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Beware the Sleeping Giant

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Komatsu have a venerable reputation in relation to their electric drive AC haul trucks. As the first manufacturer to introduce AC drive ultra-class trucks in 1996, Komatsu’s pedigree in AC rigs is second to none.

Their mining diggers however have not fared as well in Australia. Despite their reliability, they have been much maligned and never quite achieved the critical mass that their competitors have in our country.

Be it discrimination by colour, operator acceptance and/or efficiency in application, they have largely failed to win over the hearts and minds of Australian miners.

Hailing from their Demag heritage the Komatsu digger has always carried a reputation for reliability. 

A simple ‘mechanical’ machine, these hydraulic excavators have sported some of the best mean times between failure in the industry however, in a market where cash is king and time is money, these diggers have quite simply failed to keep up with the pace.

With the Hydraulic Excavator/Shovel increasing becoming the primary digging tool of choice, this has affected Komatsu’s deployment rate of their machines in Australia versus that of their competitors. 

Komatsu however, are no dummies. 

Japanese owned, they are the second largest manufacturer of construction and mining equipment worldwide that have perfected the art of mining through organic growth and strategic acquisition. 

Following the purchase of Demag completed in 1999 and more recently Joy Global in 2017, they have through a culture of continuous improvement, continued the incorporation of technology and know-how in sound operating platforms. With their indigestion now in check, I suspect that we will be seeing more of Komatsu’s ‘canary yellow’ before too long. 

THANKS TO COMPONENTS ONLY, OUR HEAVY EQUIPMENT EXPERTS!

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Equipment

Belly Dumper

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Sounding more like a dig my wife might have at me, the ‘belly dumper’ otherwise known as a bottom dumper is a type of off-road haul truck that unloads its material through a dump gate at the bottom of the trailer.

Differing from the standard rigid off-highway rear dump truck, they are located across many mine sites globally, however, are most commonly found in the United States. In Australia, they are used in specific coal, and bauxite applications in Queensland though are increasingly being decommissioned with age.

Available in articulated or rigid configurations, they are most suited to lighter and finer materials that include coal, bauxite and salt. In their articulated ‘config’, these machines have three axels incorporating a tow tractor and dump trailer with two two steer tyres in the front and four tyres at the rear of the truck and a further four tyres at the back of the trailer. Their rigid sibling is a stranger looking beast and as the name suggests, present as one integral unit fitted with two axels front and rear and the belly located in the middle.

The choice for the size and type of dump trucks at any mine depends upon a lot of variables, such as the type of mine, size of mine, minerals being mined, capital and loading machinery available. Belly dumpers are no different and are best suited to large-scale sites with ramp gradients of 5% or less.

Generally used in strip coal mines, they are particularly suited to applications with long cycles that require high average speed. Offering a higher payload for the same engine horsepower, these trucks provide high payload to weight ratios with the added advantages of weight balance, stability, long haul tyre performance and higher speeds on flat hauls.

Highly manoeuvrable, these trucks offer up to 85 degree steering angles in both artic and rigid formats and are highly mobile in moving around working areas. Fitted with clamshell dump gates in the floor of the dump trailer, operators can control the discharge rates of the hauled material by the degree of the gate opening.

Despite their success, the off-road belly dumper is not for everyone. These trucks often require dump stations with a bin designed to allow the coal to fall from below the truck into a hopper/crusher.

While offering the prospect of high transport speeds over longer hauls they require well-maintained haul roads, that are of course not universally available at mine sites around the world.While not household brands, the manufacturers of these machines are held in high regard and include Kress, Mega and Rimpull in the United States as well as our very own Kador Engineering in Australia that still build these weird and wonderful machines with capacities in excess of 240 tonnes. If you’ve not seen one in action, take a look at https://youtu.be/8P6xy2AJubE.

THANKS TO COMPONENTS ONLY, OUR HEAVY EQUIPMENT EXPERTS

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Equipment

Wine Time

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Are you struggling from a combined case of the mid-winter and COVID blues? Looking at the calendar thinking what do we do? Well, let me bring your attention back to the fact that we are sitting on the doorstep of one of the world’s most sought-after destinations.

Let me also bring your attention to the fact that… wine tasting is back baby!

After being forced into lockdown in the early stages of the pandemic, Hunter wineries are back open with a new way of enjoying a tipple or two.

Driving through wine country never ceases to put a smile on my face and a spring in my step and being welcomed back to our local cellar doors is a wonderful feeling.

In true Hunter Valley style, every winery in our region has gone above and beyond to create an amazing experience despite facing new challenges.

So what’s involved with wine tasting in a COVID world? 

Well, according to Brokenwood’s Operations Manager, Candice Crawford, it’s about experience and safety.

“It has been a process to set up,” Candice explained. “However, we have got it working well and everyone is very grateful to be back open including staff and visitors.”

Book ahead! Candice said that way you won’t be disappointed. Tastings, which are seated only, are limited to 45 minutes which allows for a 15 minute clean between groups which Candice said people are more than happy with.

“You do have to book your spot, give your details for contact tracing, answer some simple questions and from there the staff will ensure you have a wonderful, safe experience.”

And experiences is something that this and other Hunter Valley wineries have adapted to as they shift their tasting experiences to fit the current climate.

While we may not be able to prop up the bar and work through the catalogue like before, at Brokenwood you can now enjoy a range of sit down tasting sessions which give you a more relaxed and focused tasting.

Their ‘Matching’ experience where you can enjoy six wines and 6 canapés for $60 is in high demand or perhaps take it to the next level with the two hour ‘Brokenwood Journey’ which includes a tour of the sprawling facilities, a different selection of wines and canapés and all hosted and in a private space.

“The small group size is a great benefit (max eight),” Candice said as she showed me through the private dining areas, “it creates and intimate, personalised experience and most importantly it’s very safe.”

Now don’t go thinking you have to leave the kids at home to have a great time out at the wineries.

Some playgrounds have reopened at venues and if its energy they need to burn off well you can’t go past Roche Estate where the kids can run and kick a ball while you sip a glass, it’s a fantastic way to dream away a cool winter’s afternoon.

But if that’s not enough and you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, perhaps taking a tour of a vineyard with a llama is for you! Yes, you read that right, an actual llama!

Every Sunday for the month of August, the team at Ben Ean Estate are giving you the chance to stroll through the vineyards with a llama! The adventure begins at 10am when you are introduced to your llama and will spend some time getting acquainted. Staff will teach you how to lead the llama and general llama handling and safety tips.

Once you’ve got to know each other, participants will head off for an hour walk (approximately 3km) through the vines with the beautiful backdrop of the Broken Back Mountain range surrounding the vineyard. Don’t forget the camera, there will be lots of opportunities for photos!

On return you can enjoy a taste of two at the cellar door and a gelato from the Hunter Belle Dairy Co.

From llamas to take-home degustation’s and virtual wine tastings, our Hunter wineries have adapted remarkably to the rapid changes thrown at them through the pandemic and while the school holiday period was busy, now is the perfect time for locals to get out and enjoy what our wineries have to offer.

I must admit, with so many health concerns and travel so limited around the state and country, and as I sip on a crisp local vintage looking out over the sweeping vineyards with the mountain ranges falling behind and the warmth of the winter sun soaking into my skin, I feel so lucky to have this just on our doorstep.

So, the next time you think what can we do? Pick up the phone, make a booking and take the time to enjoy our very own wineries, it will have you coming back, time and time again.

Happenin’ in the Hunter is brought to you by Nicky Ainley, Editor of The Hunter App. Download The Hunter App for all your up to date info on what’s happenin’ in the Hunter!

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Equipment

A Dying Breed

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As a primary tool used on mine sites, the ‘digger’ is a critical piece of infrastructure that can significantly impact a site’s operational performance.

Depending upon the type of resource, expected life of mine and extraction method incorporated, the equipment options considered include the dragline, rope shovel and or hydraulic excavator.

With advancements in technology, reliability, mobility and market dynamics, mine sites are increasingly favouring the hydraulic excavator. Like the demise of the beloved Boeing 747, these dynamics have accelerated the expiration of the dragline and is now directly impacting the rope shovel despite the many valid arguments for their use.

Outside of the practical considerations relating to productive capabilities and site-specific requirements, there’s a lot to like about rope shovels. Those au fait with the machines will tell you the many rationale reasons for their use.

Notwithstanding their proven efficiency in moving dirt and practical cost savings achieved over the life of the machine, the ‘short-termism’ of financial markets and spot pricing employed has led to the pursuit of grade, aka ‘selective’ mining’ to maximise profit.

This obsession has rewarded the machine mobility and flexibility afforded by hydraulic excavators, with these diggers being lighter and better able to operate remotely without the requirement of a stable electricity supply.

With the general increase in reliability and expected lifecycle of the hydraulic excavator, this trend has resulted in the hydraulic excavator quickly becoming the digger of choice here in the Valley.

Rationally, an argument exists for the incorporation of all three digger types however, the pricing points (even excluding the impacts of foreign exchange rates), simply aren’t adding up.

In a world, desiring immediate rewards, long-term efficiency, and cost savings are proving harder to promote, particularly when the upfront purchase price is significantly more. Hey, I could be wrong, however with cash as cheap as it is, I can’t help but feel a changing of the tide, where the hydraulic excavator now has the upper hand.

Thanks to Components Only, our heavy equipment experts.

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