Draglines 101: How They Do It
In the world of mining, not all draglines are created equal. The heavy-duty machinery is used as a primary excavating tool in many surface mining operations worldwide. These highly productive and massive pieces of equipment offer the lowest material cost per ton and have an operating life span of 40 years. Pound for pound, draglines are the most productive and versatile machines in the mining industry.
How they work
Utilized in a similar fashion as cranes, draglines are used primarily for open-pit operations to dismantle and transport materials. In strip mining operations, draglines are used to remove overburden from mines. Unlike most mining equipment, the bulk of draglines are not diesel-powered. Their power consumption relies on a direct connection to the high-voltage gride at voltages of between 6.6 and 22kV. A typical dragline can use up to six megawatts during normal digging operations.
The biggest and baddest draglines ever built
The mining sector has seen its fair share of extravagant dragline machinery. The industry, which boasts some of the biggest and baddest equipment the world has ever seen, has encountered some massive draglines.
Manufactured in the United States, the Bucyrus Erie 2570-W dragline is currently the world’s largest operational dragline. Nicknamed Old Glory, the dragline is owned and operated by Peabody Energy and currently utilized at the company’s Bear Run mine in Indiana. The dragline is equipped with an impressive scooping depth of over 215 feet with a bucket capacity of 115 cubic yards. Weighing in at over 6,000 tons, the Bucyrus Erie 2570-W is over 200 feet tall with an operating radius of 300 feet.
Another Bucyrus dragline to make our list, the 8200 Walking Dragline is one of the world’s largest draglines currently in operations. Nicknamed Liberty, the massive dragline weighs over nine million pounds and operates with a 160-yard bucket. This behemoth is close to seven stories high and can move roughly 250,000 pound of earth across 200 yards in less than 60 second.
The “Big Muskie” was once the world’s largest earth moving machine. Built in 1969 and dismantled in 1991, the Big Muskie could move 39 million pounds of earth and rock every hour, reaching coal seams 100-150 feet down. Weighing nearly 12,000 tons, this dragline was 22 stories tall with a boom length of 310 feet. In May 1999, the Big Muskie was destroyed with the remainder of the dragline being used as a centerpiece to memorialize the men and women who mined in Ohio.
The future of Draglines
Like other mining equipment, the future of draglines is automation.
Despite the move towards automation, draglines have remained relatively unchanged in design and control systems. That’s all about to change in the next few years.
Companies like CSIRO in Australia, MineWare and CRCMining are working with the University of Queensland in Australia to advance dragline operations to automation. The companies are focusing on developing and implementing a new dig sequencing technology that aims to identify the best sequence of operations and movements for a dragline to excavate in the most efficient and productive way.
The technology is expected to give operators instantaneous position, digging and dumping guidance, supporting them to make critical decisions around the sequencing of excavation. According to MineWare CEO and project co-leader Andrew Jessett, dragline operations will benefit from a significant improvement in productivity.
“On draglines around the world, we continue to see inconsistencies in operator sequences and techniques, which can result in variations in productivity rates in excess of 10 percent. By giving dragline operators accurate, instant guidance, we want to close the gap on these variations and improve productivity as a direct result.”
He adds, "Consistency is very important, that range of variability between operators can be anywhere up to 10 or 15 percent and in dollar terms that's very significant.”
Although improving productivity and saving time and money isn’t a new direction for the mining industry, the new technology will help speed up the automation process for mining equipment.
Coal India Secures First-Of-Its-Kind Digital Deal
Coal India Limited (CIL) has appointed Accenture Solutions to digitally transform seven of its open-cast mines as the company strives to improve performance and increase coal production. Accenture is due to lay down digitalisation groundwork until March 2022.
The deal aims to increase coal production by 100 million tonnes (MT) by the end of FY’23. Once the minimum quantity has been surpassed, an agreed sum will be paid to the consultant for every additional sum of coal produced. This success fee will only be paid on the procurement of the minimum assured quantity.
The move will see heavy earth moving machinery (HEMM) fitted with digital sensors to monitor performance efficiency at all levels. Additionally, modern data analytic techniques aim to increase mine productivity and project monitoring through functional system management and effective observation.
An Exciting Venture For Global Mining
CIL, which aims to provide energy security in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner, hopes the move will help transform the entire business of mining operations and ensure higher volumes of coal are acquired at a lower cost.
“This is a first of its kind initiative by the company utilising digitalisation to ramp up coal output,” CIL has said.
A Digital Step Towards Enhanced Performance
Digitalisation is expected to take place at open-cast mines in Kusmunda, Gevra, Dipka of Southern Eastern Coalfields (SECL), Migahi, Jayant, Dudhichua, and Khadia of Northern Coalfields (NCL). Nearly 32% (188 MT) of CIL’s 596 MT output in FY’21 was accounted for by the seven selected mines. However, this new deal is set to see a large increase following the subsequent digital changes due to be made.
“Learning from the outcome and success of this model, we may replicate it in our other large mines,” says CIL, optimistic about the future following the modernisation of their mining.
It is expected that the move will help address roadblocks and guarantee corrective measures are put into place, ensuring the company is able to move forward with its aim of increasing output whilst remaining sustainable and eco-friendly.