Every once in a while, a manufacturer of ground support equipment introduces a product that creates, not simply responds to market demand. This is what we like to call building a paradigm shift.
The MacLean bolter is just that – an innovation that was met with skepticism when first developed in the mid-1980s and now, thirty years and over four hundred units later, has gone on to become a Canadian mining industry mainstay for the operator protection and ergonomics, productivity and quality control it delivers. In this era of tandem vigilance around underground safety and production cost controls, the MacLean bolter’s back story tells us a lot about where hard rock mining has come from and, more importantly, where it’s going.
It starts with the firm’s founder and current Chairman, Don MacLean, a professional mining engineer whose experience working underground in Canadian mines in the 1960s propelled his launch of a company that could design solutions to the unique safety and productivity challenges of the hard rock environment.
Forty years after the firm’s start in 1973, MacLean Engineering is now an innovation engine with a global client list and influence well beyond its headcount.
What Don MacLean the entrepreneur was able to predict and respond to was the growing need for safety and productivity performance that as a mining engineer he had experienced first-hand underground. He saw that operators needed better tools to do their job in a safer, more efficient way, and that mining companies needed capital equipment built to perform and last in the harsh and challenging underground environment. He also saw a coming paradigm shift in the mining industry, driven by regulatory and corporate policy changes, cost containment necessities, and the growing need to mine deep, low-grade, massive deposits, that would create market demand for a piece of machinery that didn’t yet exist.
Cue the MacLean scissor bolter.
The underlying design philosophy that made the MacLean scissor bolter transformational in the hard rock mining industry was and remains quite simple – make the act of installing roof bolts less physically grueling and dangerous to operators, while not sacrificing proximity to the face like you see with the boom bolting approach to ground support installation.
The key innovation with the MacLean bolter was in fact not one, single feature, but instead a series of design elements that work together to deliver accuracy, speed, versatility, and, most importantly, a safer application environment for operators. The new generation of the Series-900 bolters – the 975 Omnia Bolter – delivers a cutting-edge ground support solution for almost any application context. Gen-3 drill feeds with high-durability wear guides, a single-bolt bolt handler, and an increased 3000 lb. deck capacity can now be combined with a wide range of options that provide customers with the utmost flexibility to match the unit with their specific ground conditions and mining method. Battery power, high reach, resin injection, face bolting, and/or a seven foot-wide deck configuration all position the 975 Omnia to offer the signature MacLean safety, durability and productivity in response to varying and evolving ground support requirements and operational business drivers across the global hard rock mining industry.
By providing a mobile platform for single-operator bolt and wire mesh installation, always under protected ground, the MacLean bolter was a game-changer. Gone was the physical strain and interactions with unsupported rock faces of traditional ground support installation, using hand-held pneumatic rock drills.
The net result is a piece of equipment that meets the mining industry’s safety and production ROI paradigm shift, reducing risks to operators while increasing the speed of development cycles. To this day, it remains the only mechanized bolter on the market that incorporates a scissor lift. And now the continuous product improvement from three decades of application experience in Canadian mines is being exported to underground mining regions around the globe, including Mexico, through the MacLean Engineering branch office in Queretaro, and the company’s other international branch offices in Lima, Peru; Parys, South Africa; and Perth, Australia.