Joy Global will announce the new 4800XPC ultra-class rope shovel at MINExpo 2012 this week, with Caterpillar also upping the loading tool size stakes with the new larger 6120B H FS hydraulic excavator – and both developments, along with a new shovel from China’s THYI – have now paved the way for a new era in truck sizes, and the associated future upscaling of key components from engines to tyres and truck bodies. The new 4800XPC P&H AC-drive ultra-class shovel will feature advanced loading system controls to enable three-pass loading of 400 short ton / 363 t haul trucks. Despite its greater payload capacity, the 4800XPC shovel will be only marginally larger than the current P&H 4100XPC 109 t payload shovel and its ground-bearing pressure will essentially match that of the 4100XPC. Caterpillar has built on the previous 6090 FS (former Bucyrus RH400 model). Arguably both models are long overdue; with the decision to build them coinciding with the continued mining boom (ignore the naysayers) and the Caterpillar acquisition of Bucyrus.The new 6120B H FS significantly exceeds the size of the 6090 FS but includes innovative hybrid technologies to cut fuel use per tonne by an estimated 25% through the use of hydra-electric regenerative technologies and a unique energy storage system. It has an operating weight of 1,270 t and engine output of about 3,360 kW which enable it to efficiently handle bucket sizes of 46 to 65 m3, depending on material density. In China, as featured in IM’s MINExpo issue, Taiyuan Heavy Industry (THYI) has built the WK-75 rope shovel with a bucket size of potentially up to 100 m3 and a quoted loading ability for IPCC systems of 12,000 t/h.These new machines open the door for larger truck development because larger loading tools make loading of larger trucks possible in three to four passes. With size comes greater efficiency, provided areas such as maintenance, vehicle weight proportions and fuel consumption manage to keep up in relative terms. It is important to remember, however, the massive levels of new investment required from OEMs and their component suppliers to make these new machines a reality. At these sizes, Toyota Production Systems and Lean Manufacturing systems tend to have to be thrown out the window and dedicated areas put aside at factories to specifically work on individual machines – built only to order not for stock; and requiring the latest technology in steel fabrication, suspension and other areas.This is tempered against the fact that the market for ultra class machines is already limited to a select group of the largest coal and copper/copper-gold operations; so upping the capacity ante comes with significant risk. The market for 363 t plus trucks is only in the hundreds annually as it is, and that for the largest rope shovels in low double figures. Having said that, the handful of mines that have a need for this equipment – from Escondida and Chuqicamata to NARM and Black Thunder – are the elite of copper and coal supply to the world, so they are unlikely to be significantly affected by any slight dip in economic fortunes.IM has previously used the term “super ultra class” to refer to this inevitable new tier of equipment capacities and reported on BELAZ’s intentions to complete a new 450 t capacity mining truck in 2013, as well as MMC group company’s HMTK’s new 6000 truck – who knows what models HMTK, XEMC, SANY and others will be capable of supplying in the coming years. New models from Caterpillar, Hitachi, Komatsu and Liebherr probably already exist “on paper”, awaiting the next level of scale in shovels and excavators. The 450-454 t capacity trucks are expected to be the next models available; ie representing the next jump up from 400 short tons or 363 metric tonnes. This will probably also result in a whole new nomenclature of models, above the existing Caterpillar 797F/Unit Rig MT6300AC, Liebherr T284, Komatsu 960E and Hitachi EH5000ACII.Larger shovels also mean greater potential for achievable throughputs in In-Pit Crushing and Conveying (IPCC) systems, about to be discussed in depth at our IPCC 2012 event in Bali from 24-26 October. Arguably, some of the larger semimobile and fully-mobile rigs that have been developed to date have struggled attain their full potential as the rope shovel tasked with loading them has struggled to feed the required tonnes to achieve production levels of 14,000 t/h and above. Indeed the MMD Low Profile Mobile Sizer Station has been designed with the next level of shovels in mind, and the company is confident that its sizer stations will be able to cope with 20,000 t/h and beyond, through lengthening of the main twin shafts and strengthening of certain components.There is no doubt that even if China’s growth slows further, and the global mining industry takes a breather from the flat out production of the last few years, that by MINExpo 2016, there will be a significant number of installed super ultra class trucks, rope shovels and hydraulic excavators along with all that entails for component supply. These readjustments of scale, along with increased implementation of automation, IPCC elements and trolley-assist (already being seen in Africa and elsewhere), will make for an exciting four years.