Caterpillar Inc. will build a its first manufacturing plant in Thailand to produce trucks and loaders for underground mining. It’s the first capital project this year for the construction and off-road equipment builder, which unveiled an extensive series of plant expansions and construction projects during 2010. Caterpillar also last year announced a $7.6-billion takeover of mining equipment manufacturer Bucyrus Corp.

No estimate for the new project’s capital investment was announced.

"We continue to make strategic investments in our mining business to support our customers," according to Caterpillar Global Mining president Chris Curfman. "We are pleased to announce our first manufacturing facility in Thailand, which will increase our capacity for our existing range of underground mining machinery, particularly as we sharpen our focus on meeting long-term customer demand in growth markets."

The 645,000-square feet plant will produce Caterpillar’s full range of articulated trucks and loaders for hard-rock underground mining applications worldwide. Groundbreaking will take place soon, and the operation in Rayong Province will be online by late 2012. It will employ about 800, Caterpillar said.

Caterpillar currently produces underground mining equipment at plants in Australia and Brazil, but is responding to rising global demand for the products.

"The on-going infrastructure development plans for the world's growth markets combined with a long-term trend toward urbanization and growing wealth in emerging economies should continue to help drive long-term demand for commodities," explained Caterpillar group president for Resource Industries, Steve Wunning. "This facility will help to position Caterpillar for continued leadership in the mining industry."