Second Cat longwall shearer for Narrabri North

Whitehaven Coal’s Narrabri North mine set new production records last year, and subsequently ordered a second Cat EL3000 longwall shearer and a second Cat BSLPF6 stage loader for delivery in August 2015

Ailbhe Goodbody
The Cat EL3000 longwall shearer cutting drum

The Cat EL3000 longwall shearer cutting drum

The mine, located in the Gunnedah Basin of New South Wales, Australia, set a weekly production record of 257,000t in June 2014 and a new quarterly production record in the December 2014 quarter. The mine produced a total of 5.659Mt in 2014.

A Whitehaven production report summarised the longwall performance: “The longwall has been consistently producing coal at above the original design levels since production commenced in the second panel.”

Full commercial production from the longwall started in October 2012, and production has increased steadily from that time. The EL3000 shearer features a one-piece mainframe that is engineered to optimise productivity while ensuring reliability and durability. Ranging arms feature cast hinge points designed to handle higher cutting and haulage forces, such as 860kW cutting forces with haulage capable of 32m/min while cutting.

The new shearer and stage loader are scheduled to go into operation in Narrabri’s longwall block number 5, which is about 300m wide and will have an extraction height of 4.2m. Seam height is 8-10m, but Whitehaven determined that extending the longwall face (to as wide as 400m) will be more cost effective than would mining shorter face widths with longwall top coal caving techniques.


The Cat V Shield face alignment profile at Narrabri North

Both the first EL3000 shearer and the new one are equipped with the Cat PMC Evo-S control system and advanced automation package. In 2014, Narrabri implemented full shearer automation, which boosted longwall productivity and horizon control. Utilisation of full shearer automation - with no input from operators - is now exceeding 94% on average and is 95-100% except near gate ends.

Cat Advanced Automation Control uses state-based automation, which enables the shearer to operate precisely to the mining company’s defined production process, including direction of travel, speeds, arm height and ranging arm control modes. As many as 200 states are defined, and specific actions and conditions must be met before the system enters the next state. The system is available as shearer automation only or as integrated longwall automation. The latter offers improved face alignment and horizon control, as experienced at Narrabri.

Caterpillar stated that the greatest benefit to operators on the longwall face is the ability to stand clear of moving machinery and away from dust generation sources. The cutting process is consistent in speed and distance the shearer travels in and out of snakes - with no need to slow down to straighten or align the face as personnel control shields manually. Also, automatic horizon control delivers coal with less dilution from roof and floor material.

The new stage loader features Cat PF6 line pans, 42mm power chain and a tensionable drive frame. Cat Slacktronic, the electronic chain slack sensor and control system, helps ensure reliable operation and long chain life.

WesTrac, the Cat dealer in the region, provides sales and product support services for Narrabri’s longwall operations.

A growing series of reports, each focused on a key discussion point for the mining sector, brought to you by the Mining Magazine Intelligence team.

A growing series of reports, each focused on a key discussion point for the mining sector, brought to you by the Mining Magazine Intelligence team.


Mining Magazine Intelligence Future Fleets Report 2024

The report paints a picture of the equipment landscape and includes detailed profiles of mines that are employing these fleets


Mining Magazine Intelligence Digitalisation Report 2023

An in-depth review of operations that use digitalisation technology to drive improvements across all areas of mining production


Mining Magazine Intelligence Automation Report 2023

An in-depth review of operations using autonomous solutions in every region and sector, including analysis of the factors driving investment decisions


Mining Magazine Intelligence Exploration Report 2023 (feat. Opaxe data)

A comprehensive review of current exploration rates, trending exploration technologies, a ranking of top drill intercepts and a catalog of 2022 Initial Resource Estimates and recent discovery successes.