Top 6 Heavy Machinery Used in the Mining Industry
When it comes to an industry that relies on heavy machinery on a daily basis, you don’t have to look further than the mining industry. Mining projects are taking place around the world to dig up minerals and metals from below the surface of the ground. Heavy equipment may mine these raw materials from the surface, called surface mining, and in underground operations. The types of minerals that are mined can include coal, precious or semi-precious metals, crude oil, and natural gas. There are many types of heavy digging equipment used for mining operations, as we will focus on the top 6 heavy machines.
Dragline excavators are commonly used for strip mining operations when obtaining coal. It is also commonly used for tar sand mining. This piece of heavy equipment consists of a boom that has a large bucket attached on wire ropes and chains. The bucket is lowered to the ground that is to be excavated. Then the bucket is dragged across the surface and lifted by chains. Once filled, the bucket is lifted as it holds the material and is swung about to dump the soil in another location.
Skilled dragline excavator operators can also throw the bucket out by making it swing almost like a pendulum or a fishing line hook to dig into surfaces farther away. There are two types of cutting methods used in dragline excavation. The excavator may cut into the vertical surface of an exposed high wall to remove materials, or it may be dragged across the level ground.
Dragline excavators can come in small sizes that are transported to mining sites on flatbeds, or they may be enormous in size and have to be constructed at the mining site. While the small dragline excavators will have tread tracks to move across the ground, the larger machines actually have pontoons that walk the machine in a forward motion.
Highwall Miners/Continuous Mining Machine
Certain open pit mining projects will have steep walls, called a high wall, as the machines continue to dig farther down to obtain minerals and metals. Yet there are times when vein seams of minerals or metals can be seen running along the wall, as companies want to mine the available minerals to bring it up to the surface.
A continuous mining machine has a rotating cutter head that is used to break up the wall’s surface and dig into the materials to break them into smaller pieces. Behind the cutter head is the conveyor boom that moves the loose materials away so that the coal or other metals can be extracted. Below the cutter head is a loading shovel that can lift materials back to the conveyor boom. The entire machine is able to move on caterpillar tracks to cut the full face of the high wall without having to be repositioned.
In addition to being used in open-pit mining, continuous mining machines are often found in underground mining operations. Operators will drive the machine to the location where the continuous mining equipment will work on the rock wall. Then the operator will use a remote control to drive the machine forward.
Bucket Wheel Excavator
Bucket wheel excavators are another type of continuous digging machines except these machines are used on the surface for open pit mining. The machines are some of the largest that are constructed, as they dig into the ground and scoop up the materials in buckets that constantly rotate at high speeds.
A bucket wheel excavator consists of a boom that has a wheel on the end that rotates. On the wheel are bucket components. These bucket components remove the overburden, which refers to the soil or rock that covers the mineral and metal deposits that will be later mined. There is a chute behind the spinning wheel where the buckets deposit the overburden as the chute leads to a discharge boom. The discharge boom will move the materials further away from the machine, as often an exterior conveyor system will be located nearby to move the material. In other system layouts, the overburden will go to a spreader.
A bucket wheel excavator is often used in larger scale mining operations, as the equipment can take the place of dragline machines for certain processes. While the machine may look complicated and rely on manual controls, bucket wheel excavators have some of the latest automation components such as sensors. Some electrical components that can be found on this machine include data acquisition systems, GPS, and online monitoring tools.
Wheel-tractor scrapers are used in the mining industry to dig into the surface of the ground and transport it to different locations using only one machine. This heavy equipment resembles a grader machine, except it has a hopper piece that is filled with the soil or clay materials. Wheel-tractor scrapers are often seen in open-pit mining operations.
The wheel tractor scraper has a cab, machine driver and operational controls in the front. The rear of the machine has the hopper component with a sharp edge running horizontally. The hydraulic system controls the hopper by raising it and lowering it to the ground. When it is lowered, the horizontal edge cuts into the ground, digging up the material in slices much like a handheld wood planer. As the soil or clay is dug up, the materials go into the hopper until it is filled. Then a vertical panel, called an apron, closes in front to keep the materials in place. The hopper can be driven to another location at the mining site where the apron is raised and a back panel is pushed forward by the hydraulic system to empty the content of the hopper.
In addition to wheel-tractor scrapers, there is also heavy machinery which has elevated scrapers that rely on a conveyor system to move the dug materials into the hopper as well as an auger that is mounted on the equipment to move the materials. Wheel-tractor scrappers may also have a single engine pulling the front wheels or a dual engine system where one engine operates the front wheels and the second system operates the back wheels. At mining sites, wheel-tractor scrapers are used for short hauling processes.
Backhoe loaders are one of the most common heavy equipment machines found at mining sites. They are extremely versatile and can be used on large or small worksites for digging, drilling, and carrying materials. A backhoe loader can come in a variety of configurations with power attachments suited for the given application.
Often you will see a bucket hydraulic system on the back of the machine and a shovel in the front to dig, lift and haul soil, rocks, clay and other materials. Yet the bucket can be replaced with an auger to drill straight into the ground. Hydraulic stabilizers located at the back can be dropped to the ground to keep the machine from tipping when the articulated arm uses the bucket to dig into the ground or the auger to perform drilling operations. The front of the machine may have a permanent shovel attachment on or it can also have a removable attachment.
Due to the size of the mining project, backhoe loaders may have individual wheels mounted on the machine or it can come with track treads. Almost every mining project will have some form of backhoe loader available to move overburden, rocks or mined minerals and metals around the mine site or into dump trucks.
Small and Medium Excavators
Mining operations may have a variety of excavators in use based on the location of the mine site, the layout of the land, the depth in which they plan to dig into the ground, and existing obstructions that could dictate the size of the heavy equipment that is in use. In addition to larger dragline excavators and bucket wheel excavators, small and medium excavators may be put into use.
Small and medium excavators can come with wheels or large track trends as they have an articulating arm and bucket attachment. The bucket attachment is operated using a hydraulic system as the operator sits within the cab of the machine. This heavy equipment can pivot up to a full 360 degrees to get at the ground at all directions. The bucket can be removed from the articulated arm as other attachments can be installed such as an auger, a lifting grapple, or a breaker that is used to crush or jackhammer large rocks.
Heavy Equipment Taking Care of Mining Jobs
When it comes to digging equipment used for mining operations, there is a wide range of machines that can get down into the earth and reveal the metal and mineral deposits. Mining projects can happen anywhere around the world, as companies have to not only figure out the scope of the project that they will take on but also figure out where and how they will get equipment to the project work site. While mining companies may own several pieces of equipment, it can be more cost-effective, and make logistical sense, for companies to rent the heavy equipment. They can decide on the number of days, weeks and months that they need the rental machines, and not have to worry about using old or malfunctioning equipment that could break down at any given time.
Here at Rent 1, we are a heavy equipment rental company meeting the needs of corporate businesses and operations. We have a wide range of digging machines, including backhoe loaders and excavators, used for mining operations. With a variety of rental contracts available, operators, and delivery services to your worksite, you can ensure that the project gets done based on your schedule.