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Hitachi’s range of mining excavators is a dominant force in Australia. With six machines in their mining line up, they have a solution for every size and type of mine, from the versatile 120t EX1200-7 excavator through to their EX8000-6 weighing in at a whopping 837t.

Available in backhoe and face shovel configurations, these machines are highly regarded and operate globally. Instantly recognisable in their distinctive Hitachi orange, you’re most likely to find the EX2600, EX3600 and EX5600 backhoes working in the Valley.

Sitting in the sweet spot of Hitachi’s diggers is the EX3600. A stalwart of the Australian mining industry, Hitachi has deployed locally over 100 of these 370t excavators since launching the EX3600-5. Now in its third iteration, the Japanese manufactured EX3600-7 is Hitachi’s latest generation machine built upon industry feedback and the Company’s learnings in the field to produce more fuel efficient product for customers.

In a development immediately broadening the appeal of this excavator, miners now have an option of power plant with both the Cummins QSKTA60 or MTU 12V4000 on offer.

Combined with improvements in the machine’s hydraulic system, operators can reasonably expect reductions in fuel consumption between 4 – 7% compared with the previous model (the EX3600-6 with Cummins engine configuration). Further, intelligent management systems including main pump electric regulators on each individually controlled hydraulic pump as well as, a hydraulic regeneration circuit, permit this machine reduced pump demand, enhancing engine power, lowering fuel consumption and increasing productivity.

All too aware of the detrimental effects of dust and moisture ingress, Hitachi has introduced slit-less solid conduit harnesses and junction boxes. In the instance of damage, electrical harnesses between junction boxes can be replaced individually, ultimately reducing maintenance time and cost. Likewise, the cab riser now features a pressuriser system to minimise dust infiltration and extend the service life of electronic components within.

Improving upon a product that customers already like, the hydraulic hoses between the boom and main piping have been rearranged from an arch to underslung configuration removing the need for clamps, reducing deflection and increasing reliability. And I could go on, with features too numerous to contemplate in this article.

Find out more today by contacting your local Hitachi representative or go online at



D11 Heaven



Next gen D11 dozers continue long history at Bengalla mine with more than 20 years and numerous additions and upgrades of the model.

In 1998, New Hope Coal’s Bengalla mine purchased its first four Cat® D11 dozers, marking the start of a long relationship with the machines.

Last month the mine took delivery of the first of four D11 Next Gen machines from leading Cat dealer WesTrac. The first two are upgrades for retiring dozers that have clocked up tens of thousands of operating hours, while another two are being purchased to replace hired machines.

Maintenance Capital and Projects Specialist Ben King has worked at the Bengalla mine for more than 15 years and is well acquainted with all the D11 models that have been put to work at the site.

“They’re a really good, reliable machine and very modular,” Ben said.

“The operators really like them – they’re a big 104-tonne machine that is suitable for ripping through hard rock seams and they’re really well supported by WesTrac.”

According to Ben, with the life of the mine now extended to 2039, the new Cat D11s will be put through their paces.

“Originally, we ran the D11s for about 5,000 hours a year and expected to get a total 50,000 hours out of them,” he said.

“With the later models we’re achieving about 6,500 hours per machine each year and do a mid-life rebuild around 7,500 hours and a full engine replacement at 15,000 hours before starting the cycle again.

“We expect to see even further increases in operational hours with the Next Gen D11s.”

“The other thing we have to consider is that because the mine is so close to town, we’ve always had to be mindful of noise so these Next Gen D11s come factory fitted with sound suppression kits.”

“From an economic point of view, they provide greater efficiency, improved productivity and a higher level of safety than their predecessors so there was no question that when we were ready for an upgrade, these were our number one choice.”

“Even with coal prices reducing, our goal is to make money on every shipment and the new D11s are helping us achieve that.”

According to Ben, the high-precision onboard Cat MineStar™ system, which incorporates a range of optional tools including Terrain for grading and Command for dozing, means operators could have their daily tasks pre-determined based on research and technical data.

“Our technical teams can upload data and instruct the operators on the most optimum ways to work for every shift,” he said.

“It provides some real productivity gains to ensure we continue to keep the cost per tonne down.”

While on holiday in the USA last year, Ben toured the Caterpillar® factory where the dozers are built and was able to see some of the machines destined for Bengalla moving through the production line.

“I’ve been involved with the D11s since I started at Bengalla 15 years ago and was closely involved in getting up the business case for the purchase of the latest machines, so I feel like they’re my babies,” he said.

“Having the opportunity to see them being manufactured was something quite special.”

WesTrac NSW and ACT Executive Officer Greg Graham and General Manager Mining Jody Scott were on site at Bengalla for delivery of the first Next Gen D11.

Greg said input from longstanding clients such as New Hope Coal had been instrumental in helping WesTrac work closely with Caterpillar to incorporate a range of previous aftermarket additions as factory fitted options.

“New South Wales has some of the most stringent safety compliance requirements of any mining jurisdiction in the world,” Greg said.

“For that reason, WesTrac and our clients have worked closely with Caterpillar to see a number of features being incorporated into the equipment design rather than added later.”

Jody said some of those options included fire suppression systems and the ground-level electrical centre. “Fire is one of the biggest safety issues on NSW mine sites and those in other states,” he said.

“Incorporating these systems with OEM input is a significant advantage when it comes to robust performance and rapid response in the event of an incident.”

“Likewise, if clients can opt for ground-level electrical controls to be factory fitted to new equipment, there’s a greater level of convenience and assurance than if they are fitted later.”

IMG: Adam Freeman (Bengalla – Mobile Maintenance Superintendent), Simon Allan (WesTrac NSW – Mining Support Manager), Warwick Gloster (Bengalla – Maintenance Manager), Greg Graham (WesTrac NSW/ ACT – CEO), Cam Halfpenny (Bengalla – General Manager), Jody Scott (WesTrac NSW / ACT- Mining General Manager), Gary Rayner (WesTrac NSW- Mining Business Manager), Ben King (Bengalla – Maintenance Capital and Projects Specialist) at the delivery of a new Cat D11 Next Gen dozer

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Belly Dumper



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


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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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