John Russell, a young Mechanical Engineer with five years experience in the mining industry, moved to Toowoomba in 1985 in order to realise his dream of inventing and manufacturing world-class mining and mineral processing equipment in Australia.

One of RME’s early projects was the design, manufacture and installation of four ‘Isa Sizer’ vibrating screens. The Isa Sizer was invented by John Russell while employed by Mt Isa Mines (MIM) and were originally distributed under licence to MIM.

Today, Russell Mineral Equipment Pty Ltd (RME) is recognised as the world’s leading designer, manufacturer and supplier of mineral grinding Mill Relining Machines and associated equipment.

“My interest in the Engineering profession began when I was a teenager, reading about the giant refracting and reflecting telescopes which allow us to look into the depths of space,” John said. “These are brilliant examples of Engineers’ skill and, after building my own telescope at the age of 16, I decided to become an Engineer.” He went on to study at the Queensland Institute of Technology (now the Queensland University of Technology) and graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1979.

John worked for MIM for five years before founding his own Engineering company. “I had a talent for solving process problems by designing and building special purpose machines; inventing new technologies which make a range of difficult jobs easier, faster and safer. It was clear that the relining of grinding mills, used at hard rock, metalliferous mines all over the world, was an area which desperately needed new technology,” he said.

Grinding mills are like huge concrete mixers which tumble large lumps of ore and break them into smaller particles, a process necessary for separating mineralization from barren host rock. Heavy liners are attached to the inside of each mill to protect it from damage and wear. The liners are replaced on a regular basis and this has traditionally been a slow, dangerous and costly process.

“We knew that RME personnel could design and manufacture technologies which would halve the down time required to reline mills and make the job faster, easier and safer. Primarily, we achieved this with the ‘RUSSELL 7’ (Seven Axis) and ‘RUSSELL 8’ (Eight Axis) Mill Relining Machine, now used throughout Australia and exported all over the world”, John said.

There are many different types and sizes of grinding mills in operation around the world, so each Mill Relining Machine has to be tailored to meet the specific needs of the customer. “Our reputation for quality and innovation is our best advertisement. We confidently suggest to potential customers that they contact mines using our Machines to confirm their performance,” he said.

RME personnel have also developed a wide range of other advanced technologies for use in the mill relining process. These include THUNDERBOLT Recoilless Hammers, replacing the old fashioned sledge hammers used in the mills, and transporters which can quickly extract and safely move the heavy feed chutes used to direct ore into the grinding mills. “The central issue regarding maintenance of mineral production devices such as grinding mills is the cost of plant down time. Every hour spent relining is an hour when the process is not productive and that ‘lost opportunity cost’ can run to tens of thousands of dollars an hour or even hundreds of thousands of dollars an hour at some rich mineral deposits”, John said.

While RME’s reputation is its best advertisement, John knows that the company’s staff is its biggest asset. “We all take pride in the unique, high performance machines produced”, he said. “We are committed to continuous research and development and the resulting new technologies help ensure growth with secure, long term employment and advancement for the staff”, he said.

As a technology and manufacturing company, RME extends its focus across a wide range of mineral processing plant requirements and has successfully undertaken special projects such as the Alcoa High Reach Descaling Machine. For this project, RME won Alcoa’s Australia wide competition for developing a solution to descale problems experienced in red mud settling tanks. RME developed a special, remote controlled device which included a 4WD vehicle with electronic traction control and a powered tool which incorporates hydraulic hammering with high pressure water jet.

Exports from RME’s Toowoomba base find their way to over 56 countries.

John was awarded a Centenary Medal (2001) for service to industry, the Canadian Mineral Processors 2007 Art McPherson Medal for Contributions to Comminution (mineral processing) and the 2008 Warren Centre Innovation Hero Medal. He has also contributed to various State and Federal Government initiatives. In 2009, John was awarded an Honorary Degree: Doctor of Engineering from the University of Southern Queensland.

RME has won a number of major awards between 1994 and 2010. These awards recognise design excellence and achievements in export. They include Australian Exporter of the Year – Regional (2001 and again in 2007) and Large Advanced Manufacturer in 2008. In 2009, RME was installed into the Australian Exporter Awards Hall of Fame, the eighth company to have received this honour. In 2009, RME was also recognised for it’s contribution to the local community, being installed into the Toowoomba Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame.

RME’s first Mill Relining Machine was purchased by Mount Isa Mines (now Glencore) in 1990. It was superseded by a new RME machine, and RME is proud to have the fully reconditioned (and operational) Machine installed in the foyer of our new Assembly and Office complex. In 2007, RME produced the first of many RUSSELL TWIN 8 Mill Relining Machines. The RUSSELL TWIN Machines are a pair of two completely independent Mill Relining Machines, both operating simultaneously in the mill. The RUSSELL TWIN has further enhanced the relining performance in the world’s largest mills. The majority of these MRM’s have been ordered for, or installed, in Latin America. In 2010, RME built its 200th Mill Relining Machine, a RUSSELL 7, for BHP Billiton’s Kambalda Nickel Mine, Western Australia, and in 2013 the completion of RME’s 300th Mill Relining Machine was celebrated.

RME celebrated the manufacture of its 400th Mill Relining Machine in 2018.

Since 2004, RME has expanded its global reach, which commenced with an in country operation in Chile, to provide enhanced support for the growing complement of installed machines in Latin America. RME replicated this successful business model, and in 2010 RME provided more timely and cost effective support to our North American customers from Salt Lake City in the United States of America. In 2012, RME established its presence in South African and Africa with the Johannesburg based Regional Service Centre.

RME implemented the LEAN Manufacturing philosophy in 2009, and in doing so adopted World’s Best Manufacturing Practice. This enhanced design and production system helps RME to deliver ever greater value for our customers.

In 2010 Russell Mineral Equipment was certified a Quality Management Company under the internationally recognised ISO 9001:2008 quality standard for the provision of the design, production, customer support and service of specialist mining and mineral processing equipment.

About RME