CLEVER: The safety-conscious tub capsule with scissor lift.
CLEVER: The safety-conscious tub capsule with scissor lift. Contributed

Innovation at Ensham Mine saves millions

IT'S no secret many Bowen Basin coal mines are struggling, but a simple idea has saved Ensham Mine more than $5 million and received industry-wide recognition.

And it has given a new lease on life to one of the iconic images of the 2008 floods - the Ensham dragline partly submerged by floodwaters when the mine's levee banks were breached.

When the dragline's 440kg tub began deteriorating, its future was grim.

"We produce thermal coal so we are suffering in the market as a lot of people are," Ensham's general manager operations Steve Kovac said.

"To do a full tub replacement was going to cost around $5 million and, in the current market with our strip ratios, that would have parked up that machine.

"So we knew we were going to have to do repairs."

Enter Ensham's maintenance co-ordinator Laurie "Loza" Stanton and his team.

The solution? Cut down an old dragline bucket to create a capsule to house workers in a trench void underneath the mammoth machine where the repairs could be carried out in a safe work environment.

Total cost? $41,000.

"It was an awesome experience obtained by just having a go," Mr Stanton said.

"I never thought I would have been in Townsville presenting for the Queensland mining industry for just doing my job.

"The bucket idea came about to comply with our safe operating procedures.

"With a lack of funds, the idea to cut down a bucket came as the most cost-effective solution to me.

"It has been great as it has also inspired secondary innovations, such as the scissor lift on rails which makes it easier for the guys in the trench in regards to manual handling."

Mr Kovac said the tub capsule innovation had been used now more than 30 times on site and contributed to savings of about $450,000 to date, compared to traditional trench shoring methods.

He cited the invention as another example of Ensham's "proud history of dealing with significant challenges".

"It has been a huge benefit for the operation... and I thank Loza and the maintenance team for coming up with such a great innovation," he said.

"It has done exceptionally well in keeping this dragline running and saving us a lot of money while making sure the guys are well protected and the risk is at an acceptable level."

For Mr Stanton, the best feedback has been the reaction from other miners.

"The great thing for me personally is that it regularly receives positive feedback from people utilising the capsule," he said.

"A lot of these guys work across other mine sites and they often comment about the level of comfort they now have working in the trench."

The tub capsule was a grand finalist in the 2014 Queensland Mining Health and Safety Awards.


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