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Authors: Priyadarshi Hem (Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering - University of British Columbia), Greg Fenrick (InfoMine), and Jack Caldwell (Robertson GeoConsultants)

Revised: February 2012


This review describes the current state of technology of the equipment and technical processes involved in shovels and excavators in open pit and underground mine operations. Topics covered include suppliers of shovels and related equipment, the types and varieties of shovels and excavators available on the market, the cost and technical characteristics of shovels and excavation equipment and operation, jobs and employment involving the design, procurement, operation, and maintenance of shovels and excavators at mines.


You have drilled the rocks and maybe blasted too. Time to pick it up and put it in a truck. Or maybe you have soft soil and rock and can simply dig away. Either way you need a shovel. A case history for proof:

Ore production at Bingham Canyon is approximately 100,000 metric tons per day. With a waste-to-ore stripping ratio of 3:1, this calls for drilling, blasting, and removing an average of 400,000 tons of material per day, using power shovels with 5 to 20 m3 capacity dippers, rail cars of 65 to 80 metric-ton capacity, and trucks designed to haul 60 to 140 metric tons of ore and rock. Shovels of this size require a bench at least 30 m wide. Heights of bench faces range from 4 to 8 m in weak rock and from 15 to 20 m in moderately strong rock.

Here is a brief review of the technology and equipment used in excavation: SHOVELS.

If you have more recent and relevant information about shovels than appears in this review, please contact the Technology Division Manager and help spread the word and keep the users of InfoMine informed and up-to-date.


With the rapid evolution of open pit mining and oil sand mining in recent years, Shovel Operators, Heavy Duty Mechanics, and Maintenance Supervisors are in continuous demand in the surface mining industries.


Electric rope shovels, with bucket capacities ranging from 20 m3 to over 100 m3, raise and lower the bucket using large cables attached to powerful electric motors. With a 100 m3 shovel, it can fill a 300 ton haul truck in three passes every 80 seconds. Manufacturers include:

P&H 4100XPB rope shovel

Hydraulic shovels have a similar capacity range, but use hydraulics and a forward or backhoe loading motion to dig into the ore being excavated. Manufacturers include:


InfoMine Equipment lists over 45 used shovels, and InfoMine Buyer's Guide provides ready access to the catalogs of over 200 suppliers of shovel and shovel associated parts and equipment.


Front Loading Hydraulic Shovel So that you know where your shovel is, put a GPS unit on it. C. Seymour describes the technology in Applications for GPS on Shovels and Excavators. U.S. Borax uses GPS for machine guidance at their mine in California's Mojave Desert-a beautiful place to which I would love to return one day. Modular Mining Systems provides the equipment.



In the Canadian Oilsands - one of the toughest mining applications known - the RH 400 has achieved a new production world record for hydraulic shovels: Well over 9,000 t/h during performance testing and more than 5,500 t/h on average. With recorded bucket payloads of up to 100 sht the RH 400 easily fills 240 sht trucks with 3 passes and, up to 400 sht trucks with 4 to 5 passes respectively. RH 400 has a bucket capacity of 45 m3 and a maximum cutting height of 20.2 m. To view the detailed specification of RH 400, visit RITCHIESpecs.


The Captain. Image source: http://www.zyconmodels.com/catalog/ccm-mar6360.php

Bucyrus-Erie model 1850B electric shovel (commonly known as Big Brutus), while not the largest electric shovel ever built, is the largest electric shovel still in existence. With a bucket capacity of 69 m3, Big Brutus removed overburden from approximately 9,000,000 tons of coal during its operating period from 1963 to 1974 in Pittsburg and Midway Mine.

Marion 6360, also known as The Captain, is largest electric shovel ever built, with a bucket capacity of 140 m3 and boom length of 66m. It was used in operation by Southwestern Illinois Coal Corporation and then by Arch Coal, before it was scrapped in early 1990.

Currently 4100XPC Shovel and 7495 HF are the largest shovels built by P&H Mining Equipment and Caterpillar respectively. Both have a bucket capacity of 120 tons.


Terex RH 400 Hydraulic Excavator The December 2005 issue of International Mining describes how to choose between electric and hydraulic shovels, backhoes, and wheel loaders. See page 21 of the PDF article for a useful table on selecting shovels.


Both P&H Mining Equipment Inc. and Bucyrus International, Inc. offer operator training using Immersive Technologies training simulators. Fifth Dimension Technologies - Virtual Reality for the Real World supplies training simulators for the mining industry, including modules for shovels and excavators.


Here are a number of videos on various types of shovels: http://video.mining.com/avc-search.aspx?kwd=shovel

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