Have you ever been to a working mine? If you are an OTR tire dealer, I'm sure you have, but most of you commercial truck tire dealers probably have not.
Several years ago I visited a very large copper mine for a few days outside of Phoenix and an iron ore/taconite mine north of Duluth, Minn., while I was doing some consulting work for a tire company.
Just a couple of years ago I visited a lead-zinc refinery in Mexico. Mines and their processing plants are fascinating places.
While I like trucks, mine haul trucks are something else. The BELAZ 75710, produced by the Belarusian company BELAZ, has a payload capacity of 496 tons (992,000 lbs.) and is the biggest mining dump truck in the world.
The truck is more than 67 feet long, almost 27 feet high and over 32 feet wide. The empty weight of the vehicle is 360 tons (720,000 lbs.).
It has a conventional two-axle setup but the wheels are dueled, four to an axle. For this reason it needs eight 59/80R63 tires that can each carry 102 tons (204,000 lbs.).
This truck also has four-wheel drive and four-wheel hydraulic steering, which is unusual, and it can travel at speeds up to 64 mph. Its cost is just a little more than a mere $6 million.
The Caterpillar 797F made here in the U.S. is the second largest mining truck in the world. It weighs 293 tons (586,000 lbs.), can carry a little less than the BELAZ at 400 tons (800,000 lbs.) and measures slightly smaller, a little more than 49-foot long, 21-foot high and 31-foot wide.
It is also equipped with six 59/80R63 tires. However, the maximum speed of this truck is a little faster than the BELAZ at 68 mph. It costs $5 million, and options are extra.
But if you love trucks, you gotta love these babies.
The mining industry is a global industry. Many large mining companies operate mines all around the world.
In the U.S., the mining industry plays a role in all 50 states with an estimated 1,400 mines in operations extracting coal, iron, copper, zinc, potash, limestone and other crushed rocks.
The U.S. is the world's leading producer of beryllium, soda ash and sulphur, the second leading producer of coal and the third largest producer of gold and copper.
These metals and other minerals it extracts are essential raw materials for the building and chemical industries and are also a critical part of the production of everyday electronics and consumer products.
I'll bet you didn't know that more than 65 different minerals are required to produce a modern computer.
Minerals are mined underground or through surface methods such as open-pit mining. Both mining methods use a three-stage process.
The first stage is extraction, which includes blasting and drilling to loosen and remove material from the mine.
The second stage is materials handling, which involves transporting the ore and waste from the mine to the mill or disposal area.
The third stage, beneficiation and processing, occurs at the processing plant. This stage recovers the valuable portion of the mined material and produces the final marketable product.
Beneficiation operations primarily consist of crushing, grinding and separations, while processing operations involve smelting and/or refining. Each of these stages operates in a hazardous environment employing huge equipment and perhaps explosives and also require large amounts of energy, primarily electricity and diesel fuel.
The reason mining is so energy-intensive is because of the recovery ratio of various materials being mined. For example, coal has an average recovery ratio of 82 percent, so 1.2 tons of material is needed to actually get 1 ton of coal.
Industrial minerals have an average ratio of 90 percent, while metals have an average recovery ratio of 4.5 percent. So to recover 1 ton of gold, 22 tons of material have to be mined.