High school students use lego to design longwall system

AS PART of an annual effort to market the mining industry to students, 40 high school students from across Australia were challenged with building the ultimate mining machine using Lego donated by event sponsors Caterpillar.

Staff Reporter

The competition, developed and organised by the Co-operative Research Centre for Mining Technology and Equipment (CMTE), was held at the University of Queensland as part of the AusIMM Australian Student Mineral Venture Mining in Society Summer School.

Using experiences gained at mine sites during the Summer School, four groups of students created unique mining machines in the days prior to judging. Presentations to judges from Caterpillar included detailed analyses of operational characteristics, maintenance schedules, expected performance outputs, costs, the environmental impact and occupational health and safety factors.

CMTE education program leader and event organiser Dr Dominic Howarth said each machine showed originality of thought and an attempt to solve real mining problems.

“The winning entry - The Blackadder DSS Longwall Mining System - incorporated a new cutting system and a method for gathering and conveying coal,” said Howarth.

In their written submission describing the equipment, students said the Garth Mining Systems' Blackadder DSS Longwall Mining System was a fusion of longwall and continuous miners.

“The Blackadder DSS utilises the innovative Baldric Cutting System, a rotatable and extendible drum cutter, giving our machine the unique and efficient ability to avoid problems that may occur during cutting due to the cleft of the coal.

“Combined with the ingenuitive [sic] DSS Coal Gathering and Conveyance System, the Blackadder DSS is a cost-effective, low-maintenance and highly-safe longwall mining system that is undoubtedly the future of underground coal seam mining.”

The extendible drum cutter is 3m long, extends to 3.6m with a radius of 0.6m and a speed of 40-60 rpm. The conveyor is 200m long rated at 6 tonnes per minute. The mining rates are 1.5Mtpa with miner speed along the face of 2.4m/min with a cutting rate of 216 cubic metres/hour.

While it is unlikely a full-scale version of the design will ever be constructed, Howarth said the process was designed to get students engaged in the learning process. He added that for the first time students had shown interest and concern for safety features, risk management and environmental issues.