Building strong partnerships at Black Thunder coal mine
Arch Coal relies heavily on a fleet of Cat® equipment to maintain the high level of production it needs from its Black Thunder coal mine, which supplies the coal for more than 100 power plants in the United States. To meet that goal, the mine also relies heavily on its partners — like Caterpillar, Cat dealer Wyoming Machinery Company, and equipment solutions provider Ground Force.
Delivering high availability
Wyoming Machinery provides the maintenance and repair services necessary to keep machines running and costs consistent. Many of Black Thunder’s Cat machines are supported through a Maintenance and Repair Contract that guarantees the high machine availability the mine demands.
“Every second that a machine sits down, that’s a second that they’re not making money off of that machine,” says Larry Sjolin, Wyoming Machinery’s Director of Product Support.
While Black Thunder has a Maintenance and Repair Contract for some of its equipment, including the 123-truck haul fleet, the dealership prides itself on being able to work to whatever level the mine desires as a partner. “We help them transfer whatever risks they’re interested in transferring, and working as a partnership to achieve their goals — to run the mine the way they choose to run it, at the lowest possible cost,” says David Simonson, a Wyoming Machinery Mining Representative.
Black Thunder values that partnership approach. “Our relationship … is very close,” says Colter Burleson, Predictive Services Supervisor at Black Thunder. “It’s important for us to have that relationship because we’ve got a vast number of machines. So to be able to tackle any of the issues that could arise with so many pieces of equipment, you need help and support. And we get that support on a daily basis. During every shift we’ve got people here from Wyoming Machinery to help support this operation.”
About 60 dedicated Wyoming Machinery technicians work on site. They support the haul fleet, which includes 793C and 783D mechanical drive trucks and 795F AC and 793F AC electric drive models, as well as draglines, shovels dozers, excavators, wheel dozers and motor graders.
Contributing to productivity
The productivity and profitability of Black Thunder mine also depends on another partnership — one that includes Caterpillar and Wyoming Machinery but also brings in solutions provider Ground Force. An Original Equipment Manufacturer for the mining industry, Ground Force manufactures support equipment such as fuel & lube and cable reel trucks that are critical to the performance of every other piece of equipment on site.
Leveraging Cat bare chassis machines, Caterpillar OEM Solutions group worked closely with Ground Force and Wyoming Machinery to design and support the entire fleet of Ground Force trucks working in the Black Thunder mine. These trucks keep the production machines supplied with fuel and lubricants as well as electrical power.
Ground Force fuel/lube trucks offer lube and fuel in one complete package rather than separate trucks for lube, fuel and other fluids. This dramatically reduces operating costs because fewer vehicles and operators are required. Black Thunder operates five of these trucks, including a 773, 777 and three 789s. The larger 789s carry as much as 26, 500 liters (70,000 gallons) of diesel fuel each to refuel haul trucks, dozers, excavators, wheel dozers, motor graders and other mining equipment.
“The operators enjoy having everything in one shot—grease, fuel, antifreeze— it’s all right there,” says Burleson. “The Ground Force trucks get around better than a smaller unit or a single-serve unit would. And the operators feel more comfortable driving on narrow roads or steep grades because they know their truck can handle it.”
When it comes to powering the mine’s draglines and mining shovels, Black Thunder relies on Ground Force cable reel trucks, which combine a Ground Force cable reel system with a specially modified Cat 740B Articulated Truck.
The cable reel trucks enable precise cable placement thanks to the 740B’s articulation, rotating reel turntable and rear-view cameras. The Cat engine, power train and six-wheel drive deliver reliable power, traction and maneuverability in the varying underfoot conditions and long grades encountered in the mine.
These Ground Force trucks are essential to keeping the site running smoothly. And Wyoming Machinery provides the maintenance and repair necessary to ensure they are up to the task.
I’ve worked with Caterpillar and Wyoming Machinery ever since I was hired here,” says Burleson. “And as far as working with the OEM it has been a good experience. They provide great service. The parts availability is wonderful. If we need parts they have them there. If they don’t have them there, they’ve got them available somewhere close for us in a very timely manner.”
Building a partnership
Black Thunder, Caterpillar, Wyoming Machinery and Ground Force are four partners united in a common goal: the productivity and profitability of Black Thunder mine. When the mine succeeds, its partners succeed as well.
“Wyoming Machinery can’t be successful … the customer can’t be successful, unless we have that strong partnership,” says Sjolin. “And that’s really where it starts. We’re on their site, working side by side with their people. We work together and they get the most out of their machines … and working together is the only way to do that.”
Jared Carr, Wyoming Machinery’s Contract Operations Manager, gives credits to all of the individuals working together at one time — from dealer technicians to Ground Force and Caterpillar employees to the mine site’s own workers. “Without the people, you just can’t be successful,” he says. “It’s only through that partnership that you can be this successful.”
“It’s our machine together,” says Sjolin. “And if it doesn’t run like we expect it to run, or the customer needs it to run, it’s a black eye on all of us.”
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