Mining’s giant machines

Some of the machinery used on mine sites today is staggering in size. Take a look at some of the giants of mining.

Bucket-wheel excavator: Bagger 293

Bucket-wheel excavators are described by the folks at Guinness World Records as “mechanical behemoths that churn up the earth”. These machines have a huge wheel at the front that rotates, turning buckets that scoop up earth then drop it on a conveyor belt.

The big daddy of bucket-wheel excavators is the Bagger 293, which holds Guinness World Records for the largest and the heaviest land vehicle ever built. It’s 96 meters tall and 225 meters long, and needs five people to operate it. At over 14,000 tonnes, it’s not a fast mover and any roads it drives over have to be rebuilt because it literally crushes the concrete.

Haul truck: BelAZ 75710

Manufactured in Belarus, the world’s largest, highest payload capacity haul truck is the BelAZ 75710. It has a conventional two-axle setup but double the number of wheels (four to each axle) allowing it to carry a 450 metric tonne load, plus four-wheel drive, four-wheel hydraulic steering – and an understandably wide turning circle of about 20 meters.

Dozer: Komatsu D-575A-3 Super Dozer (SD)

The world’s largest dozer, this beast weighs over 150 tonnes and can move nearly 70 cubic meters of material with its standard blade. When equipped with its optional blade it can move even more – nearly 100 cubic meters of material per pass.

Wheel loader: P&H L-2350

This impressive wheel loader, which is used for surface mining, holds the Guinness World Record for Biggest Earth Mover. With a standard bucket of over 40 cubic meters and a 2,300-horsepower engine, it can carry a 72-tonne payload.

Tunnel boring machine: Herrenknecht EPB Shield S-300

Designed to dig some of the largest tunnels in the world, the EPB Shield S-300 cuts a diameter of 7 meters with its central cutting wheel, while its outer wheel increases its maximum excavation diameter to 15 meters! It’s a far safer alternative to underground blasting because it only requires a small number of operators.

Dragline: Big Muskie Bucyrus 4250-W

No longer in operation, this massive coal mining dragline operated in Ohio from 1969 to 1991, at which point various factors including running costs (it used huge amounts of electricity) and environmental regulations made it unprofitable to continue operating.

The only one of its kind ever built, Big Muskie weighed 12,000 tonnes, had a bucket capacity of 170 cubic meters and stood nearly 22 stories tall. Its bucket could hold two Greyhound buses side by side. Back in 1969, it cost $25 million (the equivalent of $167 million today) and took 200,000 man-hours to build over two years. During its lifespan, the mammoth machine shifted more than 465 million cubic meters of overburden.

It was eventually dismantled and scrapped in 1999. Its bucket is now housed at a memorial park, and the 10,000 acres of land stripped by Big Muskie was reclaimed and is now a wildlife park called The Wilds.