Usibelli Coal Mine (UCM) has added the first Hitachi excavator to its fleet: an EX1900-6.
Headquartered near Healy, Alaska, UCM is the only operational coal mine in the state. A family-owned business since 1943, the company is currently run by third-generation family member and UCM president Joe Usibelli, Jr. The 35,100-acre mine produces about 1.5 million tons (1.36 million tonnes) of coal annually, most of which is used for regional power.
A team of Joe Usibelli, Jr.; Alan Renshaw, vice president of operations and general manager; Fred Wallis, vice president of engineering; and Billy Graham, maintenance manager; began looking to add equipment to the mine’s fleet. The group collaborated with Hitachi dealer Construction Machinery Industrial (CMI) and located an available machine in Nome, Alaska.
The team boldly coordinated the logistics of machine delivery, which included getting a permit to walk the EX1900-6 to the Port of Nome, walking the machine on a barge, transporting it by barge to Seward, disassembling the machine in Seward, transporting it by 11 trucks to UCM mine site, then re-assembling it in just three days at UCM by a crew of four technicians. The excavator began operating at the mine in August 2015.
“There are a lot of things that could have gone wrong with the transport, but we got it here successfully!” Renshaw said.
UCM primarily mines three seams of sub-bituminous coal ranging from 18 ft. to 30 ft. (5.5 m-9 m) in depth with the interburden extending from 70 ft. to 125 ft. (21 m -38 m), so a backhoe configuration proved best for the mine.
“Backhoe loading with the 1900 is faster, and it’s definitely got breakout power,” Wallis said.
So far, things have been pretty quiet with the EX1900-6 as it loads a rotation of 150-ton trucks.
“It’s well laid out,” Graham said. “Our mechanics appreciate the simple engineering and components on the machine. We have very few calls on the radio about it.”
While conditions can be brutal in Alaska, UCM is used to the challenges and is now equipped with the reliable EX1900-6 to keep production moving forward.
“The 1900 is a similar size machine to what we had been using, but it’s faster and cheaper to run,” Renshaw said. “The colder and darker it gets, the higher the coal orders and the harder we work – and the harder the Hitachi works. It can get to 40 below, and we keep running.”
Usibelli Coal Mine Inc. is serviced by Construction Machinery Industrial LLC, Fairbanks, Alaska.