Chile’s state-owned miner Codelco and Komatsu unit Komatsu Cummins Chile have agreed to carry out testing of a new Mining Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM).

Planned to be conducted at Codelco’s Chuquicamata Mine in Chile, the aim is to test the new tunnel excavation method using Komatsu’s newly developed TBM, starting in 2024.

This machine is expected to cater to the surging demand for deeper mining operations.

The two parties plan to accelerate the potential introduction of the new innovative technology through the new-gen tunnel borer trial.

Since 1963, Komatsu has been developing boring machines for use in the civil engineering and mining industries. The company has so far launched more than 2,300 TBMs in the market.

The latest TBM features technologies designed to adapt to small curves, reversing and passing intersections in hard rock tunnels, unlike previous TBMs that were equipped to excavate only in straight tunnels.

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By GlobalData

In a press statement, Komatsu said: “This new technology improves on the flexibility of its predecessors and enables excavation of tunnels according to more unique designs of each mine.”

The Mining TBM can continuously undertake a series of processes, such as excavating rock with disc cutters to improve tunnel strength and stability, as well as discharging the chipped rock backwards with belt conveyors. It can also fortify the excavated tunnel wall.

The new machine is also equipped to run on electricity, eliminating the need for blasting. It can also undertake various tunnel excavation processes and does not require more vehicles.

The firm noted: “In response to climate change and the need for solutions for environmental issues, Komatsu has been focusing on the development of equipment for the future of underground hard rock mining under the slogan of “No Blasting”, “No Batch”, “No Diesel.”

“The Mining TBM and the new method embody this forward-looking approach and seek to help customers improve safety, environmental friendliness, and productivity (shorter tunnel construction period and lower tunnel construction costs) at underground mines, and will also help them achieve a revolution in their mining operations.”