French Dragline

 
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French Dragline

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French dragline:Layout 1 13/11/13 15:20 Page 1 Machines past & present EUROPE’S LARGEST WALKING DRAGLINE A beautifully restored 800-tonne Ruston-Bucyrus walking dragline provides the muscle at one French sand and gravel quarry. Steven Vale enjoys a peek at what is believed to be the only surviving RB480-W in Europe. he nearly 50-year-old Ruston-Bucyrus RB480-W walking dragline dominates the horizon at the 78-hectare Les Chapeliers quarry at Peyrolles-en-Provence, deep in southern France. Operated by Durance Granulats near the motorway linking Aix-en-Provence with Gap, the French quarry used to rely on specially modified long-reach Liebherr excavators. Today, the two Liebherr excavators on-site are a long-reach R974 and a much larger 2000-built R994. Fitted with a 16-metre boom, an 11.5m stick and 4cu.m bucket, the 225-tonne Liebherr is capable of extracting 400 tonnes per hour. This hefty excavator has done a good job during the past decade, helping the quarry to fulfil a 250,000-tonne-a-year motorway contract from 2008 to 2010. However, after 28,000 hours, it is up for sale. “All the components are less than five years old and the excavator is ready to go to work,” says quarry manager Benoît Weibel. While pleased with performance, the main reason they are selling the Liebherr concerns the working depth. From dry land and with the arm angled downwards at 45 degrees it is only able to reach down to a maximum of 15 metres. With sand and gravel supplies dipping down to 30 to 35 metres, it was clear the quarry was missing out on a lot of potential reserves. Standing the excavator on a pontoon would have allowed it to dig down still further to 20 metres, but the floating option was calculated to have been too expensive to put into practice. Luxembourg-based used machinery specialist CTR Machinery was asked to search for a more affordable solution. Initially, CTR boss Rodolphe Vivier considered a 350-tonne Liebherr R9350. Fitted with a 22 to 24m boom and stick, this would have given the quarry a bit more production, but the nearly €4 million investment was considered too hefty for the marginal increase in working envelope. For the same money there was another option, a completely rebuilt dragline that would allow them to extract all their sand and gravel reserves. When he first sowed the seeds of this idea three and a half years ago, Rodolphe was not overly confident the quarry would go for this option. However, following a visit to the US to see draglines at work, both Benoît and quarry production manager Mathieu Kasprzak returned full of enthusiasm for the concept. Given the green light to search for a suitable dragline, Rodolphe toyed with the idea of buying DTP’s Marion 7400 (see panel). However, the quarry in which it is working was due to close and rumour has it that not much in the way of maintenance had been done on the big Marion during the last few years. It was then that Rodolphe had a stroke of luck, as an acquaintance told him about an RB480-W located in the former East Germany. When he went to see it he immediately recognised that the 800-tonner was exactly what his client was looking for. Locating it was one thing, but dismantling it, moving it to France and then reassembling it would be a truly mammoth task. There really was only one contender in the shape of the German firm Schlopp, which had already moved and assembled the machine. T This Page: With a service weight of 800 tonnes, Chloée – a Ruston-Bucyrus 480-W – is believed to be the largest active walking dragline in Europe. JANUARY 2014 EARTHMOVERS 1

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French dragline:Layout 1 13/11/13 15:20 Page 2 There was just one other issue to address before the parts could be trucked to France and rebuilt at the dragline’s new home – communication. No one at the French quarry spoke any German. Similarly, the German company spoke no French and English for both parties was a problem. Rodolphe was adamant of the need for a German/French speaking representative on site, to assist in communication and safety. He found exactly what he was looking for in a 26-year-old local French girl called Chloée who was also fluent in German. Apparently, on her first morning on site in the quarry Chloée made quite an impression, turning-up for work in a dress and high-heeled shoes. She was also to make a lasting impression on this site, but more of this later. BIG DRAGLINE Built in 1964/1965 the dragline was one of two identical Ruston-Bucyrus 480-Ws produced in Lincoln. Both machines (this is serial number 590, the other was 591) Left and Below Left: Operator Guy Attard has 50 years of dragline experience, but the RB480-W is the largest he has ever sat in. Main Picture: One of only two British-built RB480-Ws believed to have been exported to Continental Europe, this one has clocked up over 100,000 hours. were transported to a Rheinbruin-owned lignite mine near Cologne in 1966 by Pickfords. For the next 33 years the duo worked side by side wielding 15 cubic metre buckets at the Fortuna mine. Their main role was to extract lignite, but 590 was crossed-hired for a most unusual job. It’s claim to fame came in 1980 when it shifted two million tonnes to build a mound for Pope Jean Paul II to stand on to address a several million-strong audience during a visit to Germany. With lignite supplies fast running out at Fortuna at the end of the 1990s, the mining company was forced to restructure. In 1999, number 591 was kdismantled. Number 590 was also dismantled, but just to enable the giant-sized components – the largest of which was the 130-tonne, 12m-diameter slew ring – to be trucked a few kilometres to another site at Frechen. Reassembled, the dragline’s life at this mine was short-lived, as this time the services of the 9cu.m bucket were only needed until the summer of 2004. The boom was lowered for a few years and its fate was uncertain. Fortunately, a new owner stepped forward in the form of the Nowotnik coal-mining company. With the deal done, the dragline was soon on the road to its third destination at Welzow, near Dresden in the eastern half of Germany. Dismantled, moved, and reassembled again by Schlopp, while large, the dragline was dwarfed by the mine’s bucket wheel excavators. European walking draglines It has been a long time since draglines walked in the UK. Private collectors managed to rescue some smaller survivors, but nearly all of the big ones have long been exported or cut up for scrap. The largest survivor in the UK is Oddball, a 1200-tonne Bucyrus-Erie 1150-B. Saved from the gas gun by a group of enthusiastic volunteers, for the past 15 years the dinosaur digger has stood idle at its final resting place, a couple of miles south from the village of Swillington, near Leeds. Up until recently, the largest surviving walking draglines in Europe were believed to be two 540-tonne Marion 7400s. Still in working order, the future of the machines at the gigantic Aitik copper mine in Swedish Lapland hangs in the balance. The other belonged to DTP Terrassement, a large international French construction company, which used it at the Millery sand and gravel quarry, just south of Lyon. The closure of this quarry in late 2012 heralded the death of this 7400, which was sadly cut up. However, CTR’s Rodolphe Vivier reckons used walking draglines provide European sand and gravel quarries with an affordable deep digging solution. He goes on to suggest that more used 500- to 800-tonners could soon find new homes in Europe as the work dries up in the US. In case anyone is interested, he is currently seeking new owners for a pair of 1200-tonne RB 1260-W walking draglines! This Picture and Above: The view from the operator’s seat really has to be seen to be believed and is a truly amazing experience. JANUARY 2014 EARTHMOVERS 3

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French dragline:Layout 1 13/11/13 15:20 Page 4 After more than 100,000 hours of operation, the dragline continued to work up until the end of 2011. Requiring 86 vehicles, it took four months and the help of 300- and 400-tonne capacity cranes to piece the dragline together again in its new home. It was started for the first time on French soil in September 2012. But there was still work to be completed on it, as the electric motors and systems were completely renewed in the months that followed. Fortunately this RB 480-W came with plenty of spares, as the deal included Durance Granulats taking ownership of the spares stock. There were astonished looks on site when it was realised that some of these spares were still in unopened boxes from Ruston-Bucyrus dated 1966. In addition, the French quarry bought the remaining parts from its sister RB480-W located at the old Fortuna mine. The new owner of this massive dragline also managed to buy three buckets from DTP, when this company axed its Marion 7400. With a capacity of 11cu.m, one of the first jobs was to weld extensions to boost their capacity to 13cu.m. The quarry’s material is very abrasive and buckets need constant attention and swapping every four to six months. There is always one in repair and a spare one ready for action. The dragline was repainted in the livery of Durance Granulats and in June 2013 the quarry’s largest ever muck-shifter was deemed ready for action. A party was held to celebrate the occasion and at some time during the event – when presumably the odd glass of wine had been consumed – a cardboard cut-out of Chloée was stuck to the side of the dragline. The management thought this was a wonderful idea and, in recognition of her work, immediately decided to name their dragline after her. HUGE FUEL SAVINGS At the time of our visit Chloée had been in operation for six months, but already the quarry’s management is really pleased with its performance. “The R994 used to get through 168 litres of diesel an hour,” says Benoit. “The dragline will allow us to save 455,000 litres of diesel a year.” It was this diesel saving, combined with the fact they would produce 1500 tonnes a year less in CO2 emissions that played a big role in the quarry obtaining a 30-year licence extension to extract up to 1.3 million tonnes a year. The dragline’s quiet-running nature also helped, as did the fact there is no oil to leak into surrounding water. “We are still very proud of our Liebherr excavator,” adds Benoît, “but Chloée is a new dimension for us.” A new dimension it certainly is. Fitted with a 65m-long boom, the RB480-W dwarfs the R994 parked just a short distance away. The huge heap of sand and gravel extracted by the dragline is allowed to dry for a day, after which a Cat 988 loads it on to a 2km-long conveyor belt for the trip across the motorway to the processing plant. The interior of the cab is still mid 1960s vintage, the only modern operator aid being a screen for the newly-installed rear-view camera. This allows the operator to monitor the electric supply cable. On the subject of the electricity supply, walking draglines have become a popular target for copper thieves. It may sound unbelievable but soon after it was assembled thieves managed to steal a 200m section of live 6000V cable from Chloée one night. Since then, night-time security has been increased to prevent it from happening again. Protecting draglines from copper thieves is not the only problem these days. So too is finding operators, and then the three months needed to train someone. Fortunately for Durance Granulats, they managed to tempt someone with plenty of previous experience and passion. There is no better way to highlight operator Guy Attard’s love affair with draglines than the fact that he leaves his wife early every Monday morning to drive the 200km to the quarry, returning home on Friday afternoon. There are thought to be only five walking dragline operators left in France with as much dragline experience as Guy. Starting when he was 14, with 50 years of operation under his belt, he has spent many years behind the controls of Nodet draglines, and even bigger machines including a Bucyrus-Monighan 9-W and Marion 7200, and prior to his latest job he sat on a Lima 2400. Chloée is the largest dragline he has ever operated, and he is clearly in his element behind the controls. “It is a fantastic, quiet and easy to operate machine,” he says. Guy is keen to keep going as long as possible, but with one eye on the future the quarry boss hopes he will soon be willing to train other operators. They are also trying to tempt the former operator of the DTP Marion 7400 to come and work for them. In its previous life Chloée clocked up 18 hours of active duty a day. At the French quarry, it has a relatively easy life notching up eight to 10 hours daily. Every shift Guy believes he extracts a minimum of 5000 tonnes. Even in difficult areas of the quarry, the RB480-W has a spot production rate of 800 tonnes an hour. However, he is currently working in a new extension to the quarry and the set-up is less than ideal, as the swing angle is too wide to allow Guy to reach peak production. Once man and machine get settled into a good dig, his boss reckons they can increase output to at least 1000 tonnes per hour. They have plenty of time to put the machine to the test. With all the work that has been completed on the walking dragline it is about 20% through its latest working life. It could very well notch up a grand total of 200,000 hours! Some 86 vehicles were required to transport all the components, including parts to make up its 65m boom, from Germany to France. “The dragline will allow us to save 455,000 litres of diesel a year.” Quarry manager Benoît Weibel (left) is pleased with the performance of his new prime mover, supplied by Rodolphe Vivier of CTR Machinery (right). Even though it has done over 100,000 hours, the rebuilt RB480-W could easily double this over the next 30 years. Chloée’s bucket comes from a recently scrapped Marion 7400 and is one of three buckets bought at the same time. The new owner increased the size of all three from 11 to 13cu.m. At one time, the quarry’s R994 was the largest Liebherr excavator in France. Today though it is dwarfed by the RB480-W dragline. 4 EARTHMOVERS JANUARY 2014 JANUARY 2014 EARTHMOVERS 5

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