Miller Argent invests in mining innovation with Cat MineStar


Robert Jones Operations Director talks about how the site and equipment is run Seven years and many, many tonnes of coal later and the 367-hectare Ffos-y-fran and Reclamation Scheme near Merthyr Tydfil, operated by Miller Argent, continues to push the boundaries in opencast mining.

The latest innovation to arrive onsite is a Cat D9T dozer, sporting a specialist sound suppressed undercarriage, which includes a rubber and metal composite idler and new sprocket, specially fabricated in the US to reduce noise. The first of its kind in the UK, the Cat D9T joins Miller Argent’s comprehensive fleet of Caterpillar equipment that continues to develop, under the watchful eye of MD, Neil Brown.

“When you are dealing with setting up and managing a brand new site like Ffos-y-fran for a period of 17.5 years, it is vital that you build flexibility into every part of the procurement process, particularly when it comes to site equipment. Only by doing this can you take advantage of new innovation and be open minded when it comes to trialling and adopting new technology.

“Since our mobile plant fleet landed in June 2007 a lot has changed. One of the first things we did was implement the construction of a dedicated workshop, which was part of the initial proposal from Finning to support the fleet over the lifetime of the project. This state of the art onsite facility is capable of servicing all of our equipment, including our fleet of Cat 777 trucks. Due to our location this was essential to delivering maximum uptime and to date thousands of man-hours have been utilised in maintaining the fleet.

Data Mining

“For me the most important part of our drive for efficiency has been the continued development of site and equipment monitoring. We have recently implemented the Cat MineStar system, enabling us to have machine performance at our fingertips and further enhance productivity.

“Like any new tool, it took time for the team to get used to the system, but because it’s specifically designed for mining operations the intuitive nature of MineStar makes it really quite simple. An example I often use is the assignment of equipment tool, which detects when you have machines idling too much, enabling you to reassign units to different applications to boost productivity.

Similarly, with built-in machine health monitoring, we are able to see when a unit develops a problem or needs preventative maintenance, allowing us to change workshop schedules accordingly.

“New machines brought into the fleet like the new Cat D9T are simply entered into the system and the machine configurations are pre-populated.

“With MineStar we get real time data, so don’t have to wait for a daily report to see what is going on at any particular time. MineStar is also linked with Finsight, so the team can support and alert us to any potential issues.

“Having used data monitoring for some time, I can safely say that the information gathered and resulting actions taken to improve productivity have really paid off. This is why we are so keen to take advantage of new innovation, as we know significant savings can be achieved throughout the remaining 10 years of this project.

A Community of Change

“Innovation is not just about increasing productivity, it is also about being at the forefront of a more community and sustainably focused approach to mining. The result is a better and safer environment for the local community, but like any project of this type we have to move large volumes of earth. The goal is to do this as efficiently and quietly as possible, with minimal disruption to local residents.

“To achieve this we will continue to innovate and invest in noise reduction technology, whether retrofitted, or with new equipment like the Cat D9T. Every step of an innovation focused operation can make a difference, but you have to be open to new ideas and embrace change.”