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Humma designs world’s first underground-compliant crane

Humma has designed the world's first underground-compliant crane.

In 2014, mining giants BHP issued an order that no vehicles could travel underground without a wet-brake system. With the technology unavailable when BHP called for tenders for an underground-compliant crane in 2022, Burralga Industries – still only in its infancy as a business – reached out to DRA Engineering’s Humma with a six-month time frame and a very specific request. Humma delivered.

Times of crisis bring about investment, and with investment comes technological development.

History corroborates this; if it weren’t for the Second World War, the world would not have accessed nuclear energy as quickly as it did. If it weren’t for the Cold War, who knows if the internet would have even been developed. Because of a global pandemic, governments threw millions into developing a vaccine as fast as they could to restore business as usual across the globe.

It is for precisely that reason that, after identifying an issue within global crane operations in underground applications, BHP issued an order in 2014 that no vehicles  could travel underground if they did not possess a wet-brake system. There was one problem, however; no such crane existed.

With underground vehicle standards having been updated to minimise the risk of a fire breaking out, BHP sought to resolve the issue by contacting all known crane suppliers to see what they could come up with. However, no existing companies on site – or even manufacturers – were willing to apply the braking system to their cranes.

“It asked all the crane companies at the site if they could supply anything that resembled its demands,” says Andrew Pretlove, Director at Burralga Cranes. “None of us held anything within our capacity; what they were asking for just didn’t exist.”

Based in WA, 12-month-old business Burralga Industries operates cranes all throughout the Australian mining industry, with a heavy focus on Central Australia, Northern Territory, and its home state. By Andrew’s own admission, the Indigenous-owned company is “slowly growing”. 

Andrew, with 15 years of experience behind him, saw the mining giant’s unique request for wet brakes on a mobile crane as a chance to grow with the development of new technology.

After encountering roadblocks with numerous other brands, the Olympic Dam team contacted Humma after hearing about the crane’s performance in the Iron Ore mines in WA. Explaining the specifications, the DRA Engineering team suggested the Humma 35 Mk3 as the crane to fit the wet brake system on; within eight weeks, Humma had sourced the brake componentry from overseas, redesigned the crane’s chassis to accommodate DRA’s design of the wet brake installation and submitted its designs and pricing for the manufacturing of the Underground Series. 

After the designs and pricing of the new crane were approved, tenders were sent out in August 2022; however, none of the major crane hire companies operating at Olympic Dam could responded. Burralga Industries, seeing the potential in the machines, then contacted Humma asking for a quote on supplying a Humma Mk3 that could meet the requirements outlined and could be delivered by January 1 2023.

Humma delivered. Receiving the quote in August, a crane that met and performed to the outlined specifications was provided to the Olympic Dam mining site on January 1, 2023, and the Humma 35 Mk3 Underground series commenced its career in the mining industry; and, according to Andrew, the crane is “just next level”.

Humma has designed the world's first underground-compliant crane.
On top of the revolutionary wet-brake system, the Humma 35 Mk3 UG is also fitted with a range of different alarms and lights to make it legal to operate underground.

“It’s revolutionary,” says Andrew. “This is the first crane that’s underground-compliant crane, and as soon as other mining companies introduce this level of safety on site, they’ll realise that it was the Humma brand at the forefront of it all.”

With the development of this game-changing crane, Andrew highlights the potential for growth for both Burralga Industries and the Humma 35 Mk3 UG series, saying the company wants to “build its standing with the Humma brand”.

“We want to position ourselves as the company that contractors look to when it comes to renewing the older machines in their fleets,” he says. “Because this crane from Humma is the world’s very first crane installed with wet brakes for underground mining, we feel we can do exactly that.”

Thanks to Humma’s installation of these brakes, the chances of an event such as a fire caused by overheating brakes is reduced significantly, ensuring the safety of those working around and that production can continue reliably. At the Olympic Dam mining site, one of the world’s most significant deposits of copper, gold, and uranium, located 560km north of Adelaide in South Australia, safety, reliability, and productivity are key.  

“As far as the crane’s safety features go – with its computer system that operates in tandem with the wet-brake system – the machine is simply outstanding,” Andrew says. “Additional to the safety features, our team are really enjoying the crane’s functionality: it runs really smoothly thanks to its suspension, it works faster, harder and longer than anything we’ve experienced before, and it lifts a lot for its size in tight, confined spaces which is invaluable on underground mining sites.”

As is Humma’s policy, all new developments must be field tested and debugged prior to market release. Considering that the wet brake was a ‘first’ and a fire suppression system was also added in tandem with overall structural changes to the crane’s chassis, the engineering team wasn’t 100 per cent positive on the overall impact on the electrical system. 

Humma, however, was working to a tight deadline; aiming to deliver the crane by January 1, 2023, the manufacturers agreed to supply the crane under lease conditions for the first six months of the purchase on the grounds that, should the crane not perform as expected, Humma would be able to re-claim it for safety. No such issues ensued and, six months later, Burralga Industries was able to take full possession of the crane, with Andrew highly complimentary of Humma’s post-sale service.

“There’s a myriad of other features and technologies that go into producing a compliant crane for underground conditions, including different lights, speed restrictions, an underground alarm system,” he said. “Humma’s post-sale service in making sure the crane was performing exactly as it should was incredible.”

“Whenever we have any questions, we can ring up day or night, and we’re going to get some on the other end of the phone,” he continues. “It’s important to Humma that whatever issues we’re experiencing are resolved either on the phone, or a field-technician comes out to help us.”

DRA’s Humma Failsafe Driveline Wet brake system can be fitted to all Humma mobile cranes providing an Emergency Failsafe Wet Brake Solution for underground mining applications. Additionally, the system can also be used for operations above ground where brake contamination or failure are notable risks.

Humma has designed the world's first underground-compliant crane.
Humma’s Mk3 pick and carry crane holds a maximum capacity of 35 tonnes.


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