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Mining Equipment and the Role of Engineering Simulation

Radu Crahmaliuc
BlogCAE HubMining Equipment and the Role of Engineering Simulation

The natural resources sector is fully dependent on the adoption of new technologies and closely integrated with the energy and utility sectors. As technology progresses, it brings with it a wide variety of alternative energy solutions (wind farms, solar cells power stations, hydroelectricity, geothermal energy or biofuel), while mineral and fossil natural resources are still fueling an energy-dependent economy.

Exploring new resource areas and developing new technologies are the most important drivers in the exploration, extraction, and industrial treatment of oil, gas, and minerals.

Looking at the manufacturing process for equipment and components, the natural resources industry is based on the same common workflows, from engineering to design, testing, production, and field installation. But the biggest differences can be found in the prototyping laboratory, where it is quite difficult to reproduce the real conditions from the field in testing. Just imagine how complicated the testing can be in real conditions for a high-volume mining excavation machine or a +10 km high deep drilling column.

The biggest and the heaviest mining machine in the world is the bucket wheel excavator from Bogatyr Mine, Kazakhstan [1]. With a saw component with a 12-meter diameter and weighing in at 45,000 tons, this monster is capable of extracting more than 4,500 tons of coal per hour and needs to be operated by 27 miners.

bucket wheel excavator from Bogatyr Mine, mining equipment
Bucket Wheel Excavator from Bogatyr Mine (Photo Source: DailyMail)

The deepest drill hole in the world was located in the north of the Kola Peninsula [2]. It reached 12km into the Earth’s crust during the 1980s. More recently, in 2011, Exxon Mobil recorded an even longer borehole at just over 12km in eastern Russia.

These are only two examples of incredible engineering performance in equipment. Any manufacturing process for extraction equipment should assimilate modern engineering and design solutions in order to reduce time, the risk of errors, and financial cost. Cloud-based CAD or CAE solutions allow real-time design corrections, dramatic cost reduction associated with physical testing of prototypes, and continuous improvement of product quality and performance.

By enabling companies to simulate extraction, transportation, and industrial process equipment, the SimScale simulation platform can play an important role in testing designs, making repeated changes, and increasing the overall efficiency. SimScale provides a full range of analyses, from structural mechanics and thermodynamics to fluid dynamics.

Mining equipment and heavy machinery, in general, are two areas where SimScale can make a real difference.

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Types of Mining Equipment

For centuries, we have been using the same exploitation processes for salt, coal, gold, and silver, or metallic minerals. The differences begin with mineral mass processing, which has specific extraction methodologies for each resource.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics [3] divided the mining industry into five major segments: coal mining, gas, and oil extracting, metal ore mining, non-metal mineral mining and supporting activities, such as resource transportation. Each segment requires specific equipment, but there are several types of mining equipment that are used throughout the industry:

  • Excavators – machines used to dig and remove earth, sand, etc. Special dimensions and critical working conditions require machine and component optimization, which is based specifically on static linear, nonlinear and dynamic analysis.
  • Draglines – enormous earth-moving machines that are used to drag away and expose underlying coal or mineral deposits. Draglines are some of the largest machines on the planet and can remove hundreds of tons of material in a single pass.
  • Drills – coal and mineral miners use drills to create an extensive series of holes, which they then fill with explosive charges to blast away chunks of earth.
  • Roof bolters – large, hydraulically powered machines that are used to force bolts into roofs. Miners use roof bolters to support tunnel roofs and prevent underground collapses.
  • Continuous miners – machines with massive rotating arrays of teeth, often made from tungsten carbide. In coal mines, these machines are used to scrape coal from coal beds. In particularly dangerous situations, workers control robotic continuous miners remotely.
  • Longwall miners – in contrast to continuous miners, longwall miners remove large rectangular sections of coal instead of scraping coal from a bed bit-by-bit. Continuous miners consist in a series of large cutting shearers and a self-raising hydraulic system that supports the mineshaft ceiling as sections of coal are removed.
  • Rock dusters – are pressurized pieces of equipment that miners use to spray inert mineral dust over highly flammable coal dust. The inert dust helps prevent accidental fires and explosions.
  • Shuttle cars and scoops – some miners use electric-powered shuttle cars to transport coal from the coal bed to safer points in the mine. From there, miners can use standard scoops, or haulage vehicles, to drive their loads completely out of the mine. Miners of all types use haulage vehicles for various tasks.

Mining Equipment Simulation

Real-time optimization for this mining equipment require specific analysis methods:

  • Mineral excavation equipment – structural linear, nonlinear and dynamic analysis
  • Belts and other transportation – structural dynamic
  • Large drill holes and elevators – structural stress and dynamic
  • Industrial water pipes, pumps, reservoirs – multiple CFD analysis
  • Underground ventilation pipes: structural mechanics, CFD, thermodynamics
  • Roof consolidation – structural stress analysis
  • Mineral mills: structural, CFD
structural analysis of a wheel loader arm
Structural Analysis of a Wheel Loader Arm Carried Out with SimScale

The SimScale Public Projects Library contains thousands of completed simulations for different applications which can be used as templates. Take a look at this wheel loader arm simulation, which is a static linear structural analysis. The results show the relative movement between the components and, at the same time, allow an assessment of the stress performance. Without any physical prototype, the design engineer can make improvements to the design early in the development process. Calculations were made to check which forces the hydraulic cylinders have generated to lift the applied load. The figure above shows the von Mises stress response of the analysis.

Watch this webinar recording to learn more about engineering simulation in heavy machinery.


  • “You have to see this saw! Incredible 45,000-ton machine has blade the size of a four-story building“, Mail Online, January 2015
  • “What’s At The Bottom Of The Deepest Hole On Earth?”, IFL Science, March 2015.
  • “A list of mining equipment”,


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