Deep in the Romont chalk quarry in the east of Belgium, a new EX1900-6 has already proved to be a successful acquisition for Ciment Belge Reuni (CBR) since it commenced work in January 2013. The Hitachi ultra-large excavator, the largest of its kind in Belgium, is not only helping to enhance productivity on the 30-hectare site in the province of Liège, but is also a key part of the company’s environmental responsibilities.
CBR is part of the Heidelberg Cement Group, which has seven production facilities located in the Benelux countries, including the Lixhe plant, which makes 1.6million tonnes of cement annually. It is situated along the banks of the Albert Canal – within easy reach of the major road and rail links to serve the national and international markets – and supplied with raw materials by the nearby quarries of Romont and Loën.
Romont was opened in 1974 to exploit the marl deposits, which consist of a lime-rich mudstone with variable amounts of clay and silt. The current licence expires in 20 years, but CBR is shortly hoping to extend this agreement for another 40 years. The total layer of aggregate materials extends to an area of 550 hectares, with 230million tonnes of chalk available for extraction.
The project is entirely situated on high-quality farmland. The site’s biodiversity is the subject of biological studies and areas of ecological interest are already present and will be partially maintained. The final goal is to restore a landscape of high agricultural quality and richer in natural elements than it was prior to its exploitation as a quarry.
In addition, CBR considers its immediate environment by employing direct digging over blasting. The site’s close vicinity to the village of Eben-Emael, licence restrictions for quarrying the area and the demand for separated materials also contribute to this method of extraction and the decision to invest in a new ultra-large excavator.
CBR opted for an eight-year, 20,000-hour service agreement with the machine as just one part of the Support Chain after-sales programme offered by Hitachi and its official dealer in Belgium, Luyckx. Other examples include: a training session held by Luyckx for CBR’s operators and technicians; a routine maintenance check carried out every 500 hours; and the availability of parts required over the lifetime of the machine.
“We are very happy with the EX1900-6 and the service provided by Luyckx,” says Samuel Wittemans, Manager of CBR’s Romont Quarry. “There have been no problems at all with the new excavator and it is working very well.
“CBR needed a new 200-tonne excavator and there were four main options to choose from. There were seven people involved in the decision-making process for the new machine. In my opinion, the Hitachi EX1900-6 offered the best compromise for cost, support service and technical specification.”
CBR utilises two dump trucks to work with the EX1900-6 during the extraction process and the excavator makes five passes per load. When combined with the other ultra-large excavator on the site, it will help to extract three million tonnes of materials per annum: 2.2million tonnes of chalk materials for the Lixhe plant; and 0.8million tonnes of overburden for the restoration work.
Johan Duplessis is one of the EX1900-6 operators and this is the first Hitachi that he has operated during his career. His first impressions are positive: “It is smooth to operate, the controls are user friendly and within easy reach. The loading cycle is fast and this is a powerful piece of equipment for this quarry. I also like the air conditioning in the cab and it is a very comfortable working environment.”