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Mine Haul And Transport: Diesel Times

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"August 10, 1893, Rudolf Diesel's prime model, a single 10-foot iron cylinder with a flywheel at its base, ran on its own power for the first time. Rudolf Diesel spent two more years making improvements and in 1896 demonstrated another model with the theoretical efficiency of 75 percent, in contrast to the ten percent efficiency of the steam engine. By 1898, Rudolf Diesel was a millionaire. His engines were used to power pipelines, electric and water plants, automobiles and trucks, and marine craft, and soon after were used in mines, oil fields, factories, and transoceanic shipping", wrote Mary Bellis in About.com_Inventors.

The invention of diesel engines has been a real revolution, changing completely the way to address the haul and transport challenges in the mining industry, especially underground.

Diesel And Tires: The Ideal Conjunction

Interestingly, at the same period was invented the rubber tire. The combination of rubber tires with diesel powered vehicles revolutionized entirely the surface mining logistic chain.

As already detailed in a previous article, "a complex logistic chain starts as soon as a rock volume is blasted. Fragments are first loaded into trucks by shovels or draglines to be carried to crushing and milling installations where their size will be reduced (the so-called comminution) and homogenized".

In a detailed Analyses of Diesel Use for Mine Haul and Transport Operations, the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism of the Australian Government explained that "trucks are used to haul overburden and ore from the pit to a dump site, stockpile or to the next stage of a mining process" and that "their use is scheduled in conjunction with other machinery, such as excavators, loaders and diggers, according to the site layout and production capacity".

Trucks and trains can be found now both in underground and in surface mining. They "constitute one of the key diesel-using activities"

From The Mine To The Port

As the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism of the Australian Government wrote: "Many of Australia’s mining operations are located a substantial distance from the nearest port. Rail transport is often used to transport bulk materials, such as iron and coal, from the mine site to a port for export. In the case of most iron ore mining operations in the north-west of Western Australia, mining companies have built and own the railways which they use to transport product from the mine-site to the port."

Lots of mining regions are remotely and inland located. Rail transport is now a widely spread transportation method. The Mauritania Railway is a good example of that trend, having been built for the unique purpose of transporting the iron ore to the port of Nouadhibou.

Diesel Haul And Transport Economics

Relieving human efforts and avoiding the use of animal power, diesel engines also deeply change the economics of the mining industry.

Several of the most important key process indicators (KPIs) for the quarrying and the mining industry focused on diesel engines fuel consumption, on the maintenance and wear and tear cost or on the tire cost.

Fuel Consumption is part of all quarrying and mining Environmental Compliance Indicators. Distance optimization (pit design, mobile or semi mobile crushing equipment), roads redesign, fuel-efficient driving training, improved equipment servicing to minimize downtime, increasing alternative / Biomass Fuel Rate vs. thermal energy consumption, the introduction of electric overhead trolley-assist dump-trucks and global energy efficiency policy through modern equipment and technology are some of the strategies currently in use in the industry to drive this huge portion of the mining costs.

The development of unmanned vehicle aims to tackle the problem from another angle: the driver’s costs.

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