World-leading mining machinery


AN ENGINEERING firm has reinvented a key piece of mining equipment in a world-first now being used by the biggest resource companies to reduce risks of injury and running costs.

Two years ago BHP Mitsubishi Alliance tasked Austin Engineering, a global firm headquartered in Brisbane, with coming up with a new design for excavator buckets which had not evolved much in nearly a century.

The request came after a worker died while cutting out a large bucket liner - steel plates that sit over buckets to take the wear and tear while excavating - for maintenance.

Austin invented and recently launched a two-piece bucket made with super steel that requires no liner at all.

Austin's global manager of market development and innovation David Pichanick said instead the lower parts of the bucket that come into contact with the ground can now be detached from the upper part and replaced.

He said the new design was also lighter, able to carry more, required no high-risk maintenance and cost less to operate.

Austin Engineering’s new liner-less excavator bucket.
Austin Engineering’s new liner-less excavator bucket.

The company is manufacturing the two-piece bucket in Mackay, where its factory employs 80 people, and it is investigating plans to expand, he said.

Mr Pichanick said Glencore was trialling the two-piece bucket, which costs about $500,000 but offers cost savings of 30 percent over its lifetime, in its Bowen Basin mines.

The two-piece bucket has also been used in Western Australia by BHP which is planning to roll it out globally, he said.

Mr Pichanick said it was huge development that would be picked up by other global miners looking for efficiencies and safety improvements.

"This is a world first, and it's being made and launched out of Mackay. It's a huge innovation," he said.

"Austin is investigating opportunities to expand in Mackay with this great product."

It has also meant Austin was now developing a new type of dump truck body to take heavier loads that the excavator can produce.

The innovation saw Austin win the Swedish Steel Prize recently - a prestigious international award Mr Pichanick says was the equivalent of the Oscars for the industry.