Kalgoorlie Super Pit in Kalgoorlie, Australia.

Red, Gold, and Mesabi® All Over: Iron Ore and Gold Mining in Western Australia

When it comes to perfecting mining operations on Australia’s west coast, Mesabi® radiators run the show.

Perth, Australia – The sweltering, dry heat of Western Australia marks the landscape with stark hues of gold and red, interrupted only by towering mountain ranges and the vibrant blue of the western coastline. Though the above-ground beauty is impressive, underneath the ‘roos, otherworldly spiders, and sun-touched sand lies so much more. Even where green trees speckle the ground, red and gold can still be found much, much below the earth’s surface.

Australia is home to two of the world’s largest gold mines: The Kalgoorlie Super Pit and Cadia Gold Mine. The area also boasts the largest range of iron ore mines in the world, hosting major companies such as BHP, FMG, Roy Hill, and Rio Tinto. With 17% of the total world estimated gold reserves and 30% of the total world estimated iron ore reserves, the continent holds the highest quantity of both resources that you’ll find anywhere else on the planet.

Iron Ore Mine in Western Australia
Australia is home to some of the world’s largest iron ore mines. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

To recover the materials, Caterpillar, Komatsu, Liebherr, Sandvik, Hitachi and Epiroc machines plunge deep into the oldest continental crust on the planet. They work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to recover quantities of gold and iron ore unlike anywhere else on Earth.

“Many of these machines work 24/7 without a break. If you do the math, that is 8,760 hours in a year. To handle that level of production, we have some of the longest trains in the world hauling iron ore from the mine site to the port, spanning between three and four kilometers long each,” explained Tony Coppins, Sales Manager at L&M Radiator’s Perth, Australia location. “If you pull up at a railroad crossing when there’s an iron ore train coming through, you’ll be waiting 10 or 15 minutes for the train to go past.”

A scale of production this large comes with its fair share of challenges. Between abrasive salt water, isolation, and temperatures that can reach up to 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), there is no room for fault among the machines that drive these operations.

Corrosive Groundwater Poses Challenge for Gold Mining Operations

Coppins notes that the region’s gold fields in Boddington and Kalgoorlie are afflicted with a very high salt content in the groundwater – 10 times saltier than the ocean. This isn’t dangerous, per se, but it does do a number on the mining machines that encounter the groundwater.

Kalgoorlie Super Pit in Kalgoorlie, Australia.
Kalgoorlie Super Pit in Kalgoorlie, Australia.

“The salt just attacks and eats away at the steelwork on the machines,” said Coppins. “I will have customers bring in a machine that is only four or five years old, but it looks like it’s a hundred years old, complete with rust holes and peeling paint.”

Damage of this kind could easily cause a machine to hit its useful end far sooner than it ought to. But when you are producing resounding levels of gold in one of the most isolated areas on the planet, there is little room for breakdowns. That’s where Mesabi® Radiators, produced by L&M Radiator, come in.

“With our service center, we have methods in place to rebuild those radiators so they look like new again,” said Coppins. “We replace a lot of the steelwork in a process that we call re-skinning, which entails taking the old, rusty skin off and putting new outer skin on. They look, last, and work much better after that. This is also an opportunity for some customers to replace their frame with longer-lasting stainless steel.”

That’s the magic of a Mesabi radiator. After it is built, it can be serviced over and over again, only replacing the parts that need replacing. When it returns to full operation, it is made to last the entire engine life of the machine. Even after reaching the engine life of a machine, the radiator can be rebuilt and put back in.

“I’ve seen trucks that have had seven rebuilds on radiators,” said Coppins. “They’ve done more than 100,000 hours in total and they’re still as good as new.”

To prevent damage from occurring in the first place, Coppins recommends using a Mesabi BOSS® brass V-Tube™ radiator. Brass is much less susceptible to corrosion from saltwater than copper or aluminum. The V-Tube™ model is made with tubes that are easily replaceable in the field, so, if one tube is hit or punctured, maintenance personnel can simply replace that tube with a new one and send the machine back on its way. This is especially helpful for underground applications. For above-ground haul truck applications, Coppins recommends implementing an M-Tube Radiator for a more appropriate size match.

Photo: A Mesabi BOSS® Radiator designed with brass tubes to prevent corrosion.
Photo: A Mesabi BOSS® Radiator designed with brass tubes to prevent corrosion.


L&M Radiator in Perth, Australia

All the magic happens at L&M Radiator’s Perth location. Located two-thirds of the way down the west coast, L&M Radiator is at the center of the expansive mining and production network in Western Australia, making stopping in for service or a new radiator about as easy as it could be in one of the most isolated cities in the world.

“The great thing about us is we’re supporting the Australian and the Southeast Asian markets with a locally manufactured product,” said Coppins. “We’ve been here 50 years, we’ve got the full support from a corporate head office in the United States, and we even come standard on many machines. The important thing to know is that the radiator on your Komatsu, Caterpillar, Hitachi, or Liebherr haul truck or dozer comes from the factory with a genuine Mesabi radiator, the same as what you can buy from Perth, Australia.”

Mesabi by L&M Radiator: Tackle the Land Down Under

Though each Australian mine encounters its own unique set of challenges, they share one thing in common – you’ll find Mesabi radiators on all of them. From the mines of Down Under to the mines at the top of the world and everywhere in between, there’s no radiator at more mines throughout the world than Mesabi radiators by L&M Radiator. The world’s mining operations literally depend on Mesabi to take care of their valuable mining equipment.

“We even have one mine up in the Pilbara, whose philosophy is any piece of equipment they get, if they are not able to specify a genuine Mesabi radiator, they will ask us to design a Mesabi for it. It’s that critical for them,” said Coppins.

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