Whether it’s gold, diamonds or iron ore, the biggest mines in the world require the services of the biggest mining machines in the world. And when it comes to the biggest mining excavator and the planet’s biggest coal mining machine, these colossal contraptions push the limits of what’s mechanically possible.
Human beings have been mining the Earth for millions of years. The earliest stone tools date to around 2.6 million years ago, while the first mine of which there is archaeological evidence is in Eswatini. Palaeolithic humans mined an oxide compound called hematite around 43,000 years ago to make a red pigment called ochre.
Since then, the mining of metals, precious stones and fossil fuels has taken place all over the world. Inevitably as the mines have got bigger, the mining machines used in their construction and operation have grown larger and more sophisticated. In fact the airspace above the Mir mine in Siberia – which has one of the largest excavated holes in the world with a 1,200 metres diameter – had to be closed because the airflow was sucking in low-flying helicopters and small planes!
Clearly then, very big mines need very big machines. Here’s a rundown of the list of the world’s biggest mining machines.
Length: 11.7 metres | Width: 7.4 metres | Height: 4.9 metres | Weight: 152.6 tons
Built in Japan by Komatsu Ltd, the D575A-3SD – SD for Super Dozer – is the world’s biggest operational bulldozer. And when we talk about the biggest mining equipment in the world, this beast of a bulldozer is up there with the best of them.
It’s powered by a 1,150 hp 12-cylinder turbocharged engine and is used in some of the world’s most challenging terrains. The huge blade can move a staggering twenty-four tonnes of earth in a single pass.
Length: 20.6 metres | Weight: 360 tons | Power: 4,600 hp | Cost: £5 million
Fully loaded, the BelAZ 75710 is one of the largest mining machines in the world and weighs over 800 tonnes. This ultra-class haul truck is designed to move vast amounts of rubble from mine sites and is 120 tonnes heavier than the company’s previous largest model!
This most tremendous of trucks is powered by two, 65-litre diesel engines generating a combined 4,600 hp, while each tyre is four metres high.
Metso Lokotrack LT200E
Weight: 850 tonnes | Capacity: 2,500 tonnes per hour | Power: 2,150 hp
The world’s biggest mobile jaw crusher plant is a contender for the world’s biggest coal mining machine. As the huge hopper is loaded up by the excavator, an apron feeder carries the rocks to the crusher where they’re automatically separated by size. The big rocks – up to 1.2 metres – are then smashed to smithereens.
It can operate in temperatures between -35°C and +35°C meaning it can work unhindered in the world’s harshest conditions and the tracked plant has installed power of 1,600 kW, or 2,150 hp.
Shield diameter: 17.6 metres | Length: 120 metres | Weight: 4,850 tonnes
Built in 2015 by German tunnel machine manufacturer Herrenknecht, the S-880 is the largest tunnel boring machine in the world by shield diameter, and one of the world’s biggest mining machines. Also known as a mole, it was used to drill two parallel five-kilometre tunnels in Hong Kong, from Tuen Mun to the Chek Lap Kok International Airport.
The shield diameter is just ten centimetres bigger than the previous record holder, the Bertha. The Bertha itself had a shield diameter of 17.5 metres and was designed and built specifically for the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Tunnel project in Seattle in 2013.
She was shorter than the S-880 at 99 metres but heavier, weighing 6,100 tons. After the project was eventually finished after a two-year stoppage, Bertha was disassembled and much of the machine was melted and recycled.
Length: 225 metres | Width: 46 metres | Height: 94.5 metres | Weight: 14,200 tons
The world’s biggest mining excavator is also the heaviest land vehicle ever built. The Bagger 293 was built by German heavy industry company TAKRAF in the mid 1990s and is so big that its competitors pale into mere insignificance.
The bucket-wheel excavator has a twenty-one metre wheel – similar in height to a four-storey building – and each of the eighteen buckets can hold five tons of material. In a single day the Bagger 293 can remove a jaw-dropping 85,000 tons of earth and rubble, that’s the equivalent of almost 7,100 double-decker buses!
Overburden Conveyor Bridge F60
Length: 502 metres | Width: 241 metres | Weight: 13,600 tons | Wheels: 760
Designed to remove overburden – the layers of rock, soil and earth overlying open-shaft mines – the F60, so named because it can skim sixty metres of material off in each pass, has been given the moniker ‘the horizontal Eiffel Tower’ and if you look at it, you can see why.
Not only is it one of the largest mining machines in the world, it is the longest vehicle in the world and by physical dimensions – it’s over half a kilometre long – it therefore qualifies as the world’s biggest land vehicle.