Speaking at Atlas Copco’s annual briefing for the mining and construction press, held in London in early December, president of the company’s Mining and Rock Excavation (MRE) Technique business area, Bob Fassl, explained the rationale for having created the new business structure that came in to effect in mid-last year. “Construction and mining are very different businesses, and their relative strengths are dependent on the dynamics within individual markets,” he said.

To recap, from last July, all of Atlas Copco’s underground- and surface-drilling products, crushing, loading and hauling, and exploration equipment have become the focused responsibility of the new MRE business area, while its newly created construction area encompasses its interests in portable compressors and generators, road construction equipment and construction tools. In addition, the company has created new service divisions for both business areas, with the aim, Fassl said, of “improving service to the customer.”

Reviewing the performance of the MRE business area, he went on to note that in terms of orders received, mining outpaced construction by roughly two-to-one in the first nine months of 2011. In terms of regional split, the highest revenue earner for the period was Asia/Australia, at nearly 30% of the total, with North America and Europe jointly second at just over 20%. Revenues for the nine-month period of some SEK24 billion had already surpassed comparable income for the previous three years, he said, with Atlas Copco predicting full-year revenues of SEK27.7 billion ($4 billion).

Looking at the key areas that are important to the company’s customers, Fassl cited the total cost of ownership and the optimization of the full value chain as being the principal requirement from mining companies today. Equipment availability, reliability and good aftermarket service all rank highly, he added, noting that customers are now much more willing to make their needs known than used to be the case. “Either you are a partner, or you are out!” he said.

Atlas Copco undertook a survey of mining companies during 2011, and one of the clear messages to come across is the need for faster response in terms of completing orders. “In the future, it’s not going to be acceptable to offer a 12-month lead time,” he said.

Looking at recent and future introductions specifically for mining-sector customers, David Shellhammer, president for underground rock excavation, highlighted Secoroc’s T-WiZ drill steels, a new range of pedestal booms for secondary breaking and the development of the Boomer M1L development drill rig. He also gave notice of the forthcoming introduction of a new line of production drills this year.

The company claims its new XD series of extreme-duty pedestal boom systems is the only one of its kind to be specifically designed for grizzly stations in underground mines and gyratory crushers in open-pits. Key components include the pedestal boom’s flexi-base, slew mechanism, cylinders and pin-locking system which, Atlas Copco claims, are all sufficiently robust to withstand the rigors of rock breaking. Five models with two- or three-section booms are available, giving reaches of up to 11.5 m (37 ft), Shellhammer said, and mounting hammers weighing between 200 and 2,200 kg (440–4,850 lb).

Developed in conjunction with the Polish copper company, KGHM, the Boomer M1L is a single-boom rig for use in low-height development. With an overall height of 1.8 m (6 ft), it is intended for use in 2.2-2.5 m-high (7.2–8.2-ft) headings, and is also built to tougher specifications to allow it to withstand regular long-distance tramming over rough underground haulages.

The machine shares the same power-pack, drill options and other components with the existing M1D rig, but is equipped with bigger wheels, heavy-duty axles and a stronger boom to reduce strain on the carrier, Shellhammer pointed out. In addition, there is a fully enclosed, air-conditioned operator’s cabin, while power is provided by a low-emission Deutz 80 kW Tier 3-compliant engine.

Late 2011 also marked the company’s delivery of the 100th MT6020, 60-mt-capacity mine truck. Introduced in 2008, the vehicle has proved popular with Australian mining companies and contractors, with 60 trucks having been sold into that market during 2011. Planned upgrades for 2012 include the installation of a Cummins Tier 2-compliant engine that will be quieter and will give lower emissions.

Turning to surface-drilling equipment, Shellhammer made mention of the improved silencing kits that are now available for Atlas Copco’s SmartROC T35 and T40 machines. Redesigned with additional noise-absorption material and an upgraded aluminum chassis, the kits cut drilling noise from 127 to 115 dB(A). Recent field trials on the T35 and T40 have also shown that the introduction of new energy-regulation technology has cut fuel consumption by up to 50%, he said, as well as significantly reducing hydraulic oil usage and CO2 emissions. This completely new design platform automatically regulates the amount of energy required to perform any given function, he explained: “You use the power you need when you need it,” so the Tier 4-compliant engine always runs at maximum efficiency.

Looking to the future, Fassl listed hard-rock continuous mining as being one of the areas on which Atlas Copco will be focusing strongly during 2012. “We aim to have a prototype system operating this year,” he said in response to a question about the company’s previous experience with mechanized hard-rock cutting. “Like it or not, it’s coming, and we’re looking forward to it—it’s a challenge.” He may just be right.

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