Mention the word ultra and one might naturally think of something large or extreme in nature. Defined, the word 'ultra' means 'going beyond what is usual or ordinary; excessive; extreme'. An ultramarathon for example is any footrace longer than the traditional length of 42.195km (for many an absurd distance to be consider other than in the comfort of a car) likewise, an Ultra High Definition TV quadruples the pixels used in a 'standard' 1080p screen, more pixels than the average eye can see or appreciate. As it is with mining machines today, extracting a greater number of tons, in less time and more economically than has ever been achieved in the past.
The mind boggles when one thinks that not so long ago the Caterpillar 769 Dump Truck was considered a large machine, a 35 ton, 23.3 cubic yard capacity rear dump truck with a top speed of circa 66km per hour. Fast forward to present day machines and consider the vast fleets of 'ultra class' dump trucks now being used, machines technically defined as haul trucks capable of carrying 272 metric tons or greater, with the largest truck able to carry a whopping 450 metric tons. Manufactured in the Republic of Belarus, the BelAZ 75710 is 20m long, 8.16m high, 9.87m high and powered by two (not one) 65 litre 16-cylinder diesel engines, each with 2,300 horsepower, enabling it to achieve a maximum speed of 64km/h..
So, what's next? Longer, wider, higher, stronger or something fundamentally different? Will our mammoth machines of today be considered small in retrospect or will our mining methods advance to a point we no longer require truck and shovel mining techniques? Your guess is as good as mine.
This article was originally published by the Components Only team in the March - April 2017 issue of "@ The Coal Face" magazine.Published 16 March, 2017