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Issue 10:

Russian coal mine continues to set production records: Credit given to skilled team and new high-performance machines

On Jan. 12, 2013, Russia’s Tugnuysky coal mine delivered its 100 millionth tonne (111 millionth ton) of coal — adding another chapter to the history of this nearly 30-year-old site and setting yet another record for the Russian coal mining industry.

Owned by the largest hard-coal mining company in Russia, the Tugnuysky mine is equipped with high-performance machines and takes advantage of the latest mining technologies. It’s no surprise that world drilling and stripping records were set here in 2012.

The coal mine and the mining town of Sagan-Nur were founded in 1984 in the area called Olon-Shibir, which is located on the border between Buryatia and Chita region. Officially, the Tugnuysky coal mine was created on Jan. 1, 1989, by Order No. 75 issued by the USSR Ministry of Coal Industry on Jan. 24, 1989.

Today, Open Joint Stock Corporation (OJCS) Tugnuysky mine is the most promising coal producer within Siberian Coal Energy Company (SUEK). Tugnuysky mine was merged into OJSC SUEK in 2001. Since then, the coal mine had been highly modernized, which made it possible to improve efficiency and increase output from 5.3 million tonnes (5.8 million tons) to 12.5 million tonnes (13.8 million tons) of coal per year.

Setting records

In addition to this year’s record-setting production figures, the Tugnuysky coal mine can claim several other achievements that not only set the standard for Russia but that are recognized world-wide.

“These record-setting achievements give the team at Tugnuysky mine a sense of joy and pride,” says Valeriy Kuletskiy, executive director. “They’re not just numbers; they’re world and Russian coal mining industry records.”

Remembering the past

The coal-bearing capacity of Cisbaikalia and Transbaikalia, the region where Tugnuysky is located, was first studied at the time of the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway. In 1926, the first geological survey of the Tugnuy river valley was completed. Further exploration work showed that the Olon-Shibirskoye and Nikolskoye deposits are rich with resources.

It wasn’t until decades later, in February 1981, when the Minister of Coal issued an order to construct the Tugnuysky coal mine. In 1984, in the vast expanses of the former Soviet Union, in the area of Olon-Shibir, the first stake was driven into the ground where the Tugnuysky coal mine and the mining town bearing the name of Sagan-Nur (White Lake) would later appear.

The coal mine was put into operation in 1988, when the first overburden was removed and the first tonnes of coal were transported to a storage yard. In 1992, the mine constructed an emergency repair shop, machinery repair shop, fuel and grease warehouse, basic explosive warehouse, and an administration building. Also that year, the mine commissioned a start-up facility with a capacity of 1 million tonnes (1.1 million tons) of coal per year. In 1996, the coal mine reached the capacity of 3.8 million tonnes (4.2 million tons) per year.

In 2001, the mine delivered its 30 millionth tonne (33 millionth ton) of coal. In the same year the Tugnuysky coal mine merged into Siberian Coal Energy Company (SUEK), which is when modernization began and powerful new machines went to work on the site.

Electric rope shovel and Russian coal mine

For example, in 2009 the coal mine was equipped with 220-tonne (243-ton) mining trucks and a coal preparation plant was put into service. A year later, the mine began operating two Bucyrus 495HD Electric Rope Shovels with 41.3-cubic-meter (54-cubic-yard) buckets, as well as new support equipment and a drill.

Just two years later, in March 2011, the Tugnuysky coal mine set a record by delivering 1.017 million tonnes (1.1 million tons) of coal in one month. Six months later in August 2011, miners reached a new milestone by delivering 1.5 million tonnes (1.7 million tons) of coal. On Dec. 19, 2011, the Tugnuysky coal mine reached a new performance level, having produced 10 million tonnes (11 million tons) in the preceeding 12 months.

Producing black gold

The Tugnuysky coal mine uses the open-pit mining method to develop the Olon-Shibirskoye coal deposit. This deposit is located in Petrovsk-Zabaykalsky rayon (county) and Mukhorshibirsky rayon of the Republic of Buryatia. The deposit is rich with high grade thermal coal.

An estimated 111 million tonnes (122 million tons) of coal are recoverable from this deposit. According to Denis Popov, the company’s chief technologist, 12 million tonnes (13 million tons) of coal are expected to be mined per year until 2019. The following output decline would be due to the thinning of the primary coal bed. The company is addressing this future decline by developing the nearby Nikolskoye deposit while gradually redistributing the coal production from the Olon-Shibirskoye deposit to the Nikolskoye deposit. The total coal output is 12 million tonnes (13 million tons) per year, which will be enough until 2060, considering the depletion of both deposits. The Nikolskoye deposit is similar to the Olon-Shibirskoye deposit and is one of the largest coal deposits in Buryatia. The total reserves recoverable from the Nikolskoye deposit are estimated at 260 million tonnes (287 million tons) of coal.

During the recent ramp-up of output at the Tugnuysky mine, the company also built a new coal preparation plant, where the most advanced and efficient coal conversion technologies are now used. The coal concentrate, which is the product of the conversion process, is in full compliance with export standards.

OAO Razrez Tugnuysky is one of Russia’s key exporters of coal, with Asian and Oceanic countries, predominantly South Korea, Taiwan and Japan, considered to be the major buyers. In the last year, the Tugnuysky coal mine exported 8.7 million tonnes (9.6 million tons) of coal, strengthening its position as one of the leading export-oriented companies within SUEK.

Focusing on safety

Providing healthy and safe working conditions for employees has always been a priority for OAO Razrez Tugnuysky. SUEK has implemented a safety management system with people as its core value. The employees of SUEK are constantly trained in safe working methods. The training facility and work sites are equipped with monitors playing safety and work-related instruction videos. These videos are shown during every shift, and activities are continually monitored. Medical check-ups are provided both before and after shifts, and SUEK has purchased state-of-the-art medical equipment to help detect and treat medical conditions.

“Without health and safety protection, it would be impossible for the company to evolve and achieve the success it has enjoyed over the years,” says Kuletskiy.

Protecting the environment

The Tugnuysky coal mine strives to be a responsible user of mineral resources. “Environmental protection is an important aspect of the mine’s operations,” says Popov. “After all, open pit coal mining involves transporting large quantities of rocks and coal, which can result in damage to the landscape and the ecology of the area.”

The Tugnuysky coal mine designed a project using the optimal technology to return rock waste disposal areas to the ecosystem, restoring damaged ground for agricultural and aquicultural use. In 2012, the company completed the mining stage of soil remediation and covered 35 hectares (86.5 acres) with a fertile layer of original topsoil, and this year 30 hectares (74 acres) were covered. The company plans to increase the area being restored up to 50 hectares (123.6 acres) per year.

The mine also must comply with a number of emissions and other environmental regulations. In 2011, the coal mine was equipped with an oily waste recycling installation and a household wastewater sterilizing system. A waste treatment facility project, ordered by SUEK in Germany, was recently initiated. Waste treatment facilities are being built on the above-ground premises of the company. These facilities will be utilized to purify rain and wastewater using the most advanced water treatment technologies.

Caring for people

While SUEK is constantly looking for new ways to increase its coal output, the people who work at Tugnuysky are the company’s top priority. From ensuring they have access to the safest and most advanced equipment, to offering an affordable lunch at the canteen, the company recognizes that people are its greatest asset.

“We built new shower rooms and a laundry facility so the workers can take a shower and have their clothes washed after their shifts,” says Popov. “And this is just a little everyday care provided for the workers. The philosophy of any strong company comes down to this: respect yourself, your business, and your team.”

As the mine continues to be re-equipped with new state-of-the-art, highly complex machines, SUEK recognizes that it must invest in its people to ensure there are skilled professionals who can work with them. To strengthen the corporate culture and help employees realize their professional potential, SUEK created a corporate university, which offers courses in developing management skills. After training and testing, the best students join the company’s talent pool. Various workshops are routinely offered to managers, deputies and key employees. The Tugnuysky coal mine provides training courses in directorship, site supervision, and locomotive operation.

The coal mine has its own training center, aimed at fostering the growth of local professionals. Training is provided with regard to the mining development plan, understanding new machines and technologies, meeting the needs of workshops and sites for skills development, and helping individuals gain new skills or be retrained.

“This management policy has helped to increase the value of each employee and make the coal mine safer by bringing the quality of workplace relations to the next level,” says Kuletskiy.

Investing in infrastructure

The equipment used at Tugnuysky plays a key role in the productivity achievements at the mine. In the last several years, SUEK implemented a range of initiatives designed to strengthen the infrastructure of the mine and increase its capacity.

The mine went through a technological revolution, with SUEK investing about US$250 million in the mine over the past several years. Nearly every mining process has been improved. For instance, overburden is removed by Bucyrus 495HD Electric Rope Shovels. With just one shovel, the miners are able to remove as much overburden per quarter as they did in the whole year of 1995 using all their machines. A similar comparison can be made for nearly every machine or device being used at the mine.

In the last year, the company has received several new Cat® 24M Motor Graders with powerful diesel engines; spacious, quiet cabins; and easy-to-operate control levers. At Tugnuysky, motor graders are used to build roads in the complex geological conditions found at the site.

“Since the 24M graders have arrived, the haul roads at Tugnuysky mine are absolutely world class,” says John Bergin, mining director at Cat dealer Vostochnaya Technica.

Since July 2013, the coal mine has received additional next generation Cat machines: Cat 988H Wheel Loaders, a Cat 434F Backhoe Loader, and a Cat 621H Wheel Tractor-Scraper. These machines are equipped with a number of advanced features, such as automatic lubrication systems and rear view cameras. The site has found that the machines deliver excellent controllability and high reliability, impressive load capacity, high fuel efficiency, ease of maintenance, and more comfortable work environments that improve operator performance and reduce costs.

“Even in the most difficult environment, the performance indicators of these machines are excellent,” says Popov. “When we compare the new machines and the machines that have been used at the Tugnuysky coal mine for more than 10 years, we are able to see a giant step forward in improving operation, performance, and ease of maintenance — and, in most cases, reducing operational costs.”

Ensuring proper maintenance

Tugnuysky recognizes that the most effective use of any piece of equipment, let alone heavy machinery, is based on three factors:

Three service organizations have opened maintenance facilities on site at the mine, including Cat dealer Vostochnaya Technica. The facility is equipped with all necessary equipment and staffed with top-level maintenance professionals.

“Working closely with such companies as Vostochnaya Technica helps the mine operate in the optimal way and reduces downtime, which can affect our productivity,” says Kuletskiy. “Highly qualified technicians are able to diagnose any issues using the tools they bring to the site, usually within 30 minutes after being called.” If it is impossible for a technician to diagnose an issue using his/her own resources on site, he/she contacts the service center.

While SUEK performs about half of the required maintenance on Cat machines at Tugnuysky, the mine relies heavily on Vostochnaya Technica’s expertise for complex maintenance and repairs. For example, the mine develops routine and annual repair schedules together with the dealership. The dealer supplies original parts and consumables required to reduce equipment downtime, improve the quality of service and increase availability. The Cat dealer also communicates directly with Caterpillar when necessary for more detailed information on spare parts and assemblies.

“Machines work well only if they are serviced properly,” says Kuletskiy. “Special processes are used in order to determine if any machines have to be serviced out of schedule. And if we work together as a team, the machines never let us down.”

Kuletskiy continues: “Especially when it comes to the shovels, the mine tracks every single minute of time and ensures that maintenance is done during shift changes and at other opportunities to avoid lost production time.”

Tugnuysky coal mine

Looking ahead

For the Tugnuysky coal mine, 2011 was a breakthrough year, 2012 was a year of building on success, and 2013 a year of moving forward.

The Tugnuysky coal mine is developing quickly. Its mining operations have become large-scale. The annual run-of-mine output of the coal mine is 85 million cubic meters (111 million cubic yards). This means removing and transporting more than 180 million tonnes (198 million tons) of run-of-mine material per year. Today, the coal preparation plant processes more than 10 million tonnes (11 million tons) of coal. The coal mine is developing its own rail infrastructure, with 80 kilometers (50 miles) of railway built to date.

As for further growth, the company started to develop the Nikolskoye deposit in 2013. The reserves recoverable from the Nikolskoye deposit are estimated at about 260 million tonnes (286 million tons) of coal. The first 250,000 tonnes (276,000 tons) are planned to be delivered as early as 2013. It is not improbable that a new state-of-the-art coal mine will be built here. This means new industrial records can be set in the very near future.

“World demand for coal is significant and is expected to remain so,” says Kuletskiy. “The Tugnuy miners have great prospects, and this means our people feel confident about the future.”

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