Suncor says Fort Hills to get new super size Komatsu PC9000 excavator

As the market stands today, the largest available big surface mining hydraulic excavators are generally in the 800 t class – the Komatsu PC8000 (shown in the attached photo), Hitachi EX8000 and Liebherr R 9800. Caterpillar still in theory has the 1,000 t 6090 FS face shovel machine – whose design dates from O&K days in Dortmund (which became Terex O&K then briefly was part of Bucyrus) before its  acquisition by Caterpillar in 2011. But this unit (then it was the RH400) has not been built in some years and the 6090 is no longer listed on the Caterpillar website as it is undergoing numerous upgrades to bring it into line with Cat’s next generation of shovels which has already been done with the 6060 FS and BH (backhoe) models. Back in 2012 Cat also built a 1,270 t model, the 6120B H FS, with hybrid technology, but this project was shelved.

Now it seems there is a new super sized excavator in the market – the Komatsu PC9000. In a recent news story, oil sands miner Suncor stated via Jason Wyman, General Manager for the Mine and Tailings team at Fort Hills, that the mine’s fleet of trucks and shovels that moves approximately 300 Mt of material every year is growing including through this new shovel model.

“The decision to invest in new equipment, specifically 23 Komatsu 980 haul trucks and one hydraulic shovel, was introduced from the annual mine plan,” explains Wyman. “The mine plan outlines production targets and operational strategies, ultimately determining the required equipment. As Fort Hills grew, trucks and shovels were initially purchased in 2014; however, as volumes increased and haul distances grew, rental equipment was secured to meet business plan commitments. This rental equipment comes at a significant premium, affecting the mine’s overall cost structure.”

He adds: “Overall, we have purchased 55 new trucks for the region, with 23 allocated to our Fort Hills site, and 32 to Base Plant. The purchases of the haul trucks and shovels will reduce the mine’s operating cost.”

At Fort Hills, the new trucks and hydraulic shovel he says will be gradually rolled out throughout 2024, including the mentioned Komatsu PC9000, which he describes as the largest hydraulic shovel in the world, arriving towards the end of the year.

”The new equipment will reinforce a commitment to Fort Hills’ competitiveness,” says Wyman. Along with the new fleet come ambitious goals for Fort Hills like driving down the cost per tonne, he adds.

”Given the substantial volume of material moved annually, the new equipment will position Fort Hills as a best-in-class operator, surpassing the limitations of the previous rental strategy. The ownership of equipment allows for more control over maintenance programs, increasing equipment availability and overall efficiency”

Fort Hills’ investment in trucks and shovels he says will help Suncor achieve its goal of being Canada’s leading energy provider by enhancing operational efficiency and reducing costs. “As the new equipment is gradually integrated into the mine’s operations, the team remains optimistic about the positive impact it will have on Fort Hills’ long-term success.”

Komatsu would not comment officially to IM but by its existing nomenclature a PC9000 would be a 900 t machine; and with the 6090 no longer listed, that would indeed make it the world’s largest available hydraulic shovel today. As all of Komatsu’s other shovels are available  in both backhoe and face shovel as well as diesel or AC electric cable power, this is likely to be the case with the PC9000 as well. As the diesel PC8000 has two Cummins QSK60 engines the diesel model is likely to be equipped with dual QSK78 engines.