Manitowoc’s Grove brand has been a partner to China’s largest open-pit coal mine, Heidaigou, since it opened in 1991. Over the course of that 22-year partnership the company has supplied a range of cranes to help the mine operate to optimal production.

The first cranes Grove supplied are still at work at the facility, while the latest two have recently arrived - a 60 tonne RT765E-2 and a range-topping 135 tonne RT9150E, both from the rough-terrain crane line.

In recent years the size and number of cranes supplied to the facility has grown. That’s because in 2004, the Chinese government began a program to close unsafe mines. While making the industry much safer, the initiative also reduced coal output by 40% in its early days. To make up for this shortfall, Heidaigou and other large government-approved mines were asked to increase productivity.

Heidaigou’s output has increased significantly since the government shutdowns, growing from 25 million tonnes in 2006 to more than over 31 million in 2011. Handling this increased output requires larger equipment, including cranes, so the Heidaigou fleet now comprises nine Grove cranes. As well as the new RT9150E and RT765E-2, the fleet includes three 120 tonne RT9130E cranes plus two 80 tonne RT990 cranes which the facility purchased in 1991 and which are still working productively. In addition to these RT cranes, two 300 tonne GMK6300 all-terrain cranes also operate at the mine.

The Heidaigou mine spans more than 42sqkm and is between Inner Mongolia, Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces. It is state-owned and part of Inner Mongolia Jungar Energy Co Ltd (Shenhua Group) - the world’s largest exporter of coal.

Inner Mongolia Jungar Energy’s equipment maintenance centre chief engineer Lv Jianduo says, “Right from the beginning, we aimed to be a world-class operation and wanted equipment that both fitted our mentality and values while offering us the latest technology. Grove is the leader in mobile hydraulic cranes and when we started out it was the obvious choice for us. So we purchased two 80 tonne RT990 rough-terrain cranes and 20 years later they are still in operation.”

The Heidaigou pit has more than 1000 pieces of equipment in operation, worth around $650 million, including the largest dragline in Asia, haul trucks with capacities of more than 320 tonnes and a shovel with a capacity of more than 60 cubic metres.

Its equipment maintenance centre is vital in keeping this large array of hardware and equipment running. It’s also where the Grove cranes are put to work, handling maintenance and repair work. With a mine of this size the maintenance centre is equally large, keeping 2200 people employed day in and day out.

“Our original Grove cranes are now veterans in our equipment line up but still keep working well for us,” says Lv Jianduo. “It highlights the value of our original investment when we consider that other pieces of equipment that we purchased at the same time as these Grove RT cranes are no longer working.”

The company is looking forward to its new RT9150E matching the long-working lives achieved by the RT990 units. In addition to its 135 tonne capacity, the RT9150E has a 60 metre main boom. The boom has patented TWIN-LOCK pinning which offers a lighter design for greater strength. Maximum reach with jib extensions for the crane is 95 metres.