A fleet of five new Hitachi EX3600-6 excavators has been supplied by the Hitachi construction machinery dealer for Kyrgyzstan, Turkuaz Machinery, to work at high altitude in sub-zero temperatures on the Kumtor gold mine, which is located 4000 m above sea level. The mining machines are being utilised as the primary excavators for the 24/7, 365-day operation that mines ice, moraine and rock to reach the gold veins (Fig.).
Operated by the Canadian mining company, Centerra Gold Inc., in 2011 the mine produced 583 156 ounces (18.1 tonnes) of gold. The deposit is being developed by open-pit mining techniques, utilising typical drill, blast and truck/excavator operations. Hitachi Construction Machinery Eurasia Sales LLC and Turkuaz Machinery work in partnership with the mine’s management and Training and Maintenance departments to ensure that the EX3600-6s continue to work relentlessly and productively towards the annual production targets. Each EX3600-6 has been fitted with a cold weather package, which includes an engine heater – to ensure that it starts in the coldest temperatures – and various covers to prevent the heated air from escaping, and the freezing air from entering the machine’s systems. The engine output has also been decreased by 30 %, so that it can handle working on a site with reduced levels of oxygen.