Solutions for better haul road productivity and faster wet weather recovery in coal mines
The productivity of mine sites are always at the mercy of rainy weather. This is particularly true for coal mines in Australia which are primarily found on the east coast which tends to experience a much wetter rainy season compared to the west coast.
Whenever there’s a heavy rain event, the conditions of a haul road network are put to the test. On roads that are not treated or have been poorly designed, the water will soak into the road surface rather than drain away, creating mud and potholes. The surface will become very slippery and very hard for trucks to travel on. It’s not uncommon for haul trucks to get stuck or even for drivers to lose control, leading to accidents.
To avoid these issues, achieving fast wet weather recovery is key for coal mines. When trucks can’t navigate the road network, it has an obvious negative impact on productivity. Shutting down a section of road due to rain even for an hour can lead to losses in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The importance of correct haul road design
A lot of careful planning and engineering needs to go into designing haul roads in order to guarantee fast wet weather recovery. Haul roads should be built on an angle of between 1% - 4% so that water sheds off the road and the road is less affected by rain, as demonstrated in the diagram below. Water that sheds off the roads can go straight into strategically located drains. This helps roads to dry out in a matter of hours instead of days.
Proper haul road design also mitigates the need to send out graders or dozers to cut the mud off the road to a level where it’s not so wet anymore. In cases of poorly constructed roads, constant cutting is often performed to try to get the trucks back out in operation.
However, repeated cutting creates further issues as eventually there will be no compacted material left underneath. And if the rain starts again, the road is just going to become soaked and muddy once more as it’s just been graded and opened up. This approach is really just a vicious cycle which ultimately leads to the destruction of roads.
Stabilising haul roads with bitumen emulsion
Designing haul roads with sufficient drainage is just one aspect to reducing downtime from heavy rain and improving overall productivity in coal mines.
Stabilisation of haul roads during the establishment phase provides a significantly smoother running surface. This process will reduce the need to regularly grade and re-sheet roads. It will further improve the rolling resistance for mobile equipment and thus increase cycle time efficiency.
Haul roads can be stabilised by incorporating a bitumen emulsion product into the wearing course layer of the haul road to bind loose material. This also provides a surface seal that significantly reduces wheel-generated dust and the ingress of water into the road-base.
Whilst this process of incorporating bitumen during the establishment phase can be seen to be costly, it has been proven to add value in the long run, increasing productivity and safety and reducing downtime considerably.
First off, less road watering is needed for dust control purposes due to the reduction in wheel-generated dust. This lowers water usage costs dramatically which is particularly advantageous during periods of drought.
Furthermore, with improved visibility due to less airborne dust, haul truck drivers can confidently travel at faster speeds, let’s say 60km/hr on average rather than 20km/hr. This allows coal mines to increase daily tonnage which quickly justifies the initial road establishment costs.
One final benefit of stabilising haul roads with a bitumen product is that because the surface is so much smoother, coal mines experience much lower tyre maintenance and fuel costs. Roads which are constantly muddy and riddled with potholes lead to much faster tyre wear and more accidental cuts. Similarly, roads which are rough to travel across burn much more fuel due to drivers having to constantly stop and start.
All in all, haul roads which are stabilised with bitumen products cost coal mines less in the long run. Smooth roads make for smooth truck cycles and increased profits for the mine.
Interested in learning more about designing haul roads to improve productivity and wet weather recovery times?
Talk to the experts at Dust-A-Side Australia. We specialise in holistic haul road management and are also able to offer coal mines total pit-to-port dust control and road services.
We’d be happy to answer any questions you have. Give us a call on 1800 662 387 or click here to send us an enquiry.