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Sogo Shosha (Go, on Google it)



Perhaps best known for their diggers, Hitachi produce one of the most comprehensive range of excavators in the market.

Offering machines with operating weights from 1,880 kg through to 837 tonnes, Hitachi draw upon an extensive and diverse knowledge base to create a well-rounded line-up of digging machines. 

Often overlooked in articles for the sexy big end of town, Hitachi’s range of construction/production machines are reliable workhorses that are equally at home in civil/infrastructure applications as well as mine sites. 

The unsung heroes, these medium range of machines operate in a hotly contested market with Komatsu, Caterpillar, Kobelco and Liebherr (to name but a few), all vying for the top spot and ultimate customer spend. While reliability, performance and efficiency prove critical in this space, I strongly suspect the colour, operator comfort and financial deals on offer prove just as persuasive in the purchasing decision.

Introduced in August 2016, the ZX-5 range of diggers comprise 13 variants ranging from the smaller ZX130 through to the ZX890. These machines principally featured a redesigned hydraulic system, auto shut down and auto idle features as well as powertrain upgrades. 

In a market awash with options, the ZX890 faces stiff competition in the form of the Komatsu PC850, Caterpillar 385, Kobelco SK 850 and in international markets, the Liebherr R 976. 

Powered by a fuel-efficient Isuzu 6-cylinder engine with 377 kW, the ZX890 and its younger sibling the ZX690 have upgraded their power packs that in previous models were at times considered underdone. 

Turbocharged and intercooled, these engines provide just that extra bit of oomph and for Australian conditions are a EPA Tier 3 Equivalent engine providing greater flexibility than the Tier 4 rated engines now promoted in Europe and America (think at the most basic levels, the challenges now being faced with cars incorporating AdBlue). 

Sporting thick plate, single sheet mainframe, box-section track frames and industry leading double-seal swing bearing, these machines are ultimately durable and rightfully earn their position on any Australian work site. 

Fitted with a 13,300kg counterweight, owners are afforded an array of digging options with bucket sizes from 3.5 to 5 cu m depended upon the application of use. With centralised lube banks and easy to access engine and hydraulic sample ports, operators can quickly and efficiently conduct proactive maintenance checks, ensuring longer, reliable operation (an all too often challenge with operators completing reliable pre-start checks).

As with every article and machine considered for @ The Coalface, I believe that each OEM offers its own unique blend of qualities that, depending upon your fleet and application, can prove persuasive. Be it Caterpillar, Komatsu, Liebherr, Hitachi or any of the other manufacturers, each brand has ultimately been derived from it’s own backgrounds and philosophies and as such, rightfully developed a set of loyal follows. 

I do however admire the Japanese, their philosophy and in instances such as Hitachi, the Sogo shosha or large trading houses that underpin their heritage, offering a breadth of sector experience that span far wider than ‘just’ earthmoving machines. For those of you that are in the market for a mid-size digging machine, the Hitachi ZX890 demands your attention and should not be overlooked.


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Wine Time



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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A Dying Breed



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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Introducing the latest mining equipment



Fast Filter

A safer underground, reduced harmful emissions, and effective trapping of Diesel Particulate Filter (DPM) are all part of Aletek’s core DNA to give you the Aletek Advantage. 

Aletek DPFs are designed to trap diesel particulate matter and reduce carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons from exiting the engine. A vehicle or engine fitted with an Aletek DPF operates normally using only the heat generated in the exhaust gas to continuously burn off particulates in a continuous matter.

Chemical Control

Wilson Mining in conjunction with Weber Mining has developed a bulk handling system as a step-change improvement to handling chemicals underground. 

Traditionally the chemicals used for roof fall recovery and the stabilisation of mine strata are supplied in 20 litre drums. Several hundred drums can be used on each application which is a major logistical and manual handling exercise. Wilson Mining now supply the chemical in 1000 litre intermediate bulk containers (IBCs). Bulk handler pods have been designed to transport up to 3 x IBCs instead of 120 x 20 litre drums, resulting in no drum handling, improved ration control and improved logistics.

Relax and Refuel

Manufactured in Australia, the Banlaw FillSafeÔ Zero Range features their patented mechanical overfill protection system.

The system enables safe, high-speed diesel refuelling, and is cost-efficient to install on a wide range of vehicles, and stationary tanks. Features include a Flow Control Valve, a Level Sensor, and a Pilot Line. The Flow Control Valve closes when a Level Sensor detects that the tank is full, stopping the flow of diesel from entering the tank. Configurable to allow a choice of either an internal or external pilot line, you’ll love the FillSafeÔ Zero!

Bangin’ Bits

Epiroc’s Epilson Rotary Drill Bits is a product of extensive field experience, designed to maximise productivity and lower your total drilling costs.

The Epilson premium bits are designed with streamlined lug allowing ejection of larger pieces or rock. Ultimately, you can now look forward to faster penetration rates, longer bit life, and significantly lower costs. It now takes less time, less money and less energy to get the job done.

Tough Teeth

ESCO’s Ultralok® tooth system has now operated at quarries and construction sites around the world for over 10 years. 

Ultralok teeth and adapters are cast in a proprietary ESCO® alloy, formulated to deliver competitive industry wear life and impact resistance. The safety and reliability of the integral retention system is of top quality, featuring just one lock per tooth. You can install and remove Ultralok teeth with the simple flick of a pry bar. No hammers, no worries!

Laser Rader

The VEGAPULS 64 has high measurement certainty, even with product deposits collecting during operation. A perfect view even with condensation!

For the latest generation of radars, condensate on the sensor is not an issue. Totally unaffected by condensation or build-up on the antenna, VEGAPULS 64 accurately detects the liquid level. With the smallest antenna of its kind and exceptional focusing, it delivers outstanding performance every time. The Non-contact level measurement enables maintenance-free operation, built to last.

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