KOMATSU MINING EXCAVATOR OPERATOR RICHARD PEARSON, WHO HAS BEEN OPERATING A PC5500 FOR DOWNER EDI MINING AT THE WAMBO COAL MINE IN THE UPPER HUNTER VALLEY OF NSW, HAS BEEN A LONG-TERM FAN OF KOMATSU EQUIPMENT.
SO MUCH SO THAT HE DROPPED A NOTE TO THE KOMATSU AUSTRALIA WEBSITE TO TELL US HOW MUCH HE LIKED KOMATSU GEAR – WHICH PROMPTED D2E TO GET IN TOUCH WITH HIM.
Richard who since being interviewed has been promoted to leading hand at Wambo has operated Komatsu equipment since 1999 when he went through an operator training course with the Australian Army, and was taught to drive D155 dozers and WS16 scrapers.
Today, working for Downer EDI Mining at Wambo for Peabody Coal, around 99% of his work is on the PC5500, although occasionally he will operate one of the mine's Komatsu 930E dump trucks, or one of its dozers.
It as Richard's time in the Army that first gave him an appreciation of Komatsu equipment. "I did a four- month basic operator's course there and that's where I got my first experience with Komatsu, operating the old D155 dozers and the WS16 scrapers," he said. "Even then they were fairly old machines, but when I was in the army, the D155 was the bee's knees of the dozers. "That was the biggest dozer we had and it was beautiful to work."
Richard was in the Army for 10 years all up, and for six of them was operating machines. After he left the Army in 2005, Richard had a brief stint as a supervisor at Blue Circle Ash, extracting ash from power stations for use in road base, before deciding he preferred being an operator. He went to work at Bulga open cut near Singleton, operating Komatsu PC250 excavators, a PC4000 which had been converted from shovel operation to an excavator, plus D475A dozers, along with 685E and 830E Dresser Haulpaks. "The PC4000 was a different machine, because that was set up as a shovel and they converted it to an excavator so it had short tracks on it and the counterweight wasn't heavy enough. "That meant she was pretty rocky, but the cab was comfortable, it was a beautiful cab, you know, beautiful air-conditioning and even had a fridge in it it was great. "I also really enjoyed the D475s because the cabs are so comfortable, they were great," he said. "They are just so easy to operate, because they've got the weight there and they are not bouncing around as much as other dozers. "And of course, there's the ripping and pushing; one push with the Komatsu would take two pushes with another dozer."
After Bulga, Richard went to Liddell open cut, where he operated a PC1800. In his current job at Wambo, when he occasionally drives the 930Es, Richard compares them favourably with other super-size mining trucks. "Mate, they're great. "Compared with the old Dresser Haulpaks at Bulga, the ease of the 930Es is sensational. "The braking system is great, because with the latest Komatsu electric drive transmissions, they are really responsive, whereas with the other electrics that I have driven, it's close to a four-second delay," he said. "starts retarding immediately, It's simple and it's a lot less complex and you don't have to think as much, because it's all there and it is so responsive."
However, Richard's real love is operating large mining excavators, enjoying the intellectual challenge of doing the job well. "I love operating the excavators because I've got time to think," he said. "You know, it's a bit like a game of chess, excavator operating you've always got to think two moves ahead. "I like to keep my brain active and I like to keep myself busy. And a busy shift means a quick shift. "There are certain dig patterns you have to use, depending on what kind of dig you are doing. "You could be double benching, you could be on a nice, beautiful bench and the bench has to end, so you've got to sort out how to turn the machine around, how to work that properly, how to bring the trucks in all the time working to the highest safety levels. "Because it's all about production, while ensuring that we work safely at all times," he said. "If there's spillage on the rocks, you've got to get onto that, you have to know where you are going and, if you don't, you are going to get snookered and that is where production halts pretty much." And as an excavator operator, it's up to people like Richard to pretty much manage their whole shift. "At the start of each shift, they tell us where to dig, there might be dig limits or where we might have to go back and drop in, and so on and so forth; it is up to the excavator operator to manage all that. "For each digging unit, pretty much the digger operator is in charge of the area. "He's got to tell the trucks where they have to go and even the floor dozers less interaction between them and the trucks means more production.
"For me as an operator, the good thing about the PC5500 is its ease of operation: it is simple to use and it's quick digger, with plenty of breakout power," he said. The braking system of the 930E's is great... Because with the latest Komatsu electric-drive transmission they are really responsive Richard is also very appreciative of his employer Downer EDI Mining, where he's been working for five months. "I've found Downer excellent to work for," he said. "They've really looked after me, and I'm ecstatic with them because they have given me great opportunities to get on the gear and to work it." And what prompted him to get in touch with Komatsu about the quality of its product? I was thinking how I just really enjoy operating the PC5500, and I thought, well, I don't know whether they getting e-mails from operators, but I thought I would give them a quick e-mail to let them know that I really enjoy the product, that they are a great company and I can't fault them," Richard said.