Operating up to 2km underground in one of Australia’s deepest copper mines makes for potentially tough working conditions. But Elphinstone’s partnership with WesTrac to provide state-of-the-art machinery to Glencore’s CSA Mine near Cobar meets the challenges with aplomb.
Access to modern, robust equipment that can withstand the harsh, hot underground environment and perform to high standards is front of mind for CSA Mine’s Mobile Mechanic Superintendent Peter Patton and his 88-strong team of trades and planning experts.
With more than 500 Glencore personnel on site, over 100 contractors and more than 300 pieces of mobile equipment working round the clock to produce upward of 40,000 tonnes of copper per year, quality machinery that keeps Cobar’s biggest employer running is non-negotiable.
A year ago, Peter’s search for more robust equipment that could withstand long travel distances underground, cover rough terrain and work in intense heat led him to the purpose-built Elphinstone WR810 and WR820 series supplied by WesTrac.
In the last 12 months CSA Mine has purchased eight Elphinstone machines from WesTrac’s Cobar dealership.
The machines’ superior operator cabin comfort, customisability and unique application on site had an immediate impact where tramming to the deepest reaches of the mine’s belly can take upward of two and a half hours.
“Over the last few years, we’ve definitely been in the market for more robust equipment that has good support and good parts supply in the background,” Peter says.
He adds, while there’s plenty of machinery on the market to choose from, Elphinstone’s products came to the fore when he was looking to purchase a water truck incorporating a water cannon, that he could procure locally.
Thankfully, Elphinstone’s partnership with WesTrac dealerships opened the door to Glencore’s CSA Mine team to access quality, fit-for-purpose equipment locally with high quality aftermarket support and customer care.
To meet the demanding conditions of Glencore’s CSA Mine, Peter says the water cannon needed to have the capability to access hard-to-reach areas of stopes, dislodge hang-ups that minimised water dumping and do away with techniques administered through hand-held equipment.
Enter the Elphinstone WR810 Water Cannon, the cornerstone of the WR810 series manufactured by the proudly Australian company, headquartered in Burnie, Tasmania employing up to 250 people.
The WR810 quickly proved its value on Glencore’s CSA site as an effective and safe way to overcome stope blockage and supress dust. At the heart of the WR810 is a Cat® powertrain.
It features an 8000-litre water tank and eight metre telescopic boom that carries a high-pressure water cannon operated with camera guidance from within the cab or via a remote control.
“The extendable boom means we don’t have to go anywhere near the edge of the stope, rather with an extendable boom we can push the head over with the camera on the end of it. And with the camera focus, we’re able to move the cannon around to displace hang ups one by one.”
Run direct off the power take off (PTO) unit, the 150psi water cannon can empty the truck’s 8000 litre water tank in minutes. Clever design means the tank has a port to connect mine water at the point of operation.
Within the cabin console, the cannon is touch controlled via a handheld control.
When not being used as a water cannon the machine can be used for dust suppression.
“Operators can ramp pressure up on a dial, so they can really place some water down if we’ve got high dust issues, or if we’re just doing dust suppression for the health and safety of the team they can wind it back down,” Peter says.
The first purchase led Glencore to look more widely at WesTrac’s range of Elphinstone machinery for its CSA Mine.
“From those early days, we realised Elphinstone had product we should definitely be taking a closer look at. Through the versatility of their factory in Tasmania, we have been able to customise equipment to meet the specific needs of our CSA Mine that is backed by high-quality aftermarket service.”
The next purchase was an Elphinstone WR810 Fuel and Lube support vehicle. Boasting a 6000-litre diesel tank, three 300 litre oil tanks, a 200 litre Ad-Blue tank and space to house two 44 gallon drums, a grease drum and a range of other equipment.
It was a game-changer for Peter’s team, adapted to transport Ad Blue fuel, a multitude of oils and fluids, water and other essentials through the mine’s underground network.
With training and product support provided through Elphinstone and WesTrac, Peter and his team started considering what other equipment they could order through the Cobar dealership.
“The support we had from them and the training they brought on board made us think what we would require over the next few years. We spent some time visiting local mines that had some other Elphinstone equipment and that’s where we decided we’d purchase concrete agis off them as well.”
Three WR810 6m3 Agitators commenced running at CSA Mine in early 2023 and have been a great fit-for-purpose addition to the fleet to move concrete from surface to below ground.
Delivered from local suppliers in six cubic metre road going trucks, concrete is transferred directly to Elphinstone WR810 Agitators on surface and sent straight down the decline into the mine.
The growing Elphinstone fleet at the CSA mine now also includes two WR810 Flat Deck delivery trucks and a WR820 Water Tank.
Fitted over a six-speed Cat C11 ACERT engine and powertrain, the WR820 has fast become a favourite at the mine. It is kitted with a highly targeted water delivery system and its heavier frame takes its water payload capacity to 16,200 litres.
“With the variable ratio spray heads that it’s got on it, we can spray a lot of the decline without having to refill because it can mist as a small water particulate, so we’re not just dumping gallons of water on the decline to keep the dust down,”
Elphinstone’s wide availability through WesTrac dealerships, and shared values when it comes to providing support to their customers, has established the company as a leading solution provider for underground mining services.
Founder and Executive Chairman Dale Elphinstone said customers see Elphinstone as a valued supplier that not only builds premium quality products but has a reputation for providing exceptional customer service.
“We won’t just build a product to a price. We’ll build a fit-for-purpose, quality solution that gets the job done for the customer,” he adds.
It is this alignment of philosophy and values that saw a distribution agreement struck between Elphinstone and WesTrac begin back in the 1980’s for the supply of select underground mining equipment throughout regional Australia.
According to Elphinstone Regional Sales and Support Manager Nick Furmage, one of the most compelling benefits to customers is that Elphinstone use Cat parts and components to manufacture purpose-built underground mining machines.
This is a powerful combination for customers looking to meet their part supply and servicing requirements, knowing their local WesTrac dealership has expertise spanning both renowned brands.
“Our machines are widely recognised for their robust and reliable solution for underground. When a customer sees an Elphinstone brand, they see quality Australian made and manufactured equipment. When customers buy an Elphinstone machine, it is treated in the same way as a Cat machine with very similar market agreements. We work closely with the local WesTrac dealer to provide support through the original purchase and strong after sales support.”
Nick explains WesTrac’s ability to thoroughly understand Elphinstone’s operations and the machinery it manufactures, combined with its ability to help facilitate initial introductions is what makes the partnership so successful.
WesTrac Sales Mining Sales Manager Richard Peck, who looks after all capital equipment sales for hard rock miners in New South Wales, says the long-term relationship gives customers confidence they are getting a quality product.
“Elphinstone has modelled itself like Caterpillar whereby when a customer buys a product, they sign up to the same customer value agreements and support as if it was a Cat machine. Another key benefit is Elphinstone’s understanding of Australian mining regulations and the local support customers receive when they purchase a piece of equipment.”
The appetite for Elphinstone equipment only seems to be growing in the mining sector, with the number of customers using its equipment continuing to rise.