Cats on a Long Hot Road

Offroading, Mongolian style: Two 102-metric ton, 11-m-long Caterpillar 785C
mining trucks were delivered to a coal mine in southern Mongolia following a
650-km-long journey across the Gobi desert.
Recent events and coverage have raised Mongolia’s profile a notch or two with the general public in some Western countries, but this Far Eastern nation is still an adventurous choice for most travelers. Especially if you are driving a 102-ton mine truck.

Energy Resources, one of perhaps 200 Mongolian and foreign-owned mining companies operating in the country, needed seven new Caterpillar 785C haulers delivered to the new Ukhaakhudag coal mining operation in southern Mongolia. The project is near Tavan Tolgoi, where coal has been mined since 1967. Caterpillar and Wagner Asia, the company’s dealer covering Mongolia, were happy to oblige. However, while delivery from the Decatur manufacturing plant in Illinois, USA, to China and then on to the Mongolian border was more or less standard procedure— they were shipped from the U.S. to Xingang, China, trucked to the Mongolian border and assembled—the final transit to Ukhaakhudag certainly was not, Caterpillar reports.

The first two trucks arrived at the border- crossing town of Dzamin Uud where Wagner Asia technicians assembled them for the 650-km trip to the mine site. The journey to the mine required two drivers as well as the technicians, accompanied by Battur, sales director for Wagner Asia (Mongolians have no inherited surname).

“We drove across the Gobi desert, there’s nothing out there but bare wilderness. There was no other way to deliver these trucks to the mine. It took us in total 48 hours, and we camped in a tent the night between the departure and arrival,” said Battur. But he added that it was not only for the Wagner Asia personnel that this adventure was unforgettable: “At one point we drove past a camp of herders. A man came out of one of the gers—a traditional nomad dwelling—and you could tell he was really astonished and even a bit frightened by the massive machines driving by. It’s not every day you see a mining truck thundering past your backyard.”

Perhaps the herders are getting used to these visitors. A month later three more of the trucks followed the first two and the remainder will follow by the end of 2009.

Although Mongolian companies are eager to develop the country’s extensive and varied coal and mineral resource base, financial and technical resources are quite limited. For these reasons Energy Resources is on one hand being backed by the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development, which is putting equity into the company, and has on the other signed an agreement with the Australian- based Leighton Mining Contractors group for the provision of various services.

As featured in Womp 2009 Vol 07 -