Features, Underground operations

Bigger, safer, better

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Epiroc is driving underground mining into the future with its Minetruck MT65 S and Scooptram ST18 S.

When it comes to a successful mining operation, it all boils down to how much, how efficiently, and how safely material can be moved. 

Epiroc has carved a legacy in the mining industry because its products embody these three pillars of success, and the Minetruck MT65 S and Scooptram ST18 S are no exception. 

Minetruck 

With a load capacity of 65 tonnes, the Minetruck MT65 S is purpose-built for larger underground mining operations. 

It has the highest payload of vehicles in Epiroc’s portfolio and, thanks to the updated drivetrain, the machine enjoys higher speeds when going up ramp and downhill, increasing the number of cycles per shift. In fact, testing shows the Minetruck MT65 S is 18 per cent more productive than the preceding model. 

Despite the increase to speed and productivity, the machine consumes roughly five per cent less fuel. With a typical operational life of more than 36,000 hours, that stacks up to a significant amount in fuel savings. 

Epiroc new technology introduction lead – material handling Cameron Kings told Safe to Work that the Minetruck MT65 S was designed to handle different kinds of tasks in an underground mine, such as decline haulage, level haulage, and tipping into ore passes and crushers. 

Another feature is the ability to be loaded by a traditional loader or mechanically controlled ore pass, which Kings said gives the machine applications at a wide range of sites. 

Epiroc complements these performance improvements with a broad range of intelligent safety features, such as hill descent assist.

“The hill-descent function is designed to control the machine while tramming down the decline,” Kings said. “As the machine approaches a decline, the system will review the ground speed, the tonnage the machine is carrying, the inclination that it’s operating on and a number of other parameters, and will automatically reduce speed if required.”

This feature means truck operators don’t have to excessively utilise the transmission retarder or service brakes as they go downhill, which can cause temperature build-up that can push a truck beyond its safe operating limits. 

Hill-descent assist utilises the MT65 S’s hydraulic retarder for majority of the braking control, which means there are no mechanical components that can wear out. 

“Hill-descent assist applies the hydraulic brakes when needed, which, from a serviceability perspective, maximises the brake life,” Kings said.

“But from a safety perspective, we now no longer have someone that could be potentially needing to ride the brakes, generating excessive heat and essentially driving the machine in too high a gear to safely traverse a decline.”

The Minetruck MT65 S also has semi-automated brake testing, which takes place during an operator’s pre-start check. This is historically a manual process, but with the MT65 S the machine takes the lead. 

“The truck will direct the operator to put their foot on the brake, move the throttle, and so on,” Kings said.  

“Meanwhile, the machine is going through and doing all its different testing. The idea of this is that it removes human error and standardises pre-start checks on such a critical part of the machine.”

The Minetruck MT65 S also has a number of other features such as automatic testing of the brake system each time the park brake is released, one-pedal drive for operator comfort, and an in-built speed limiter that can be tailored to a site’s needs. 

Typical speed limiters work by locking higher gears, but this is not the case with the Minetruck MT65 S, which can still reach higher gears when necessary, helping to maximise vehicle performance and fuel efficiency. 

The Minetruck MT65 S utilises Epiroc’s rig control system (RCS), which enables simple integration of a collision avoidance system and other technologies that communicate on protocol J1939. This flexibility allows mine sites to truly get the most out of the MT65 S. 

Scooptram 

The Scooptram ST18 S is Epiroc’s 18-tonne loader for underground operations. Excellent digging ability and high-lifting design make this machine an ideal companion to the Minetruck MT65 S. 

Packed with familiar safety functions like semi-automatic brake testing and an in-built speed limiter, the Scooptram ST18 S is designed to be as safe as it is capable. 

Kings said the Scooptram really shines with its autonomous capabilities. 

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Image: Epiroc

“The Scooptram ST18 S can be set up with Epiroc’s automation package, allowing the machine to be operated from a safe position, whether that be down at the working level or from the surface,” he said.

“This allows mines to send machines into zones that you wouldn’t want to send a worker into, such as open stopes, areas where there is a risk of inrush, rill swell, or unknown conditions. 

“On top of that, automation also spares operators from other hazards like vibration and noise.”

The Scooptram ST18 S is diesel-powered, but also comes in a battery-powered model called the Scooptram ST18 SG. These electric models help mine sites drive down carbon emissions and diesel particulate matter. 

Working in parallel with the automated Scooptram is Epiroc’s on-site safety system, which employs light barriers to cordon off the automation area. 

“Light curtains separate the area where the autonomous machines are operating,” Kings said.

“If the machine should break a light curtain, it will shut down, the brakes will come on, and it won’t be able to start again until that breach is resolved.

“By the same token, if a pedestrian breaches the light curtain, the vehicles will similarly shut off.”

Intelligent features like this have always set Epiroc apart. The Minetruck MT65 S and Scooptram ST18 S are paragons of safety and production excellence, forming the backbone of underground mining operations all across Australia and the world. 

This feature also appears in the May-June issue of Safe to Work.

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