11 of the World's Biggest Mining Excavators

Here are some of the world's biggest excavating machines right now.
Christopher McFadden

Mining excavators, or should we say 'run of the mill' mining excavators on steroids, are some of the most impressive pieces of engineering around. And they can get, very, very, big indeed!

Here we explore eleven of the largest ever built, enjoy!


What is an excavator?

An excavator, as the name hints at, is a construction machine (usually diesel-powered) specially designed for the purpose of digging out earth using a variety of tools. They tend to come equipped with a front bucket to create trenches, holes, and foundations. 

biggest excavators old
Source: Ralf Peter Reimann/Flickr

But they can do so much more than that. By simply swapping out the bucket with other attachments, excavators can also drive piles, clear brush, load, and dump grade at a job site, and perform other heavy-duty construction site activities. 

They are normally tracked, but some can have wheels too. Historically, cable or wire ropes were used to transmit the digging power, but today they are exclusively hydraulic. 

These machines are incredibly common machines on many construction sites around the world. 

What are the world's biggest mining excavators?

And so, without further ado, here are some of the world's biggest, and badest, mining excavators. Please note that this list is far from exhaustive and is in no particular order. 

Please also note, we have classified 'biggest" based on operating weight. 

1. The Bucyrus RH 340/RH 340-B is a mighty machine indeed!

biggest excavators RH 340
Source: Mining Equipment

The first entry on our list of biggest mining excavators is this monster. It is claimed to be the tenth-largest excavator currently in operations.

The mighty Bucyrus RH340 weighs in at 550 tonnes. This model is available in both shovel loading and backhoe configurations.

The crawler alone has a length of 9.23 meters (30 feet) and its undercarriage has a width of 7 meters (23 feet). This impressive piece of kit has a shovel and backhoe bucket with a capacity of 34 cubic meters (1200 cubic feet). It has a shovel crowding force and breakout force of 2,240 kN and 1,640 kN respectively.

It also has a breakout and tear-out force during backhoe operations are 1,270 kN and 1,240 kN. These beasts are fitted with two Cummins K1500E engines, that have a total of 2,520 hp output. What's more, it can have two QSK45 diesel engines installed to provide 3,000 hp at 1,800 rpm. 

2. The Bucyrus RH400 is the RH340's bigger brother

biggest excavator rh400
Source: Lectura-Specs

Bucyrus have two entries on our list of biggest mining excavators, and for a good reason. The Bucyrus RH400, now owned by Caterpillar, is said to hold the title of the world's biggest hydraulic excavator. This monster is a front shovel excavator and weighs in at around 980 tonnes. it also has an undercarriage width of 8.6 meters (28 feet) and a crawler length of 10.98 meters (36 feet).

Just one scoop of the shovel can remove 45 cubic meters (1,589 cubic feet) of material. With an arm crowd force of 3,300 kN and a breakout force of 2,400 kN, we defy any unfortunate rock face to resist this machine. The Bucyrus RH400 is powered by two 16 cylinder Cat 3516B or Cummins QSK60 diesel engines.

3. The Demag H740 OS is one mean machine

biggest excavators h740
Source: DEMAG

Apparently, the fourth biggest excavator in the world, this impressive piece of kit has an operating weight of 744 tonnes. This beast has been operational since 1999 and was designed for KMC Mining, Canada for use in abrasive oil sands.

This machine has an impressive shovel capacity of 40 cubic meters (1413 cubic feet) and a breakout force of 2,320 kN. It is powered by two 16 cylinder CAT 3516B diesel engines spewing out 4,000 hp at 1,800 rpm.

4. The Hitachi EX5500-6 is another big excavator

biggest excavators ex5500
Source: Aconcagua/Wikimedia Commons

Said to be the eighth-biggest excavator in the world, the Hitachi EX5550-6 began its impressive service in 2008. With a standard operating weight of 522 tonnes, it also comes in an electrical version weighing in at 516 tonnes. This machine has an undercarriage length of 9.35 meters (31 feet) and a width of 7.4 meters (24 feet).

Its loading shovel bucket capacity is 27 cubic meters (954 cubic feet) and the backhoe bucket can scoop 29 cubic meters (1,029 cubic feet). Crowd and breakout forces can exceed 1,570 kN. The backhoe you ask? Well, that can provide digging and crowd forces of 1,370 kN and 1,240 kN respectively.

5. Hitachi EX5600-6 is another massive excavator

biggest excavators ex5600
Source: Hitachi Construction

Considered to be the seventh-biggest excavator in the world, this beast weighs in at over 500 tonnes. It was the successor to the impressive EX5500 series. This monster has an operating weight, with shovel attachment, of 533 tonnes. What about the undercarriage, you ask? Its length is 9.35 meters (31 feet) and its width is 7.4 meters (24 feet).

With a loading shovel bucket capacity of 29 cubic meters (1,024 cubic feet) and backhoe of 34 cubic meters (1,200 cubic feet), this machine certainly comes in handy. Crowding and breakout forces are 1,520 kN and 1,590 kN respectively. These machines are powered by twin 16 cylinder Cummins QSKTA50-CE diesel engines with 3,000 hp at 1,800 rpm.

6. The Hitachi EX8000-6 makes short work of excavation

biggest excavators ex8000
Source: Hitachi Construction

Supposedly the second-biggest hydraulic excavator in the world, the Hitachi EX8000-6 is the bigger brother of the Hitachi EX5600-6. Weighing in at 811 tonnes, it comes with both shovel and backhoe attachments. The first of these beasts was delivered to Stanwell's Meandu coal mine in Australia in 2013.

The Hitachi EX8000-6 is 10.5 meters (34 feet) long and has an undercarriage width of 8.65 meters (28 feet). Its bucket has a capacity of 45 cubic meters (1,589 cubic feet). Crowding and breakout shovel forces are 2,870 kN and 2,230 kN respectively. Two 16 cylinder Cummins QSKTA60-CE diesel engines power the monster wth 3,800 hp at 1,800 rpm. It also comes in an electric version.

7. Have you seen the size of the Komatsu PC5500-6?

biggest excavators PC5500
Source: smsequipment

With an operating weight of 495 tonnes, the Komatsu PC5500-6 is apparently the ninth biggest hydraulic excavator in service. The PC5500-6 has an undercarriage of 9.72 meters (32 feet) and is 7.54 meters (25 feet) wide.

The PC5500-6's shovel and backhoe have a capacity of 29 cubic meters (1,024 cubic feet). Crowd and breakout forces of its shovel are 1,870 kN and 1,865 kN. The whole rig is powered by two 12 cylinder Komatsu SDA12V159E-2 diesel engines producing 2,520 hp at 1,800 rpm.

8. The Komatsu PC8000-6 is enormous

biggest excavators pc8000
Source: Komatsu

Supposedly, the fifth-largest hydraulic excavator there is, the Komatsu PC8000-6 has an operating weight of around 710 tonnes. It comes with both shovel and backhoe attachments.

This beast has a track length of 7.955 meters (26 feet) and an overall track width of 9 meters (30 feet), its bucket size is 38 cubic meters (1,342 cubic feet). Arm crowd force and bucket crowd forces are 1,765 kN and 1,961 kN. Its maximum ground level reach of the bucket is 19.37 meters (64 feet). This machine is powered by two 16 cylinder Komatsu SDA16B 160 diesel engines pumping out 4,020 hp at 1,800 rpm.

9. Liebherr R996 B is the 6th biggest in the world

biggest escavators leibherr
Source: Liebherr

Our penultimate entry in the world's biggest mining excavators is the world's sixth-biggest hydraulic excavator. This machine's operating weight, with shovel attachment, is 676 tonnes, 672 tonnes if you add the backhoe attachment. Undercarriage length is 10 meters (33 feet) and 7.9 meters (26 feet) wide.

Shovel and backhoe capacities for this monster totals 26 cubic meters (918 cubic feet). It has digging and breakout forces of 1,550 kN and 1,670 kN for the backhoe and crowding/breakout forces of 2,430 kN and 1,905 kN for the shovel. The whole rig is powered by two 16 cylinder Cummins K 1800 E diesel engines spewing out 3,000 hp at 1,800 rpm.

10. The Liebherr R9800 is an absolute beast

biggest excavators r9800
Source: Dints/Twitter

Built by Liebherr in 2008 at their Colmar factory, in France, this machine is ranked the world's third-biggest hydraulic excavator. With a shovel attachment, it weighs in at 810 tonnes, and 800 tonnes with just the backhoe.

Its undercarriage measures 10.84 meters (36 feet) long and its shovel and backhoe capacities are 42 cubic meters (1,483 cubic feet). Maximum crowd and breakout forces for its shovel at 3,900 kN and 2,395 kN respectively. The backhoe has digging and breakout forces of 1,760 kN and 1,980 kN. The machine is powered by two 16 cylinder Cummins QSK60 diesel engines producing 4,000 hp and 1,800 rpm. It can also be powered by two 12 cylinder MTU diesel engines generating 3,820 hp at 1,800 rpm.

11. The Caterpillar 6090 FS is also a huge piece of metal

biggest excavator 6090fs
Source: Caterpillar

And last but by no means least, is the Caterpillar 6090 FS. With an operating weight of 1,000 or so tonnes, this is widely acknowledged as one of the world's biggest excavators.

Powered by two QSK60 engines, it boasts and total engine rating of 4500 HP. Its design is based on the Bucyrus RH400 after Caterpillar acquired Bucyrus in 2011.

This mighty machine can fill a Caterpillar dumper truck in no more than 4 trips with its enormous 52 cubic meter bucket and 103-tonne payload. 

And that's all folks.

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