Copper brings the world together; it is one of the most traded industrial metals apart from aluminum. The demand for copper has been exceeding its supply for years with shortages being ongoingly reported. Chilean state copper mining company Codelco (Corporación Nacional del Cobre de Chile) made a strategic move when they placed an order with the FAM Group to build a new bucket wheel excavator type SR800P9 for the Radomiro Tomic opencast mine in the Atacama Desert in the north of Chile.

Unique design and customized fabrication of equipment is one of the core competences of the FAM Group with this project being no exception. Since Chile is home to the world’s largest copper deposits, FAM was proud to provide the customer with the world’s largest bucket wheel excavator of the compact class. The machine will be serving in a dynamic leach pad, which features advanced chemical processing of the copper ore on an industrial scale.

The crushed and acidified copper ore is stacked in large stockpiles and sprinkled with water delivered by a pipe system which leaches the copper from the ore. The copper-rich liquid is then collected via a drainage system and fed into an electrolysis system for copper recovery.

After having been stored in the stockyard for a certain period of time, the leached copper ore must be reclaimed using a bucket wheel excavator to finally dump it and create new stockpile space.

The excavator for the Radomiro Tomic copper mine is designed for an impressive output of 14,500 tons per hour. To reach this rate, the bucket wheel has a cutting diameter of 19m and it comes with a 1,000kW drive. The bucket wheel transfers the bulk material onto a conveyor belt located on the machine and from there the material is fed onto a conveyor bridge on crawlers. To unload the stockpile, the bucket wheel excavator runs along the length of the stockyard continuously reclaiming the material. At the end of the stockyard it turns around the curve to take on the next row of the pile.

In addition to the implemented powerful mechanical components, FAM installed cutting-edge electrical and control technology as well, including automatic operation, video monitoring, several radar systems (for collision and stockpile recognition and positioning), highly precise GPS positioning, and complex monitoring systems to ensure the availability of systems.

Summary of technical features:

  • Location:  Minera Radomiro Tomic, Chile
  • Elevation:   3,000m
  • Reclaiming rate:  14,500t/h
  • Bucket wheel diameter: 14m
  • Cutting diameter (at the bucket tips): 19m
  • Total dimensions: 53m x 25m x 21m (l x w x h)
  • Total weight: 995t
  • Crawler length: 9.4m
  • Crawler width: 2.4m
  • Max. speed: 10m/min
  • Output of bucket wheel drive: 1,000kW