Eighteen months ago there was talk among mining equipment manufacturers of factory shutdowns and suspended capacity. Now plants can't keep up with demand.
Industry giant Caterpillar and another heavyweight, Terex, announced a marriage then broke up. Now they are working together again - too much to be gained from an alliance at this stage.
Komatsu, the world's second biggest mining and construction equipment maker, couldn't make a profit. Despite the rising cost of steel and just about everything else, that has changed too. Komatsu was among a host of industry majors to announce record profits in the first half of 2004 (or second half, depending on which part of the world you're in), and it is forecasting more good times.
As are engine, tyre and transmission component manufacturers.
On the eve of the biggest mining equipment expo in the world at Las Vegas, Nevada, in the USA, the equipment manufacturing and supply world is awash with orders. Most of the equipment on display, particularly the big stuff, will not be far off the water as the event draws to a close.
Joining in on all the fun will be a large contingent of underground coal companies – from the biggest OEM’s to smaller specialist product and service providers.
There won't be many new mining equipment launches at MINExpo 2004. The manufacturers can't make enough of the trucks, wheel loaders, excavators, dozers and drills already in product catalogues, to meet current demand. There are serious shortages of tyres and rims and just about anything else made of steel.
What visitors can expect to see are a host of new technologies and products designed to help miners maximise their use of existing equipment. Improving efficiency, productivity and safety, and lowering costs, will be the major themes reverberating around the big halls of the show. Information on production management, condition monitoring, process control, surveying, automation and advanced machine guidance technologies and services will be heavily sought after.
In many parts of the world the use of some or all of this technology is still proportionately low, so there will not only be opportunities for suppliers to lift sales volumes in the years ahead, but also for the industry's manufacturing heavyweights to further consolidate ownership of the key technologies changing the way mines are operating and run.
At the last MINExpo in 2000, more than 1000 exhibitors provided show visitors with a feast of hardware and software browsing opportunities. According to organiser, the National Mining Association, more than 31,000 people visited the show. About three-quarters of them came from the US.
This year's expo is expected to have more than 1300 exhibitors.
Australia's Mining Monthly