Champion Motor Graders line of low-profile compact graders are specially developed for work in underground mines.

The M786 mine grader is a modified variant of Champion’s popular all-wheel drive C86 C-Series compact grader. The low profile cab has been lowered to give the M786 a maximum height of 7 ft. (2.13 m). The grader is also reinforced in critical areas to withstand the added shock loads and long duty cycles of mine operations.

According Bryan Abernathy, Executive Vice-President of Champion Motor Graders, the M786 is the product of an extensive engineering review of previous models working in mine sites. Interest in developing a specialized mine grader came to Champion by word-of-mouth from dealers and mine operators who encountered recurring problems as they attempted to utilize conventional graders in mining applications. “Word had been spreading that there is an alternative solution for haul road maintenance,” Abernathy reports. “A lot of mines don’t own a grader of any kind. Purpose-built mining graders are very expensive because they come with so many unique features and really short overall height. We see the M786 as a cross of a standard off-the-shelf C86 and a purpose-built mining grader. This offers mines a grader that is designed for underground work but that is much easier to justify in terms of cost.

Champion initially investigated how to meet requests for a lower cab height without compromising operator comfort and safety. As development progressed, Champion’s engineering team identified additional modifications to adapt the grader to its new environment.

Less height, more strength for extended duty cycles
“Height was the big issue, to start with,” Abernathy said. “But we began putting more into new product development as we gained a better understanding of the differences in operating conditions that a mine presents.”

Abernathy notes that, in more typical operations, the daily duty cycle of a grader may total 3.5 hours. In the mines, however, graders can run continuously for as much as two full shifts. The M786 was given a more robust frame using thicker material and extra welding passes. In the early stages of development, Champion simply adopted improvements driven by mine operations as upgrades to standard C86 models. As a result, once the decision was made to establish a new model with special mine features, the basic model required relatively little change. “By strengthening and improving the C86 as we went, we were able to keep Champion’s manufacturing process simple and economical, while letting us remain responsive to customer requests.”

“Under normal conditions, a problem might occur very rarely in the grader and you wouldn’t notice a pattern. When you put it underground, though, and you see a failure happen more frequently, you can start to think about ways to improve the design overall. The mines basically give us a lot of testing hours under extreme conditions. We could be looking at a part failure that would never happen outside of the mine, but Champion doesn’t ignore the opportunity to make our product better.”

Solving problems with hands-on grader experience
The greatest challenge to Champion engineers, according to Abernathy, was to lower the grader while maintaining adequate clearance for its many moving parts and assemblies. Particular attention was paid to the placement of the final drive on the M786 and to fine-tuning the wheelbase. Additional considerations included the mine’s narrow workspace, subjecting the machine to impacts on the sidewalls, as well as the shocks of hitting large rocks and the need for the grader to run in reverse for extended distances. The M786 is also designed to accommodate “mine ready” specifications such as fire suppression or special braking requirements.

Abernathy credits Champion’s decades of hands-on grader experience for its ability to develop the equipment customers need, quickly. “Designing the mine-duty grader was no different from what we have been doing for 30 years. With our experience, we go to the customer and find ways to help them achieve what they need from their equipment. You can make great strides in a short time when you go onsite personally and see what the customer is trying to do.”

“We started out paying attention to what makes a big grader great,” says Bryan. “We incorporated a lot of big grader features into our compact machine. Then we designed our production process to let us keep it open and adapt to satisfy different customer applications. That put us in a good position to create a mine grader like this – the only compact mine grader on the market!”

Working with the customer underground
Part of Champion’s strategy for mine operations is to work with the equipment operators and maintenance technicians onsite to show them how to maximize productivity with a compact grader. Abernathy says that, with a short training session, the mines he has visited find their Champion Graders are producing well for a lot less cost. Recently, Abernathy has traveled as far as Canada’s Northwest Territories and Red Lake, Ontario, to commission his graders and train local staff. More Champion Graders are in mining service in Juneau, Alaska as well as Mexico and Peru.

“When we go into the mine, everyone walks away more experienced. They learn to get the most out of the grader, and we get a whole new appreciation of what they’re doing.”

“Their location alone is a major factor,” Abernathy continues. “Many of our mine graders are in very remote locations – places that are almost impossible to reach at certain times of the year. Our C86 in Yellowknife was delivered by a C-130 cargo plane because the ice road was shut down. It shows you just how important the grader is to the mine, otherwise, they could have waited for it till the ice road opened again. Mines are unique because nothing shuts them down. That tells us we have to build our graders with the same kind of mentality.”

Champion currently has 14 graders working in underground applications. Another recent order will see a standard model of Champion’s C116 Production Class Grader go into a mining application. In that case, the C116 was chosen over a full-size conventional grader because of the maneuverability it allows with a shorter wheel base.

Abernathy acknowledges that the M786 is not the first grader to be built for mining. “There are other low-profile machines that just live in the mine; they’re very heavy-duty and very intense units but you’re spending double or triple the cost of our compact model. We feel we’re definitely the most cost-effective machine available.”

About Champion
One of the oldest names in the equipment industry, Champion Motor Graders has specialized in the development of motor graders and attachments for 30 years. Champion engineering and manufacturing, based in Charlotte, NC, are dedicated to the production of Compact and Production Class Motor Graders that assure customers of the same productivity and quality standards they expect from the best in full-size construction machinery. The Champion line-up now includes seven basic models with operating weights from 12,000 to 24,000 lbs., featuring the full range of single-axle, tandem and all-wheel 4×4 and 6×6 drive systems. Champion continues to develop a growing range of specialized equipment for the road maintenance and paving industry.

For more info contact Woody Ferrell at 704-392-1038.

Champion M786 C is only 7 ft. high and was completely designed from the bottom up to meet underground mining requirements.


Equipped with a Tier 3 Cummins engine, the air filter, exhaust and strobe are all within the 7 ft. profile.