Caterpillar will supply a complete longwall mining system to Moolarben Coal Operations, which operates the Moolarben Coal Complex in the Western Coalfields of New South Wales (NSW) on behalf of a joint venture. The world-class complex covers 11,000 hectares and includes an underground thermal coal development project as well as an open cut mine that produces export-quality thermal coal.

A Cat longwall mining system with shearer and roof supports.

Joint venture partners are Moolarben Coal Mines with 81%, a consortium of Korean companies represented by Kores Australia Moolarben Coal with 9% and Sojitz Moolarben Resources with 10%. The joint venture’s majority partner, Yancoal Australia, has been operating Cat longwall mining systems successfully at its Austar and Ashton mines in NSW and in the North Goonyella mine in central Queensland.

The Cat longwall system will be supported by WesTrac, the Cat dealer in the region, and will include 148 Cat roof supports with operating height ranging from 1.9 to 3.8 metres and with support capacity of 1329 tonnes.

A Cat EL3000 Shearer with total installed power of 1875 kW will deliver production capacity in excess of 5000 tonnes per hour. Coal will be transported from the face with a Cat PF6 Armored Face Conveyor, 302 metres in length including a beam stage loader and belt tailpiece, with total installed power of 2400 kW.

An Advanced Automation Control package will manage shearer operation. This package features Longwall Navigator, which integrates software in the gate ends and shield controllers, improving production efficiency and accuracy while minimizing wear life. The control system incorporates sophisticated algorithms that enable full 3D navigation, as well as advanced floor profile calculations and precision sensing technologies.

This combination of technologies enables three features: Horizon Control, which guides the shearer over undulating seams; Extraction Control, which directs the machine to follow defined floor and roof profiles to optimize production; and Face Alignment, which keeps the face straight for consistent production with less wear of the conveyor system.

The complete system will be tested by WesTrac in early 2017 and is expected to be fully operational at Moolarben in the fourth quarter of 2017.

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