See The World’s Largest Mining Shovel

There are big shovels and then there are BIG SHOVELS, particularly in the mining industry. This beast of a mining machine resembles the toy rig you used to play with in your sandbox as a child. Consider this one to be the super sized version of that. It takes scooping dirt to a whole new level. For that matter, it takes scooping anything to a whole new level.

The massive shovel is made by P&H. They have been making mining equipment since 1884. Started by Alanzo Pawling and Henry Harnischfeger, they were two unlikely candidates at the time. They were both employees at a local sewing machine company. Alanzo was a pattern maker for industrial castings and Henry was a locksmith machinist of all things. The pair worked at Whitehill together and left the company to start their own game.


It paid off big. To begin with, they supplied parts and assembly service for large manufacturing outfits in the Milwaukee area. They had a customer list ranging from industrial knitting factories to large beer breweries. Remember though, I said to begin with. As fate would have it, they would soon transition their business to much larger machinery. Why? Well a nearby overhead crane collapsed and the dynamic duo were called in to repair it.

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They got it up and running with a completely new simplified design. Soon after, they transitioned their business model over to large industrial construction cranes. That business model would transition again after the bank panic of 1883. As demand for large cranes began to wane, Alanzo and Henry turned their attention to large earth moving machines. Thus began the transformation into the mining equipment giant we know today. The P&H 4100 Electric Mining Shovel is one of their biggest babies to date, and it is one impressive earth mover.

The P&H 4100 Breakdown

This big scoop can best be described by looking at its two major components – the massive engines and the mechanical components. I did mention the engines were electric, right? Well that’s not all. This beauty is pure state of the art. It runs off of several different computer controls fed by optic fiber cables. Data can be transferred to the mining operator in regards to performance so adjustments can be made if need be. There are multiple controls and safeguards for the crane operator and operations control manager, too. The cab is outfitted with state of the art computer controls with performance data relayed to mine operation headquarters in real time. The P&H Electric Shovel is as safe as it is efficient. I know what you really want to know, though – how much can this thing move? Well, that is kind of hard to put into terms we can understand, my friend. Let’s break it down and see how we go though. Get ready, this digger moves a LOT of earth. For starters, let’s talk about how much it weighs. The P&H 4100 XPC checks in at 1645 tons. To give you a visual, think of it this way. An average dump truck weighs about 20 tons. That means this massive shovel weighs about as much as 82 dump trucks, give or take an axle or two. That is heavy no matter how you slice it. What’s even more impressive is its payload capacity. It can move a 120 ton payload every thirty seconds. That means in an hour this thing can move 14,400 tons of earth or other surface payload material. That is like scooping up 720 dump trucks every hour and dumping them into a massive hauler.

The Shovel’s Secret is in the Design

This is why P&H have become the industry standard for the mining industry. Yet, when you think about it, the concept is still as true to form as it was in the 1800s. As impressive as this massive earth mover is, it is basically just one massive rig of pulleys and levers. The same simplified design that put them on the map for the crane industry translated very well to the mining industry. Though it might seem complex, the parts are designed to be easily interchanged as they wear out. This is the same thing that made the crane rebuild so successful. Yet, there are a few creature comforts like radio and air conditioning that were not available in the early models. Plus, the electric joystick makes moving it a breeze. The inside cab kind of resembles an Atari 2600 on steroids. If you didn’t know any better, you might think you were about to settle in and play an old version of the arcade classic, Missile Command. I guess this giant shovel takes us back to what it means to be a guy. We love large things that do amazing things, We love to be able to operate massive pieces of equipment with just a few simple movements and the push of a few buttons. It’s why we love our TV remotes so much. It’s why we like to order pizza from our phones. Its even why we spend thousands of dollars on drones and RC cars. We can’t help it; it’s in our blood. Tell me you would not salivate at the chance to operate this thing for a half hour or so. It does not get any bigger, badder or better than this.

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They got it up and running with a completely new simplified design. Soon after, they transitioned their business model over to large industrial construction cranes. That business