The Australian mining industry has evolved at a brisk pace. In the beginning, a phrase that precedes all truly prodigious tales, a borrowed tin dish was all that it took to wash grains of gold free from the river sand. Industrial scalability could hardly rely on river sieving, though, so harnessed pit ponies and strong men came next. In terms of extractive history, then, don’t you wonder how we got from picks and ponies to where Australian mining is today?
The timeline for Australian mining equipment moves at breakneck speed because the Industrial Revolution was in full flow. In order to fuel that steam-powered industrial complex, coal was extracted from Newcastle, New South Wales, by hundreds of brawny Aussie miners. Each one, equipped with a miner’s pick, chiseled coal while their carbide lamps illuminated their confined work space. Reduced into manageable chunks by hammers and wedges, the fragments were then loaded into skips and dragged away by pony power.
As for the first extractive equipment in Australia, mining picks come first. Exposed to this primitive extractive process, coal seams and lead deposits were heaved free and then broken down by sledgehammers. Early electric systems were on the horizon, so those pit ponies retired. Conveyance belts and crushing equipment then arrived, but this ramshackle gear used leather belts and other short-lived drive coupling fabrics to power the equipment.
This period of manually powered mining could have continued for years, but near-ground mineral reserves were drying up in New South Wales. Mine owners were being forced to go deeper. Blasting powder was the answer, plus the introduction of more effective explosive charges. These latter chemicals arrived in the late 1800s and were labelled with exotic names, like Nitroglycerin and Trinitrotoluene (TNT). Water flooding was also at this point, so steam powered pumps entered mines. True mechanical technology had arrived, so the gateway was open for a whole new generation of mining equipment.
Deeper mines and larger global markets added steam powered pumps and electric conveyors to the industry. Productivity factors came next, so the leather belt drives and rotary hammer crushers replaced most of those manually wielded tools. Finally, and just check our inventory to prove this truism, reinforced alloys and engineering plastics superseded the old engineering equipment. This gear, today’s Australian mining equipment, is intelligently designed to maximize productivity and lower maintenance costs by dampening abrasive impacts and employing the finest fatigue-resistant alloys.