REMOTE QUEENSLAND SILICA MINE GOES FOR KOMATSU AFTER RIGOROUS ASSESSMENT
FOLLOWING AN IN-DEPTH ASSESSMENT OF MACHINE PERFORMANCE AND RELIABILITY, ALONG WITH CUSTOMER SUPPORT, BACKUP AND PARTS AVAILABILITY INCLUDING TALKING TO OTHER CUSTOMERS IN THE REGION CAPE FLATTERY SILICA MINES, LOCATED ON A VERY REMOTE SITE 220 NORTH OF CAIRNS, RECENTLY PURCHASED TWO KOMATSU WA500-6 WHEEL LOADERS.
The two loaders, which replace loaders of another make, are used for loading and transporting fine silica sand, used for the manufacture of high-quality glass, from the sand dunes to mining bins after which the sand is conveyed to the mine's processing mill. The processed sand is then transported to markets throughout Australia and around the world, via deepwater jetty for ship loading.
Cape Flattery Silica Mines is the largest global exporter of silica sand and has the highest production of silica sand of any mine in the world. Its extraction process involves mining the sand down to ground level, using the loaders to carry the sand from the dune to the mining bins typically a distance of around 50 m. The operation runs 24 hours a day.
Cape Flattery Silica Mines was established in 1967, and purchased by Mitsubishi Corporation 10 years later. Employing 90 people, it mines sand consisting of 99.9% pure silica, with the total estimated resource on the 63 sq km site being over 200 million tonnes. Access to the site is by barge or aircraft, so machine reliability and support are critical, according to the mine's general manager Garry (Bart) Bartholdt.
"We looked for the best value for-money loaders on the market, along with backup service, and Komatsu came through with flying colours," he said. "We went into a fairly lengthy investigation into the major players in loaders. "This included inspecting their premises, their spare parts, their stores, having discussions not only with their sales reps, but also their managers and their people on the floor, plus we had a look at what sort of service they provided for other customers in the North. "We also sent two of our personnel away, an operator and a diesel Fitter, to trial the loaders then based our decisions on their comments and all information gathered from the inspections and other customer feedback," said Bart.
Since purchasing the machines, in November 2011, he said their performance had been excellent. "We've had no problems at all. And it's not only the performance of the machines, but also their economy my word, it's good. "Currently, we are looking at increasing our production by an extra 200 tonnes an hour, and with these machines, it's well within their capability to achieve that."Bart said the information provided through Komatsu's KOMTRAX remote monitoring system was proving very beneficial to the operation.
"The regular monthly KOMTRAX information that is e-mailed through to us gives our maintenance team a good overview, not only of the machines but also their operators, particularly how the operators are treating the machinery. "We have found that a real benefit," he said.
Operator response to the new loaders has also been good, with Komatsu sending operator trainer Simon Barrow to the site for over a week. "Everybody here with a loader ticket was taken through the familiarisation and training program, and they all said it was excellent. "We are more than happy with the Komatsu equipment and that's why we are considering another WA500-6, plus a smaller loader and an excavator as well," Bart said. One interesting thing about this application is how Cape Flattery treats its tyres: due to the nature of the very fine silica sand, virtually all the tread from the tyres is ground off. "This was something we specified, much to the disgust of everybody from Komatsu I think," said Bart.
"Because we are working in a very fine sand in the dunes, if we ran with a full-tread tyre, the loaders would just tend to bite and dig themselves in, so we run with pretty much a bald tyre at very low pressures. "It's just shredded down to 10% tread, and after that we really don't get any further wear."