Longwall mining system for Australian mine

Jon Lawson

Caterpillar will supply a complete longwall mining system to Moolarben Coal Operations Pty Ltd, which operates the Moolarben Coal Complex on behalf of a joint venture. The complex covers 11,000ha (110km2) in the western coalfields of New South Wales, Australia. The site includes an underground thermal coal development project as well as an open cut mine that produces export-quality thermal coal.

Joint venture partners are Moolarben Coal Mines Pty Ltd (81%), a consortium of Korean companies represented by Kores Australia Moolarben Coal Pty Ltd (9%), and and Sojitz Moolarben Resources Pty Ltd (10%). The joint venture’s majority partner, Yancoal Australia Ltd, has been operating Cat longwall mining systems successfully at its Austar and Ashton mines in New South Wales and in the North Goonyella mine in central Queensland.

The Cat longwall system will be supported by WesTrac, the Cat dealer in the region, and will include 148 Cat roof supports with operating height ranging from 1.9 to 3.8m (6.2 to 12.5ft) and with support capacity of 1,329 tonnes (1,465 tons). A Cat EL3000 Shearer with total installed power of 1875kW will deliver production capacity in excess of 5000 tonnes (5,512 tons) per hour. Coal will be transported from the face with a Cat PF6 Armored Face Conveyor, 302 m (910ft) in length including a beam stage loader and belt tailpiece, with total installed power of 2400kW.

An Advanced Automation Control package will manage shearer operation. This package features Longwall Navigator, which integrates software in the gate ends and shield controllers, improving production efficiency and accuracy while minimising wear life.

The control system incorporates sophisticated algorithms that enable full 3D navigation, as well as advanced floor profile calculations and precision sensing technologies. This combination of technologies enables three features: Horizon Control, which guides the shearer over undulating seams; Extraction Control, which directs the machine to follow defined floor and roof profiles to optimise production; and Face Alignment, which keeps the face straight for consistent production with less wear of the conveyor system.

The complete system will be tested by WesTrac in New South Wales in early 2017. It is expected to be fully operational at the Moolarben mine in fourth quarter 2017.

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