The Road to Glory: Nigahi Haul Road
The air thick with smell of potential, the sight of mammoth machines, sounds of capacities and amidst all this — a striking stretch of broadways topped with glistening tar. The 15-million-tonne Nigahi exudes a compelling charm... commands admiration. Nigahi is the flagship opencast coal mining project of Northern Coalfields Ltd (NCL), a subsidiary of national mining company Coal India Ltd (CIL).
GLISTENING TAR: THE HAUL ROAD
An old adage goes, “There is no traffic jam on the extra mile.” Nigahi went an extra mile with its haul road by turning it into a ‘Four Lane Haul Road’. And today, the road network inside the Nigahi mine is one of the forerunners in haul road infrastructure in India.
The network has two pair of roads for Heavy Earth Moving Machines (HEMMS) moving towards the coalface and away from the coalface (ie towards the OB dump) and one pair of roads for other vehicular traffic. The majestic stretch of roads running parallel to each other and the Heavy Earth Moving Machines’s running smoothly over it makes one ponder about the genesis of the multiple-lane haul road idea.
The four-lane haul roads at the Nigahi mine are marvel of willpower. Historically, 1,000 mm-1,200 mm of average rainfall is accounted for during mine planning. But last year rainfall went beyond all calculations and the figure touched a record high of 2,000 mm. Roads were affected; production was stymied; major repair works were predicted. However, what was not predicted was the vision of the chief of Nigahi.
Nigahi Project Officer Harish Duhan recalls the moment when Nigahi General Manager Chanchal Goswami asked his team,“can we build haul roads similar to expressways?”
Faces were stunned; ;ogic resigned. But as they say, there is fine line of difference between leadership and strategic
leadership; convictions were held high, the goal was set.
With an action-oriented plan, things started moving to measured tones of data and metrics. Teams were meeting multiple times in a day. A mix of constants and variables were factored in — space, elevation, incline, terrain, load, rolling resistance just to name a few because counting all the factors would have one run out of breath. Justified. After all, it was a haul road. In mines, machines are not just another lump of metal. In mines, machines move earth. Supporting the speed and weight of earthmovers is a humongous task for any structure.
Going ahead on construction, a low lead dumping space was zeroed in on — such a space is characterised by proximity to the excavation point where dumpers need to travel lesser distances for offloading. The management decided to temporarily sacrifice 1 km by 80 metre of the said space.
In mining, any cutback in dumping space has a direct bearing on production. But the Nigahi management was already through with calculations. They knew that choosing a long term perspective over instant gratification would be a win-win situation as the space could easily be re-used later. A fine balance was struck between short term priorities and long term vision. The pan was finally out — the resources, the people, everything was in-house. White course grained sandstone naturally occurring in overburden (OB) concentrate was identified for working with layers commonly called ‘courses’ in haul road terminology. An integrated approach for material and design was put in place. As of manpower, multiple teams consisting of handpicked workers, operators and officers were constituted. The teams took turns and worked day and night to complete the project.
At the end of November, the roads were commissioned. The marvel of design, the marvel of willpower was there for everyone to see — state-of-art infrastructure, four colossal lanes ready to carry mighty HEMM’S. The operators were elated; teams were satisfied. The sprawling mine had this strange air which asserted — nothing is impossible. The “Nigahi Haul Road is the quintessential example of a safe and cost-effective construction process, which boasts of retro=reflective tapes as the only external cost incurred on the project,” remarksduhan.
The road has been in operation for more than six months. And ever since it became operational, the accrued benefits of the road seem to be piling up day by day — queueing-free movement of dumpers (haul trucks), increased haulage per tonne, reduced operating costs of machines, increased machine productivity capacities to name a few. A significant impact of the road is augmented safety and enhanced operator’s comfort. “With a heightened feel of safety, I now have to expend less physical and mental energies while steering the dumper,” says Dayaram Singh, Senior Dumper Operator with Nigahi. Another milestone attributed to the newly built haul road was the availability of 2 million tonnes of exposed coal as on March 31, 2017. The Reason: The construction of haul road allowed the regression of the ramp foot to an extent where more coal was accessible and mineable. This was the first time in the history of the mine that a significant quantity of exposed coal was available in year ending. “The road has been lauded by many dignitaries and regulatory bodies like the Directorate General of Mines Safety (DGMS)”, Colliery Manager G Senapati recalled excitedly.
Team Nigahi deserves all the recognition for its love for merit. Merit is difficult to preserve. Mediocrity would have been much easier — get the roads repaired and start operations. But they chose to rise above mediocrity, went beyond the predictable and wrote a new definition of possibilities. True, being a strategic leader is about asking the right questions, “Can we build a haul road similar to the expressways?” With the dawning of dusk, LEDS dotting the road light up… and the Haul Road shines with glory unparallel.
THE FOUR-LANE HAUL ROAD WITH TWO LIGHT VEHICLE ROADS AT NIGAHI
THE NIGAHI HAUL ROAD AS SEEN FROM VIEWPOINT
A NIGHT VIEW OF THE NIGAHI HAUL ROAD