MacLean sees big future for LR3 utility vehicle in Australia

A fifth LR3 Boom Lift unit is soon to be delivered into Freemantle port in Western Australia, and MacLean Engineering is banking on there being plenty more of its heavy load/high reach utility vehicles reaching Australia’s underground mines soon.

The LR3 has been manufactured by MacLean to solve a number of elevated work platform needs at high-back mines across the world.

In addition to the heavy load/high reach features – which sees the LR3 able to provide lifting capacity of up to 10,000 pounds (4.5 tonnes) from the ground up to 8 m – the utility vehicle has articulated steering for tight cornering, a radio remote drive system and is equipped with a Mercedes 906 engine with 150 kW rated output. It also has +\-15 degree boom swing and +/- 30 degree deck swing ranges, providing flexibility in tunnel headings of 5 m or more.

The machines are also equipped with an auxiliary hydrostatic drive system that, when working in parallel with the regular drive system, allows the unit to advance or retreat while the basket is in the air, increasing productivity.

George Fisher, part of the Mount Isa Mines complex, received one of the units back in February and has been using it to access heavy-weight ventilation fans at height underground at the mine. Such a task previously carried extra risk, according to Stephen Thomas, Account Manager for MacLean in eastern Australia.

“[Australian underground operators] were using an IT (integrated tool) unit to put the D Shackle or daisy chain on, and were standing on the handrail as they needed the extra height,” he told IM. Another option was to fill an LHD bucket with sand, ask a worker to climb in and get the LHD operator to lift them up to access these fans.

Neither sounds safe, but John Botelho, Product Manager for Utility Vehicles at MacLean, said these practices were accepted because no other option existed.

That is, until recently.

The LR3 is fully compliant with the new elevated work platform standards across Australia and is certified to lift and access the weighty ventilation fans that previously caused problems for underground operators.

The vehicle is built for more than this, with the LR3 able to carry out water pipe installation, drilling, and electrical services underground thanks to the ability to interchange cassettes with other MacLean vehicles. This means existing customers can get the most out of the unit’s heavy load/high reach capabilities by detaching cassettes from, say, a scissor truck and reattaching it to the LR3.

“It’s a multi-purpose unit with the main target being the twin fan installation and that reach just provides us with all sorts of other flexibility to do so all sorts of smaller jobs,” Botelho told IM.

Even though it is early days for the LR3 – MacLean only announced the launch of the LR3 in February last year – it has already had an interesting start to life.

The first unit ever manufactured is working at Glencore’s Bracemac zinc-copper-silver operation in northern Quebec (pictured in operation), the second is with contractor Barminco – and is now operating at AngloGold Ashanti’s Sunrise Dam operation – while the third and fourth are operating in northern Manitoba and southern Mongolia (Oyu Tolgoi), respectively.

A fifth is due to be delivered to Freemantle port next month and Thomas is confident of soon confirming a buyer.

Such is the company’s confidence in the product and the market demand for it – especially from Australia’s underground mining sector – that MacLean is building the units ahead of orders.

“The units are being built to an Australia specification and shipped to accommodate shipping times over that distance,” Botelho said, explaining the units spend a month on the water being transported from Canada to Australia.

Some of North America’s larger heading underground mines, plus some operations in Europe, are also registering an interest in the LR3, the company said.