A CONSTRUCTION project involving dozens of local companies is on track to hand over what will be the second largest operating dragline in the world and one of the largest pieces of mining equipment ever commissioned in Australia.
In December 2004, Ensham Resources, one of Queensland's largest and fastest growing thermal coal producers, commissioned Bucyrus Australia Proprietary to supply a Bucyrus 8750 dragline.
The 5,350-tonne dragline is now being assembled at Ensham's mine site, 40km northeast of Emerald in Central Queensland.
Draglines are excavating machines which use a large bucket suspended from the end of a boom, that may be 110 metres or more in length. The bucket is suspended by cables and capable of scooping up overburden as it is dragged across the excavation area.
Pontoon-like "feet" slowly propel the largest land-based machines in the world.
Draglines help reduce the cost of overburden removal to as little as one third of the cost of other open cut methods. The Bucyrus 8750 dragline at the Ensham mine will be fitted with a 143 cubic yard bucket. Large enough to scoop out enough material to fill two backyard swimming pools with one pass.
Ensham Resources and Bucyrus Australia were both determined to maximise Australian content in the dragline, particularly the use of Australian steel.
Bucyrus, which has produced some of the largest surface mining machines ever manufactured, took on the role of principal contractor and enlisted the services of a group of Australia's most experienced engineering and fabrication contractors to assist with the project.
"It is a massive co-ordination task over a two year project," Bucyrus Australia's Manager of Special Projects, Geoff Hoffman said.
“Construction of the dragline has involved nearly 3,500 tonnes of XLERPLATE steel from BlueScope Steel , ordered through OneSteel.
"We contacted OneSteel and they have a good relationship with BlueScope Steel, so we then moved on to a series of three-way technical discussions. It was a very co-operative process.
"You probably wouldn't find the steel size and grade combinations that we required in a standard catalogue, but there was excellent collaboration involving our engineering department with OneSteel and BlueScope Steel.
"In the early stages when we were exploring what was available and what the mill could produce, the BlueScope Steel technical specialists flew up to Brisbane for meetings which helped all parties.
"OneSteel worked on steel scheduling and nesting the various shapes we needed so that we could make the most efficient use of each plate. In some instances BlueScope Steel were able to modify what they could offer to meet our engineering needs."
A OneSteel project team collaborated closely with Bucyrus to find the maximum efficiency of plate allocations. The consultative approach extended to BlueScope Steel and OneSteel, to enable Bucyrus Australia to meet its project deadlines.
To maximise fabrication efficiencies and product quality, BlueScope Steel delivered all XLERPLATE steel for the dragline project to OneSteel Steel & Tube, Brisbane, for initial processing which included major weld preparation and the bevelling of plate edges.
The scheduling of manufacture for literally thousands of dragline components was organised around rolling patterns at BlueScope Steel and nesting calculations by OneSteel.
"My role has also been to co-ordinate the work of many fabricators in this process, so that everyone was aware of what they had to do and then to get them the steel which they needed," Geoff Hoffman said.
"We worked closely with OneSteel and gave BlueScope Steel comprehensive rolling priorities for the delivery of XLERPLATE steel. Throughout the process BlueScope Steel's performance has been outstanding and their collaboration with OneSteel has worked well.
The steel then moved to numerous contractors in Brisbane and Mackay. This division of work on the dragline was essential, because of the workloads being carried by engineering works around the country at the time.
Bucyrus Australia was engaged in the simultaneous production of large structural components for three other draglines for which OneSteel supplied over 1,500 tonnes of processed XLERPLATE.
"Initially we faced some transport difficulties because the eastern seaboard rail corridor was so busy in 2005," Geoff Hoffman said.
"BlueScope Steel even went so far as switching other plate deliveries for WA to delivery by sea, so that rail plate wagons could be freed up for the Port Kembla to Brisbane run.
"When we did get into a jam with some priority XLERPLATE, BlueScope Steel even organised emergency road transport to make sure the steel reached our fabricators in time. The production sequencing and delivery out of BlueScope Steel gave us everything which we needed."
Geoff Hoffman has also been impressed by the quality control which BlueScope Steel has applied to the provision of XLERPLATE steel for the project.
"There was an issue with a couple of plates," he said. "However the only reason that I am aware of that is because BlueScope Steel's own quality control systems picked that up before they left the mill.
"Through OneSteel they notified us so that scheduling changes could be made and then they rolled replacement material."
Although major component fabrication work for the dragline has now been completed and it is being assembled on site, many smaller components are still being fabricated by Bucyrus Australia's team of contractors.
The successful collaboration by BlueScope Steel and OneSteel, together with OneSteel's project management of the XLERPLATE steel supply and processing, has developed not only professional relationships but has facilitated the execution and delivery of a quality Australian project.
Bucyrus Australia is scheduled to commission and hand over the $100,000,000 dragline in December this year.