drilling. The versatile drill features proven Cat components and robust design for superior reliability and durability.

The MD6250 is also autonomous-ready with MineStar options ranging from remote control to semi-autonomous drilling. Cat Terrain for drilling provides precision guidance that helps operator’s complete patterns accurately and productively. It pays other dividends, too, by improving safety, reducing costs and recording data about drilled strata to aid in planning. Terrain for drilling uses precision satellite guidance to increase pattern accuracy by up to four times. Command for drilling automates the drilling cycle, allowing an operator to manage as many as three drills simultaneously.

Power generation

When a mining operation needs reliable, continuous power, temporary power, or a combined heat and power solution, Cat generators can deliver. Trusted by the largest mining operations down to the smallest quarries, the Cat team customizes and installs systems for every phase of mining. The generators are engineered to keep mining operations running efficiently, while protecting personnel and the environment.

Caterpillar offers the industry’s widest range of diesel, gas and dual fuel generator sets; automatic transfer switches, and switchgear for seamless integration. A recent development is the Cat Microgrid. Cat Microgrids are fully integrated power systems that utilize solar panels, energy storage and monitoring and control systems in conjunction with any configuration of Cat gen sets, switchgear and ATS necessary to provide cost-effective power for on- and off-grid applications.

Caterpillar and Barloworld are currently installing a 7 MW solar power system at B2Gold Corporation’s Otjikoto Mine in Namibia. The full system, including Cat photovoltaic solar modules and the Cat microgrid master controller, will be used to reduce reliance on a heavy fuel oil power plant currently used to power the mining facility.  Barloworld is supplying engineering, procurement and construction services for the project.