Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Publication Details

Nicole Prochnau, Ross Carter and Hermann Volk, Improving Performance in Thin Seam Open Cut Mining – Application of Pick Based Cutting Technology, in Naj Aziz and Bob Kininmonth (eds.), Proceedings of the 16th Coal Operators' Conference, Mining Engineering, University of Wollongong, 10-12 February 2016, 490-499.


With the current challenges facing the Australian coal industry, a major Australian coal miner has achieved significant improvements from the implementation of a continuous mining system, a Wirtgen Surface Miner 4200 SM, at an open cut coal mine in South East Queensland. Due to the multiple thin seam characteristics of the deposit, selective mining practices are critical. This often results in decreased productivity when using Conventional Mining (CM) equipment. The Wirtgen Surface Miner (WSM) cuts, crushes and loads coal and Interburden (IB) onto a truck in a single step and thereby replaces multiple CM equipment for ripping, stacking and loading. This paper presents an in-field study, assessing the benefits gained from implementing the 4200 SM. When implementing new technology it is important to evaluate its performance compared to the existing system. The trial program was therefore structured around Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) referring to the CM system. The evaluation contains empirical assessments combined with theoretical calculations and literature research. A key challenge of the project was to compare a continuous mining system, i.e. the 4200 SM, against a discontinuous, multi-handling mining system. A commensurable evaluation of both mining systems was achieved by defining a CM-unit. Objectives of the evaluation were productivity, unit costs, Health-Safety and Environmental (HSE) performance, deposit recovery, Run-Of-Mine (ROM) coal quality and impacts on the Coal Handling and Processing Plant (CHPP). The WSM has demonstrated increased productivity, improved HSE performance, minimised loss and dilution, positive impacts on the CHPP, more consistent particle size distribution containing more target product size, as well as significant mining unit cost savings compared to the conventional dozer rip, stack and load process. On average, the mining unit costs are reduced by about 60%, considering different rock properties in coal and IB. The fuel usage per volume mined decreases even more significantly, resulting in a reduction of carbon emissions.