BelAZ conquers Las Vegas
Belarusian dump trucks arouse huge interest among mining companies
By Kirill Pirogov
The international exhibition is an Olympiad for all mining enterprises every four years, in American Las Vegas. It gathers the largest producers of quarry machinery from around the world, who demonstrate their latest developments, competing to be known as strongest in this narrow but prestigious market. This year, the Belarusian 360 tonne BelAZ-75603 took part, creating a real stir among such giants as Caterpillar, Komatsu and Liebherr. Every day, hundreds of visitors visited its stand, allowing several contracts to be concluded with global mining leaders. As ever, the most interesting facts failed to be photographed or covered by official press releases.
This was the first time that BelAZ had demonstrated its impressive dump truck in Vegas, since thousands of kilometres separate Belarusian Zhodino from the desert location. It would be a challenge to send a small passenger car so, naturally, delivery of monster-size trucks is a unique challenge.
Every day, MAZ produces several dozen dump trucks, each taking a whole month to assemble, since components are many and sourced from all over the globe before the finished article is sent to mine copper, coal or salt. Russia, Ukraine, Venezuela and Chile are among existing customers for 50-100 tonne BelAZ trucks. The 360 tonne exposition vehicle is, of course, even larger.
“It’s taken over two months for the truck to reach its destination,” explains the General Director of Western Technologies (specialising in the promotion of BelAZ trucks to North America), Dmitry Tikhomolov, who helped organise the Belarusian stand at MINExpo. He notes that the truck travelled for almost 45 days by sea from Klaipeda port and by train, needing 16 platforms to transport it in disassembled form. Assembly at its destination was the most complicated task, since it’s tricky even in the home workshop — despite being routine. Assembly in the ‘field’ presents a massive challenge — especially taking into account the weight of a single wheel (more than that of a small truck).
A joint group of Belarusian and American designers — headed by deputy chief designer Leonid Semenov — oversaw this complicated task in Las Vegas. He notes, “Partners from American Jas company provided the cranes without which it would have been impossible to unload the BelAZ components. Moreover, we were assisted by a group of highly qualified mechanics who helped with assembly. Conducted in the open air, under the hot sun, the task was even harder. It’s really quite unpleasant to be outside when the temperature is over 40 degrees and we had to assemble the giant mechanisms with great accuracy.” Mr. Semenov adds, “Taking into consideration these conditions, we decided to start as early in the day as possible. By 6am, our team was ready, achieving as much by lunchtime as is usually seen in an eight hour working day.”
The assembly of the giant truck took a team of eleven and two weeks, with the last days seeing the lifting of a platform by two 150 tonne cranes, for placement on bridge stands (each weighing over 100 tonnes). However, as Mr. Semenov admits, painting was the most challenging element, as the truck had lost its lustre after the long sea journey; of course, a show like MINExpo relies on each truck looking impressive! “It’s a difficult job to paint a BelAZ truck but, in the USA, we faced the additional difficulty of local legislation. You can’t paint vehicles in the open air with the usual painting devices since electrostatic paint spraying is impossible at such a temperature. So, we had to paint the truck in the evening and, even, at night; it surprised the Americans greatly. They could hardly believe that such complicated work could be done under artificial lighting and that we completed it in time. They even came to take photos next to the truck,” muses Mr. Semenov.
The gigantic truck was driven the last few kilometres of its route, arousing huge interest among Las Vegas drivers and passers-by. It also caused a stir among professionals, easily rivalling other such mining vehicles at the exhibition.
A network of dealers (already operational in America) has agreed to provide after-sales service for the Zhodino trucks, explains the General Director of the Belarusian Automobile Works, Piotr Parkhomchik. He notes that the recent MINExpo was a milestone for his company, saying, “Everyone was impressed by us transporting a 360 tonne dump truck to the exhibition. From the first day of opening, our stand attracted the greatest number of spectators. We conducted numerous talks with the largest companies, who expressed interest in purchasing Belarusian machinery. The exhibition is organised every four years exclusively for professionals so I have no doubt that — even against the existing competition — we’ll conclude new contracts and find new buyers in South and Central America.”