Mine and plant machinery rarely function optimally in extreme cold temperatures, and when a crucial part or system breaks in severely frigid conditions, it might cost anywhere from two to six times more to complete a repair than if the same thing happened in a warmer climate.

So, a recent announcement by Metso that it is in the process of delivering three freeze-proofed Lokotrack crushing and screening plants to a project site in Antarctica may be of interest to producers operating elsewhere in below-zero environments.

The equipment will be used for three years to crush an estimated 126,000 m3 of aggregates materials for reconstruction of the U.S. National Science Foundation’s (NSF) McMurdo research station in Antarctica. The equipment will allow crushing in temperatures as low as -40 °C.

The equipment sent to Antarctica — Lokotrack LT106 jaw crusher plant, LT200HP cone crusher and ST3.8 mobile screen — was retrofitted for extreme cold. The mechanics at Metso’s Technology Center for track-mounted equipment in Tampere, Finland, also developed additional protection for the equipment. 

“Every part sensitive to cold has been fitted with immersion heaters and extra insulation. The selected oils and other fluids are suitable for the Antarctic climate and the specially manufactured conveyor belts run even in extremely cold weather,” said Marko Salonen, project manager at Metso’s Aggregates Equipment business area.

“Alongside the equipment, we prepared the maintenance and spare parts service in such a way that everything conceivable can be anticipated and serviced independently on site. Even the packaging materials were chosen in a way that ensured that nothing unnecessary would be transported to the unique Antarctic environment,” added Salonen.

“We aim to work 16 hours a day and produce 250 tons of 63-millimeter crushed stone per hour,” said Jeffrey Huffman, operations manager for Leidos, the NSF’s prime contractor for the project. “We also want to include some degree of fines, to gain more compact material for the buildings’ foundations.”

The equipment’s long journey began at Metso’s facilities in Finland, then onward to Germany and from there to Port Hueneme, California, from where it will travel onward to Antarctica via Christchurch, New Zealand. The final leg of the journey will require an icebreaker leading two vessels carrying a total of 35 earthwork machines. The cargo is expected to reach the McMurdo harbor early in February 2020.