March 14, 2022


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United States Gypsum: Working Together to Get the Right Equipment Underground

Cat equipment shows its durability at each jobsite. For United States Gypsum, that meant 630 feet underground in the mine near Mediapolis, IA. Their jobsite covers 1300 acres and mines up to one million tons of gypsum per year.

Gypsum is an important mineral especially for the construction industry. It has a variety of purposes including: manufacturing cement, drywall, soil fertilizer, plaster, and even beer brewing. Since it has such diverse uses, operations to mine it need to be efficient and plentiful. That means US Gypsum’s R1600 underground loaders and AD30 mining truck are critical to their bottom line.

The entrance to the mine is a 60” x 70” mine shaft. The only way to get equipment in the mine is to disassemble, lower, and reassemble when below. To conquer this challenge, US Gypsum enlisted the help of Altorfer.

Sales representative Jeff Krug has assisted US Gypsum with their operations since 1989. He and field technician Chris Wolf are key components of the project’s success. It took weeks of collaboration to get the newest AD30 mining truck into the mine. The work started in November 2019.

Before arriving at the mine, the truck was modified in Cedar Rapids by lowering the bed to meet the six foot loading height limit. Then low profile tires were installed to keep the machine under 100 inches per height regulations.

Chris and the mine’s maintenance team began by removing the rear axle and all the cooling lines. Once the back frame was removed, the cab, transmission, and front axle were disassembled and lowered into the mine. That left the front frame. From there, the intricate wiring and valves were removed and the frame was disassembled and cut into smaller pieces with torches to fit in the mine shaft.

The weather proved to be a challenge as temperatures dipped to -2 degrees during disassembly. Yet, the project continued full-speed ahead.

Once everything was inside the mine, the machine was cleaned and the maintenance team welded the frame back together. Chris and mine technician AJ Kuisle assembled the machine. Before they could hand off the keys, Chris provided operator training and the truck went on test drives, practiced daily operations, and made sure everything worked properly. In total, the project took about four and a half weeks.

A similar project was even featured at MINExpo 2016 with a video highlighting the partnership between Altorfer and US Gypsum delivering and lowering a R1600 into the mine. This has proven to be a long-lasting and fruitful relationship between the two organizations.

“There was instant value to that partnership,” Jeff said in the video. “As we’ve done more of these machines, it’s consistently gotten better every time. The whole idea is to get the machine on the site, get it together right the first time, and let the customer make some money. That’s what it’s about.”

The U.S. Gypsum mine in Sperry, Iowa, is more than 620 feet underground and accessible only via shaft, which makes getting equipment in the mine a difficult challenge. When it was time for a new Cat® R1600H loader, U.S. Gypsum turned to local Cat dealer Altorfer, a long-time partner of its surface operation.