AS you can imagine it’s a busy time at Irish Salt Mining based near Carrickfergus as the winter takes grip on Northern Ireland’s roads creating icy conditions.
Reliable equipment is essential at the mine to ensure the salt gets distributed to the customers around Northern Ireland and further afield into the Republic of Ireland and mainland UK.
The Irish Salt Mining & Exploration Co. Ltd is a privately owned company that dates back to 1965 when it was started by three Irish American brothers. Today it produces around 500,000 tonnes of de-icing rock salt per year, and is one of only three salt mines in the UK and the only one in Ireland.
The company’s latest purchase is a new Doosan DL580-7 wheel loader, complete with specially modified bucket, that is destined to spend its working life underground loading the blasted salt into dump trucks that haul it to the surface.
Buying a Doosan marks a return to the brand following a ten year gap during which the salt mines operated other brand wheel loaders.
This time around a combination of features on the new Doosan, such as latest emission technology, fuel efficiency and a bigger bucket, helped seal the deal with Doosan distributor Northern Excavators Ltd.
Alwyn McCreanor, Irish Salt Mining Co. Ltd company administrator, is well pleased with the Doosan purchase. “Our previous loader was approaching five years old and needed replacing. We were attracted to the Doosan DL580-7 because of the manufacturer’s five years, or 7,500 hours, warranty.
“Some of our operators actually test drove a number of different machines at quarries and choose the Doosan wheel loader as the best one to suit us.”
The new Doosan has been running in the salt mines since the end of September but had to undergo some changes at the dealership before going underground.
Alwyn said: “The Doosan is performing very well according to its main operator Jay Davis. It is responsible for scooping up the blasted salt and loading it into 30 tonne trucks all 420m underground, so it is a fairly hard life for it there.
“Due to the underground life we had to carry out a number of changes, mostly to do with fire suppression, to the loader in order to make it safer.”
These changes included work to the oil and fuel pipes on the loader carried out by Dennis Stewart, the service manager at Northern Excavators Ltd. “Due to the machine working underground we had to fit the loader out with a fire suppression kit,” said Dennis. “This means we fitted emergency stop buttons around the vehicle as well as fuel and electrical shut off switches.
“Other changes included covering the manifolds to protect against oil spraying on them in case of a leak and also at the turbo. We essentially protected all the areas where a leak could start a fire.
“Work was also carried out by Cooke Brothers in Newtownards to increase the capacity of the bucket, as well as strengthen it to ensure longer wear.
“Cooke Brothers modified the bucket to suit the mine conditions adding Hardox steel to the mouth and sides of the bucket to make it stronger, and fabricating a lip at the top to prevent material falling off the back when in action,” he said.
The new Doosan DL580-7 is a Stage V emissions wheel loader featuring a completely new design, providing higher performance, increased fuel efficiency and a much enhanced environment for the operator compared to the previous Stage IV model.
It is powered by the six-cylinder 400hpScania DC13 engine and has an operating weight of 34,488kgs.
Alwyn added: “The main benefits we are finding with the new Doosan DL580-7 are that it has plenty of power, good fuel efficiency and operator comfort.
“The big plus is with the newly modified bucket on the front. Each scoop of the bucket holds 15 tonnes of salt which means we can fill the 30 tonne trucks in just two passes whereas on the previous machine it took two and a half passes to fill the trucks.
“With this advantage we are not only saving fuel but also generating less emissions per truck load,” he added.