Westgold Resources and WestTrac are the first in the world to put the Cat R2900 XE Hybrid to work
In a world first, WA-based gold miner Westgold Resources and leading Caterpillar equipment supplier, WesTrac, will put a new diesel-electric hybrid underground loader to work for the miner’s operations in the Midwest. Westgold’s recent purchase of the new Cat R2900 XE underground loader is focused on delivering a range of productivity, efficiency and sustainability improvements at the miner’s Starlight mine in the Midwest region of the United States. State of Washington.
The new diesel-electric hybrid powertrain combines a Cat C15 engine with a Cat switched reluctance electric drive system, which has already been applied on surface machines such as the 988K XE wheel loader.
The new Cat R2900 XE, which was handed over to Westgold at an event at WestTrac’s Washington headquarters, is the first delivery of this loader worldwide. The machine will be available in the wider Australian market in early 2023. Among the promised benefits, manufacturer Caterpillar says the diesel-electric hybrid combination offers an improvement of more than 31% in fuel efficiency, as well as maintenance costs. reduced and greater productivity compared to previous models.
According to Westgold Managing Director Wayne Bramwell, innovation is one of Westgold’s main drivers for improving mine productivity and profitability. “Westgold, as an owner-operator, has a history of implementing new technologies and equipment that can deliver greater operational efficiencies and lower costs in our WA operations,” he said.
“The company has quietly piloted and then commercialized innovative solutions for many years in our underground mines and the acquisition of the new R2900 XE continues this approach. We don’t celebrate our successes enough and tend not to make much noise about them, but we constantly challenge our employees and key business partners to find ways to make the business more sustainable and efficient. He said that, like most Australian miners, ESG was a critical and growing aspect of Westgold’s business, being important to shareholders, staff and other stakeholders.
“Our approach in this area is to look for incremental changes that can reduce our diesel consumption and emissions. Continuously updating our extensive mobile fleet with the latest, lower-emission and more efficient equipment allows us to achieve multiple benefits at once.
While being a frontrunner when it comes to implementing new technology may not be the preferred path for some mid-tier miners, the company says it has approached being the first Cat R2900 XE user to the world as a natural progression as it builds on its fleet of 18 of the R2900 XE’s predecessor, Cat R2900G loaders.
Westgold chief operating officer Phillip Wilding said the company had been a test bed for a number of competing machines but with the need to add another underground loader to Westgold’s fleet , efficiency, reliability and proven performance were the main deciding factors. “The R2900 XE is built on the Caterpillar platform, and the Cat R2900G is a proven tool,” said Wilding.
“Our Bryah and Murchison operations are several hundred miles from a service center, so we need equipment that we know is tough and reliable, and Caterpillar ticks those boxes.”
In addition to reported fuel efficiency gains, the Cat R2900 XE offers more than 35% improvement in breakout force, increased total payload of 18.5 t and more than 50% improvement in acceleration in the 0-20 km/h range compared to the Cat R2900G.
Caterpillar Product Application Specialist Gordon Wilkin said the Cat R2900 XE was the result of continued customer and industry demands for cleaner, yet more productive equipment that lowers total cost of ownership. “When it comes to improving equipment durability, and especially in underground mining applications, Caterpillar should consider reducing machine emissions, including exhaust, heat and noise, while guaranteeing improvements in safety and productivity,” said Wilkin.
“We are also constantly innovating to offer further reduction in operator fatigue, reducing maintenance requirements and automating functions to lower total cost of ownership. Caterpillar continues to develop and expand the line of electrically powered equipment to meet many of these requirements.
WesTrac Executive General Sales Manager Geoff Bailey said it was exciting to see the world’s first collaboration take place in WA. “We often see these kinds of first use milestones happen in North America and with top tier miners. The fact that we are deploying the world’s first Cat R2900 XE to go into production with Westgold, which is a WA mid-tier gold miner, highlights a number of things. First, the WA mining sector is the most innovative in the world and will readily adopt new technologies if there are sustainability and productivity gains to be made. And second, that innovation and first use in production is not just the domain of large operators. As a medium-sized owner-operator, Westgold has several operations that will certainly see the Cat R2900 XE put to the test.
Bramwell and Wilding agree, saying the machine will be tested extensively in blasting and caving applications. “Westgold miners are eagerly awaiting this machine and ready to put it into operation,” Bramwell said. The Cat R2900 XE underground loader is initially heading to Westgold’s Fortnum gold mining operation, 150km northwest of Meekatharra, for use in the Starlight underground mine.