Challenging convention

Global Surface Mining is using its technical expertise and the equipment traditionally used in surface mining to make a big impact in the Australian civil construction space.For over a decade, Wirtgen surface miners have been utilised on Australian mine sites across the country – providing a unique alternative to conventional mining methods involving drilling and blasting.

Global Surface Mining (GSM) has established itself as a prominent figure in the Australian mining sector, having been one of the first companies in the country to import and operate the Wirtgen 2500 Surface Miner.

With a total fleet of 21 surface miners, privately owned company GSM owns the largest fleet of 2500SM machines in Australia. With a cutting depth of 0-600 millimetres and a cutting width of 2.5 metres, the machine is a versatile and valuable asset to the business, which is also part of the Global Civil and Mining Group.

With an eye to further expand its reach into the Australian civil construction market, GSM sought to utilise the Wirtgen surface mining technology in its fleet, but in a new and unique way.

“Over the past couple of years, the business has been undertaking a high level of civil works. We’re continuing to move more into that space, so we wanted the right equipment to help get us there,” GSM Business Development Manager Mark Webb explains.

Like mining operations, Mr. Webb says excavation work on various civil sites has traditionally opted for drill and blast methods, or multiple road headers or excavators to undertake work. Utilising their expertise in surface mining and to give themselves a point of difference and improve on-site efficiency, the team sought to transfer the capabilities of its established Wirtgen 2500SM to the civil construction sector.

“We knew the technology would work in civil application – it has its benefits over drill and blast methods, especially as we’re working quite close to residential homes and nearby infrastructure on a number of projects,” Mr. Webb says. “The fact that we have less machinery onsite boasts a number of safety and cost benefits on a project too.

“There are a limited number of these specific models around the country, so it’s quite unique for us to use it on a civil site.”

Mr. Webb says GSM has had a strong relationship with Wirtgen for nearly 15 years, adding that the manufacturer has been really supportive of this new application of its surface mining technology.

“The 2500SM’s production rate is on the higher end of the spectrum, compared to conventional construction using roadheaders and excavators,” he explains.

The 2.50-metre cutting drum unit is tailored to the specified application and has a cutting depth of up to 600 millimetres. “Because the machines can be fitted with GPS, it ensures we’re cutting accurately to line and level,” he adds.

“It also reduces the amount of equipment on site significantly,” Mr. Webb says, adding that having one piece of plant excavating material provides a number of safety benefits to workers onsite.

GSM has successfully used the Wirtgen 2500SM technology on a number of civil projects across the country, including the recent NorthConnex in Sydney.

The company was subcontracted by the Lendlease Bouygues Joint Venture to excavate (cut and cover) the exit ramp to the M1 from the 9-kilometre tunnel linking the M1 at Wahroonga to the Hills M2.

The client wanted a cost and time-efficient solution, which GSM delivered through the 2500SM.

Due to the proximity of the running M1, concrete piles and nearby residences, the solution needed to be environmentally friendly and safe.

The 2500SM worked within a 250-metre-long by 12-metre-wide area, progressively milling the sandstone up to the edge of the tunnel exit while working closely with other plant for the material to be removed and used as fill. The GSM team also fitted the surface miner with a waterless dust control system to meet environmental requirements.

Mr. Webb says nearly 15,000 cubic metres of sandstone was excavated from site by the machine.

The business has utilised the versatile 2500SM on a number of other civil applications, including trenching for stormwater lines, road realignments and duplications and excavation for subdivision developments.

“We undertook work excavating stormwater trenches at a new subdivision in Melbourne’s west, which was very close to existing housing. Because we used the 2500SM rather than drill and blast, it was a good option for reducing noise levels, given our proximity to residential housing.”

GSM mobilised the 2500SM, carrying out 21 days of milling in a number of applications, including rock excavation, trenching and road boxing.

Mr. Webb says the surface miner proved itself in a range of conditions including wet clays, transitional clay/boulders and hard basalt rock, and milled, on average, 112 cubic metres of material per hour.

The company has completed similar subdivision projects in Victoria and Queensland using the surface miner with optimal results.

“We excavated about 75,000 cubic metres of sandstone at the new Jimboomba subdivision in Queensland and the by-product manufactured from that was used as fill onsite,” he says, adding that the cost benefits of using the machine in these applications have been exceptional.

Mr. Webb says the productivity benefits of the Wirtgen surface miner, coupled with the positive feedback from clients on these civil applications, have given GSM assurance that they are leading the way in challenging convention.

“With our machines, we’re working in every state in Australia. We’re definitely looking to keep pushing these machines in the civil market and will continue to prove the production and cost benefits of the surface miner to our clients.”

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