Komatsu Imc Dozers And Drone Technology Help Rht Contracting Revolutionise Tailings
When long-time mates Joe Riccardo, Mike Heddon and Mark Tyler set up RHT Contracting in mid-2018, they knew they needed a winning edge when bidding for contracts – so they went for the most innovative and technically advanced construction equipment available.
That saw them choose Komatsu’s intelligent Machine Control (iMC) dozer and excavator technology when bidding for a large contract to construct tailings storage facilities (TSFs) for a major mining operation in Western Australia.
Currently RHT runs four Komatsu iMC machines: two D65PXi-18 swamp dozers, a D155AXi-8 dozer, and a PC360LCi-11, as well as Komatsu wheel loaders, dump trucks, graders, and other excavators on the one site.
Not only does using iMC technology give RHT significant safety, productivity, efficiency and accuracy advantages in TSF construction, it also provides the company’s mining clients the security and peace of mind that their critical facilities have been built to the highest and most exacting standards.
To ensure their integrity and long-term performance, it’s essential that TSFs be constructed following an established process, which involves placing the dam material in 300mm thick layers; these are then compacted, and the top 100mm scarified to ensure a strong lock with the subsequent 300mm layer.
Using Komatsu iMC machines in this application, each 300mm layer can be placed, quickly and efficiently, within tight tolerances, ready for compaction.
And unlike conventional ‘bolt-on’ machine control systems, the iMC system prevents dozer blades or excavator buckets from ‘over-digging’ into the already compacted and scarified layers, ensuring they are not compromised during placing of the next layer.
When RHT was formed, Joe Riccardo, Mike Heddon and Mark Tyler (the company’s name comes from their surname initials) saw the opportunity to use Komatsu’s iMC technology to give them a real competitive advantage.
“We were convinced enough to buy a D65PXi-18 swampy and a PC360LCi-11 excavator, plus a Topcon base station.
“We also put on Fraser Mead, a young surveyor who’s passionate about technology, plus he’s really into drones and how they can really help with the whole mine infrastructure construction process.”
Mead and RHT have been trialling Komatsu’s EDD (EveryDay Drone) technology, a high precision UAV (drone) survey system providing industry-leading super-fast onsite processing using Komatsu Smartconstruction’s
Edge technology. “Initially the operators weren’t convinced about the iMC machines; they said ‘stuff this, I’m an operator, I don’t need that’, but then after a few days of seeing what the technology could do, they were going ‘wow!’” says Heddon.
“On the first dam we built, we never put a grader on it, did the whole batter with just our first D65EXi dozer and the PC360LCi excavator. I have never, ever done that before; they are exceptionally good. The dams look great, the batters look great, we’re never having to do rework, we get it right – from the start to the end. It’s always spot on.”
Following the success of its first D65PXi-18, RHT bought a second D65PXi-18 inSeptember last year, and the D155AXi-8 in February this year.
Building tailings dams for larger mines requires large amounts of earthworks – with dam walls up to 4-6km around, along with haul roads, so there’s a lot of earth to be moved. RHT’s two smaller iMC machines, with their swamp tracks, are proving ideal for the precision final trim work to millimetre level accuracy, while the larger D155AXi-8 is being used for the bulk earthworks on the dams and haul roads.
“On the newer dams we are building, we are using clay oxide materials, which are heavier to work with, which is why we brought in the D155AXi,” says Heddon. “Plus we can also use it for building haul roads. We can just map in a haul road route and design, and the machine can go out and build it, even in rock and clay.”
Heddon also says iMC ensures that rework and over-excavation never occurs – eliminating overruns and field survey work.
“With Komatsu’s intelligent Machine Control acting as a rover, we know we are always building to the exact specs; we are never over-building, and everything is always exactly level and ready for rolling.
“The other big advantage is having all the works designs already in the machines, ready for the operators as soon as they need them. And as each part of the job is completed, it can be immediately checked and audited – and the records remain readily available at any time in the future for our valued clients or geotechnical engineers.
“This technology means that the as-built track mapping is all there from the start. When you’re building a tailings dam, it’s essential that layers go down in 300mm lifts, before the next one goes on top,” he says.
“We can see all this on the computer and know that it was done precisely. So, in future if there is ever a question with a dam, we can go back in there and show that it was done exactly right. There’s no need for anyone togo in and micromanage. It’s a great system.”
Greatly increased site safety is another huge advantage with iMC.
“Safety is paramount for us. And not having people working on the ground around dump trucks, excavators, wheel loaders, dozers and other machines, is a major safety component. It’s just unreal,” says Heddon.
He’s also observed interesting reactions from operators using the iMC systems, and RHT’s clients.
“When these machines first came to site, people said it was just more shit to go wrong. But then after a few days, they all agree the benefits are countless.
“And our clients have been really impressed with the quality, efficiency and technology the iMC machines offer.
“With this technology, we have the trucks deliver to the site, the dozers push it out – and it’s so level that the trucks can keep working, whereas before we’d have to call in a grader to give the trucks access.
“Everyone is stoked with it, the whole concept. We’ve since bought a second base station, and we’re putting that in our second site.”
Heddon sees tremendous potential for Komatsu’s iMC technology in future projects.
“This is really moving into the future, that’s the only direction we want to go now,” says Heddon.
“We’re very committed to this technology. We want to see it on all our earthmoving machines, and we are very keen to see it on the larger excavators, at least up to PC490 size.”