Liebherr on the story so far with its record R 9100 excavator fleet at Thar Block-1 in Pakistan

In 2019, China’s Shanghai Electric placed the largest ever order for Liebherr excavators in number of machines – 28 R 9100s in total. The reliability of both the R 9100s and the support provided by Liebherr (China) Co Ltd resulted in the customer placing an order for four more of the excavators in 2022. The journey so far was recently reviewed by Liebherr in an article titled ‘Partners in Pakistan.’

These 28 R 9100 excavators were put to work for Shanghai Electric – one of the world’s foremost suppliers of smart systems – at the Thar Block-1 coal mine in Pakistan [where the operating company is Shanghai Electric owned Sino Sindh Resources Private Ltd]. Thar Block-1 is a key project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Shanghai Electric’s first Build-Own-Operate enterprise. The mine is part of an integrated mining and power project that aims to strengthen electricity infrastructure in the local area.

While Liebherr Mining says it is incredibly proud of this excavator deal, the company takes even greater pleasure in being a reliable, long-term partner for Shanghai Electric. Liebherr (China) Co Ltd has worked alongside Shanghai Electric at the Thar Block-1 coal mine since 2020, the very first year of the mine’s construction.

Thar Block-1 is located within Pakistan’s Thar coalfields in the Thar Desert. There are an estimated 175 billion tonnes of lignite – also known as brown coal – located within the Thar coalfields, making it one of the largest reserves of lignite in the world. Thar Block-1 is also one of the key projects of the CPEC, a bilateral trade agreement between China and Pakistan that was established in 2013 as part of the Chinese government’s larger Belt and Road Initiative. The goals of the CPEC are to improve Pakistan’s national infrastructure, secure better trade with China, and further strengthen ties between the countries of South Asia.

The relationship between Liebherr Mining and Shanghai Electric began well before any monumental excavator orders were placed. “Liebherr (China) Co Ltd understands that deciding to enter into a business arrangement with a new company is not a choice made lightly. As such, in the year before the tender for the 28 excavators was won and a contract was signed for their supply, Liebherr (China) Co Ltd – along with its agent on the ground in Pakistan – provided Shanghai Electric with all of the information the customer required. This involved frequent seminars and technical communication as well as providing fast responses to Shanghai Electric’s queries. The customer also visited Liebherr’s excavator factory in Colmar, France, to assess all aspects of the R 9100 – from design to manufacturing, quality control, logistics, and support – and thus gain an in-depth understanding of the machine and Liebherr’s capability and commitment.”

“Each mining operation has unique requirements based on factors such as location, ore type, and environmental conditions,” says Armin Natter, General Manager, Liebherr (China) Co Ltd. “Liebherr (China) Co Ltd. and our customer service teams needed to provide Shanghai Electric with solutions that would address the specific needs of the site’s desert conditions while also ensuring maximum machine uptime. This involved offering training and educational resources to help operators understand how to use their equipment efficiently and safely in a desert climate.”

These 28 excavators were commissioned from early 2020. Once onsite at Thar Block-1, Liebherr (China) Co Ltd continued to offer Shanghai Electric exceptional customer service and equipment support during the mine’s construction phase. As a crucial part of the CPEC, the Thar Block-1 project had to adhere to tight deadlines in difficult conditions.

“Ensuring machine availability in a desert area such as this is a big challenge,” says Kurt Chen, Mining Service Inspector, Liebherr (China) Co Ltd. “To ensure Shanghai Electric’s daily power generation, machine failures must be solved within shortest possible timeframe. This requires both experienced and devoted onsite engineers as well as customer cooperation regarding appropriate spare parts and preventive maintenance for the machines.”

In a letter of thanks, Shanghai Electric praised Liebherr’s leading role during this time. “Your business carefully organised, fully utilised its management and professional advantages, eliminated difficulties, promoted project construction in an orderly manner, standardised project management, and put in place risk prevention and control measures,” the letter reads. “We would like to expression congratulations and thanks to all staff involved.”

Construction of the Thar Block-1 mine ended in February 2023 and it is now in commercial operation. The mine will produce 7.8 Mt of lignite per annum, which will in turn fuel the power generation aspect of the Thar Block-1 operation. The project will generate nine billion kilowatt-hours of electricity for the local power grid every year – enough to power almost four million households.