MINExpo: Back to the future post COVID-19

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MINExpo is back for 2021 after a COVID-19 induced hiatus in 2020, and despite the ongoing effects of the pandemic in the US, nothing was going to stop this year’s event from going ahead.

Given local and international travel restrictions over the last 18 months, it’s with a little jealousy that I sit at home in front of my computer, dressed in trackies and ugg boots trying to summon up the inspiration to write about the latest event in the Vegas Expo calendar.

Sponsored by the National Mining Association (NMA) and with over 1100 exhibitors from 30 countries, the event takes place over 3 days in sunny Las Vegas and promises to be a banger. It’s been five years since the last event and with this year’s focus on autonomy and the environment, it’s expected to be the biggest mining trade show in the world to-date.

If you’re like me, and a trip to Vegas seems like a bit of an impossible dream right now, here’s a sneak preview of the latest products that will be on display from industry heavyweights Sandvik, Liebherr and Komatsu.

Sandvik will be displaying its AutoMine® concept vehicle, the fully autonomous battery-electric vehicle (BEV), at the expo. Built for underground mining, the BEV features 3D environment sensing and perception. This technology enables the vehicle to perceive its surroundings and environment in 3D and react in real time, which allows it to adapt and plan its own route and to find the most suitable path even in continuously changing environments.

Sandvik will also unveil its latest battery-electric underground truck, and launch the DS412iE, its first battery-powered rock bolter.

For those that can’t make it to the event, Sandvik have created an Expo Microsite where you can stroll around a virtual booth with a 3D version of the Las Vegas exhibit. Then when you’ve had enough of eyeballing the machinery, you can have a crack at their simulation game – Service Hero. To check out Sandvik’s virtual expo booth or challenge a mate at Service Hero, go to https://rocktechnology.sandvik/minexpo

Like Sandvik, Liebherr has made accommodations for those who can’t attend in person, with exhibits, announcements, and showcases from the expo delivered via Liebherr’s website and social media channels.

Along with a VR booth for visitors to interact with Liebherr’s latest technologies, delegates will be treated to a 2,600m2 Liebherr wonderland showcasing several major pieces of equipment including the R 9150 Generation 7 (G7) 143-ton excavator, eR 776 70t 77-ton mining dozer, the T 274 336-ton haul truck, and the LRT 1090-2.1 100-ton rough terrain crane from Liebherr Mobile Cranes.

With a big focus on excavators this year, Liebherr will introduce three new diggers at MINExpo with the R 9150 Gen 7, the R 9200 Gen 7, and the brand-new R 9600. All three excavators are equipped with Bucket Filling Assistant (BFA), Liebherr Power Efficiency (LPE), and assistance systems.

BFA is the first automation product in the Liebherr hydraulic excavator portfolio and allows the operator to complete the bucket filling process automatically. LPE is an engine and hydraulic management system which reduces fuel consumption by up to 20 per cent, while the new assistance systems are advanced on-board applications designed to support the operator to become more efficient through analytics and actionable feedback.

And finally, joining the fray is Komatsu who have wholeheartedly adopted the “autonomy and environment” expo theme, this year revealing its future vision for power agnostic dump trucks and autonomous haulage retrofits for existing equipment. On display will be haulage concepts designed to prioritise emission reduction and autonomous haulage solutions.

The OEM will also preview future capabilities for remote operation of equipment, featuring hydraulic excavators and autonomous haulage. Other sustainable mining initiatives on display include the ZR122 surface blasthole drill with automated features and the WE1850 Gen 3 surface wheel loader with proven SR (switched reluctance) hybrid drive technology. The rebadged Letourneau L1850 is also rumoured to be nudging out the mechanical WA1200 as Komatsu phase out production of this machine in the wake of the Joy Global buy-out.

Also on display will be its battery hauler for underground mining powered by lithium-ion battery technology, as well as its battery-tram powered ZJ32Bi jumbo drill for underground hard rock mining. You may recall recent articles referencing Komatsu’s partnership with Proterra to develop all-electric construction equipment with a focus on lithium-ion batteries.

At the last expo in 2016, Komatsu stole the show unveiling its “Innovative Autonomous Haulage Vehicle”, so it will be interesting to see how each of the OEMs stack up in what is a high-stakes game (no Vegas pun intended) of one-upmanship.

With over 660,000 square feet of exhibitor displays, it’s anyone’s guess as to what will be the big winner of 2021, and this handful of products is a mere drop in the ocean. So given most of us will be observing from a socially safe distance of 12,000kms, it’s a pretty decent incentive to start saving the pennies toward a little “Vegas vacation” for the next MINExpo in 2025.


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Like to know more? Check out www.minexpo.com

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