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Safer underground equipment through local collaboration and innovation

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At a time when Australian manufacturing is seen as non-inventive against a flood of imported equipment for the mining sector, two Australian companies have evolved their relationship to produce innovative equipment for use in underground coal mines to fill market voids.

SOTO Consulting, a multi-discipline design engineering company and Leussink Engineering, a diverse and highly resourced manufacturer, have collaborated to develop patented technologies including the SWIFTA and a mine Tow Hitch - both of which enhance the safety of operators in underground mines.

And, according to Managing Director of SOTO Consulting, Mr Frank Soto, “With our close relationship being 100% domestic, a much higher level of safety in design and manufacture results”.

“The underground environment carries inherent risks. Quality design with excellence of build in our implements improves operator safety in this industry” said Mr Soto.

“Engineers-In-Charge are becoming aware that anything designed, developed and manufactured by the SOTO-Leussink alliance will be made completely to relevant MDG’s and Australian Standards”.

A major goal for us is for the entire mining sector to be confident that a product from the SOTO-Leussink combination will be a product made to Australia’s highest levels of quality with safety and performance paramount.

“Furthermore, after developing SWIFTA and the mine Two Hitch and placing them into the industry, it clearly illustrates to mining companies that any considerations for their own safety improvements can easily lead to an innovative and practical world-first product,” said Mr Soto.

“We actively encourage managers and engineers from the mining sector to approach us with their challenges as it could lead to an innovative development and market-first.”

The collaboration of two Illawarra-based companies in NSW has SOTO focused in the designer role while Leussink takes on the developing and manufacturing.

SWIFTA, the “Safe Wheel Installation Fitting Transportation Apparatus” is built for safer ‘wheel changes where miner’s interacting with LHD’s is a significant safety concern.

“Having the unique advantage of enabling the driver of the LHD to leave the ‘parked’ vehicle and move to the hydraulic control panel on the SWIFTA, then safely operate its functions to undertake the wheel change is a secondary feature,” said Mr Soto.

“Controlling the operation without any obstruction and removing men from potential ‘crush zone’ between the LHD and a Shuttle Car is the main feature of SWIFTA.”

So operator risk is minimal, because all manual-handling is eliminated, the operators are not exposed to the mass of the wheel protecting them from wrist, arm, shoulder and back injuries.

Towing and movement of large equipment in an underground mine is one of the most significant hazards that miners are exposed to during each shift. The mine Tow Hitch provides a better solution to this issue. By maintaining a rigid connection, it increases control of movements while towing heavy equipment underground, such as shuttle cars and other rubber tyre machinery.

Tow Hitch was developed in consultation with mine operators at Centennial Coal Myuna to allow for the controlled and efficient transport of heavy equipment from the surface to within the coal seam of the mine. This device provides superior features to other towing devices and is rated to 50T.

The unit gives the mine operator confidence and control by providing a safely rated connection that allows maximum turning, tilt and deviation capabilities ensuring safer transportation of shuttle cars and other heavy equipment underground.

Mine Tow Hitch eliminates risk of an incident through an uncontrolled movement of the towed vehicle and can reduce damage to machinery and infrastructure along the tow path.

Fewer people are required for towing operations as an optional hydraulic steering/ braking kit can be utilised by the LHD driver to control these functions for a towed shuttle car.

SOTO Consulting Engineers have been delivering advanced design solutions and successful project outcomes to heavy industrial and mineral resource clients for sixteen years.

This ‘one-stop’ consultancy provides a comprehensive range of multidisciplinary engineering services and applies technical skills through 45 highly qualified, engineers and drafting staff. Being accredited to DNV ISO9001 results in quality assured project delivery systems.

Leussink being a diversified engineering designer and high quality machine workshop capably undertakes OEM prototyping, large engineering and manufacture, on-site and off-site refurbishment and maintenance of machinery and equipment, re-engineering and high-precision work especially for mining, steel plants, public works, general engineering and heavy construction.

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