Elphinstone, the most successful name in Australian-produced underground mining equipment, has developed a range of heavy-duty hard rock support vehicles that continue the company’s well-known 45-year legacy.
Based in Burnie, Tasmania, Elphinstone is an industry-leader in the design, manufacture and support of quality equipment for the global underground, and surface mining industries.
The company specialises in underground support vehicles comprising graders, water cannons, water tanks, agitators, scissor lifts, delivery, and fuel and lube trucks, with more variants planned for future development.
The WR820 range of underground specialised support vehicles includes a 10m³ and 8m³ agitator, and a 16,000-litre water tank fitted with rear and side water sprays for dust suppression.
Headlining the range is the Elphinstone WR820 Agitator 10m³, specialising in the bulk transport of concrete to backfill voids, continuous pours and construction.
The agitator bowl has a guaranteed maximum capacity of 10m³, mixing wet or dry products with variable speed control.
The robust, heavy-duty design of the WR820 utilises high-tensile steel to reinforce the frame in high stress areas.
The frame includes belly guard access and front suspension A-frame, with Caterpillar nitrogen-charged suspension cylinders, providing controlled axle oscillation and vertical dampening.
Elphinstone Australasia regional sales and support manager Tim Waller told Australian Mining the WR820 platform shares its design origin with the Cat AD22 underground haul truck which features the Cat C11 engine and powertrain.
The engine and associated powertrain provide haulage speeds on grade equivalent to production equipment, resulting in increased productivity across the mining fleet.
“Ensuring haulage trucks are not held up by support equipment travelling in the mine is paramount to the productivity of the mine and safety of the operator,” Waller said.
The C11 engine is also found in several other Caterpillar products and applications.
Component commonality shared across many applications, provides the highest level of reliability and durability, as well as superior parts availability and product support worldwide through the Caterpillar Dealer Network.
“This allowed us to design and manufacture a range of larger underground support machines such as the WR820 10m³ Agitator, WR820 8m³ Agitator, WR820 Water Cannon and WR820 Water Tank,” Waller said.
Safety is one of the most important aspects of any piece of mining equipment, and the WR820 is engineered according to Australian and International Standards to ensure that it complies with all relevant safety requirements.
One of the most important safety features of the WR820 is the braking system.
The WR820 is fitted with heavy-duty service brakes and an integrated automatic engine retarder and exhaust braking system which provides confidence to the operator when hauling downhill into the mine.
Other safety features include fuel water separators made of non-flammable material, firewalls and heatshields, machine interlocks, centralised isolation points, and an optional integrated fire suppression system.
Handrails and steps are designed in accordance with safety regulations, and all handrails are painted green and positioned for three-point access to the cab and other areas of the machine.
Also integrated into the WR820 is a standard ROPS/FOPS (roll-over protective structure/falling object protective structure) in both open cab and the optional enclosed cab configuration.
“All machines are comprehensively tested at the Elphinstone test facility to ensure the machine is fully operational and all safety systems are functioning as designed,” Waller said.
Onboard machine diagnostics allow operators or technicians the ability to rapid fault-find, increasing the availability and productivity of the machine.
Operator comfort and ergonomics are also important to the productivity of the machine. To be able to operate at higher speeds the operator needs to feel safe, secure and comfortable.
“Combined with the front suspension and optional air-ride seat, the ergonomic, user-friendly intuitive controls, and excellent visibility provide unrivalled comfort for the operator,” Waller said.
Domestically, the WR820 Agitator 10m³ is a proven performer with greater than 15 machines operating on sites throughout Australasia.
Large mines and high-production requirements mean miners are seeking high-productivity solutions where a single machine can replace multiple machines in the same application. This reduces mine congestion, operating costs, and environmental impact.
With the world’s biggest mining companies pledging to cut carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050, Elphinstone’s is seeing a growing trend towards battery electric vehicles (BEV).
Elphinstone sees a big future for battery-powered underground machines, but says the race is on to develop a sustainable BEV solution as technology develops at a rapid pace.
“Elphinstone are currently on the battery-electric vehicle journey, after receiving a Federal Government grant to develop BEV solutions on our current machine platforms,” Waller said.
Elphinstone has formed an experienced and capable BEV development team and foresees the design and testing of an Elphinstone BEV mining support vehicle prototype in early 2024.
This feature appeared in the May issue of Australian Mining.