Crowds of masked delegates gather at the Las Vegas Convention Center to see some of the world’s largest equipment.

After a five year hiatus, suppliers and service providers showcase the latest advancements for the mining sector

By Steve Fiscor, Editor-in-Chief, and Jennifer Jensen, Associate Editor

The world’s largest mining trade show, MINExpo INTERNATIONAL 2021, took place in Las Vegas during mid-September. As expected, attendance was light, especially for visitors from outside the U.S. The mood on the show floor was nonetheless upbeat and those who did attend got to see and hear about some interesting concepts.

National Mining Association President Rich Nolan opened the show and expressed his excitement at the show being back and in person. He also discussed the state of mining. “This is truly a remarkable time for mining,” Nolan said. The United States’ mining industry is rebuilding infrastructure and securing the domestic material supply chain. However, Nolan also pointed out possible detriments to the industry, including Congress’ proposed legislation that would impose new royalties and fees on the U.S. mining sector. This could hinder mines in the U.S. from staying competitive. “Made in America must include mines in America,” Nolan said. The government and the mining sector must work together to achieve that goal, he added.

Following Nolan’s welcome address was the keynote session, which was moderated by A.B. Stoddard, associate editor at RealClearPolitics, and featured speakers, Barrick Gold President and CEO Mark Bristow, CONSOL Energy President and CEO Jimmy Brock, Arch Resources President and CEO Paul Lang, Komatsu Mining President and CEO Jeffrey Dawes, and Caterpillar Group President for Resource Industries Denise Johnson.

Common words heard during the session were innovation and technology. The mining industry, in general, has been slow to keep up with ever-changing technology. But as many of the speakers pointed out, that is changing.

Bristow said there needs to be a major investment in technology and automation, and platforms are needed to support this new technology. The problem in the industry is that it rushes to comply, rather than anticipating the changes and setting up the infrastructure properly, he added. “We need to re-engineer our industry for the future,” he said.

COVID-19 gave the industry a push to implement new technologies, like automation. When mines reopened, this helped to ensure companies provided a safe work environment for employees. 

Dawes said, “COVID has actually pushed us up the curve very quickly.”

People need to know the advances the industry has made, the group all agreed.

“We haven’t done a great job communicating what we’ve done,” Brock said.

Mining companies need to be aware of sustainability and work with local communities to leave an area better than they found it. Mining companies can’t just close and leave, Brock added.

Bristow said the industry needs to worry about the globe as a whole, as well as the people who live there and take the responsibility back. “We can do more,” he said. 

Lang said the industry shouldn’t fear environmental, social and governance, but embrace it.

What can be done today to preserve what they have, Brock said. “The communities are the fabric that make us stronger,” he added.

Johnson agreed and said the industry has to work together to change the way mining is represented. Mining brings communities forward and touches every aspect of people’s lives. “There’s no greater purpose than helping the world grow,” she added.

This goes hand in hand with investing in younger generations and getting them excited about a career in mining. “We’re not very good at explaining that mining is cool and the technology is changing,” Dawes said.

Johnson agreed and said the industry needs to be better at going after talent. Lang suggested the industry go outside of what has always been done, move into more nontraditional spaces to find the new workforce.

“It’s all about investment,” Bristow said. “We haven’t invested in young people and our own future.”

At the conclusion of the session, the executives gathered on stage along with Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak to officially cut the ribbon and open MINExpo 2021. More than 1,400 companies packed three major exhibit halls and what follows is a compilation of some of the highlights from those three days in September.

The Cat D11 XE, a powerful and efficient electric drive dozer with high drive, serves as the backdrop.

Caterpillar Showcases Sustainability, Safety and Future of Mining

Caterpillar unveiled its latest advancements in safety, sustainability and technology at MINExpo. The 55,000-ft2 exhibit featured a broad range of product displays, new equipment introductions, autonomous machines, remote operating stations and previews of what the future holds for the mining sector.

Cat’s theme was “Together, We’re Mining Better.”

“We look forward to sharing Caterpillar’s latest mining products and services portfolio with our customers. Our advancements extend from equipment, technology and services to helping customers mine more safely and sustainably,” Caterpillar Chairman and CEO Jim Umpleby said. “We’re committed to providing the solutions to help our customers achieve their climate-related objectives while meeting their requirements for performance, durability and economic value.”

The exhibit was grouped under three areas: sustainability, technology and automation, and equipment lifecycle management solutions. The highlights included the world’s largest, most powerful and efficient electric drive dozer with high drive. The new Cat D11 XE dozer was built to give owners a lower cost of material moved. The new Cat R1700 XE LHD underground loader, which features 100% battery electric propulsion, generates significantly less heat and noise. It offers a 16.5-ton payload and 11.2 mph top speed. The company also displayed a broad range of renewable and storable power solutions.

The Cat MineStar stage focused on Caterpillar’s technology. “To deliver on their sustainability commitments will require miners to make significant changes to mine infrastructure and operations,” said Denise Johnson, Cat’s group president for Resource Industries. “Caterpillar has an integrated portfolio of machines, services and technologies, that support end-to-end sustainable solutions for our customers.”

Combining optimum power to the ground with increased durability and ease of service, the D11 XE dozer delivers the lowest cost per ton operation in dozing applications.

Promising low emissions-per-ton dozing, the D11 XE targets up to 25% less fuel costs per BCM. The fresh design targets up to 20% longer engine rebuild cycles than mechanical drive models, while 60% fewer moving parts translates to better machine uptime availability.

The D11 XE fully integrates Cat powertrain, Cat electronics, Cat software and Cat controls for optimized performance. Inherent machine protection reduces component damage for improved reliability. Its updated electronics architecture allows the dozer to take advantage of proven Cat technologies like MineStar Command for dozing, which offers both remote control and semiautonomous dozing.

The new dozer’s modular design simplifies maintenance through improved serviceability of the powertrain. Fewer moving parts translates to fewer touches required to maintain the dozer and lower service costs. This electric drive dozer also shares components with mechanical drive models, meaning familiarity for service technicians and fewer parts to stock for owners.

The new LHD matches the performance of the diesel-powered R1700 while using switch reluctance (SR) technology. Featuring fast onboard charging technology, the machine’s batteries can be charged while remaining on the R1700 XE to maximize available run time. The portable Cat MEC500 Mobile Equipment Charger provides quick charging wherever it’s needed and eliminates the expense of and need for static charging station infrastructure, additional batteries, and battery handling and swapping. The MEC500 fully charges the R1700 XE in less than 30 minutes using a single charger or in less than 20 minutes using two units. Liquid cooling allows the loader’s batteries to be cooled while the machine is put back in operation, increasing machine uptime availability.

The R1700 XE electric platform brings a new level of production capability in Caterpillar’s electrified product range. Multiple design features are carried over from the field-proven R1700 platform to reduce overall operating cost, improve component durability and reliability, and maximize availability and productivity. An aggressive digger, it features Autodig for optimal loading and improved traction control for maximum tire life.

When it’s time to recharge, the new Cat MEC500 Mobile Equipment Charger, the first of its kind for the underground mining industry, delivers an industry-leading 500 kW charging and connector capability. The new MEC500. It offers an impressive range of 300- to 1,000-volt and up to 700 Amp current output. Equipped with a durable skid mount and integrated forklift eyes, the 1,600-kg (3,527-lb) charger can be efficiently moved to where the equipment is working via towing, fork truck or overhead lift.

The new Komatsu WE1850-3 wheel loader uses KESS technology to store energy.

Komatsu Pushes for Interoperability

Komatsu has an ambitious vision for the future of surface operations; one that uses open technology to proactively manage onsite activities, connecting all steps of the mining processes by visualizing complex data. They see a world where interoperability will open the door to automation. Data will be shared across secure networks to empower real time decision-making. Operations and maintenance will be conducted remotely. Optimized machine tasks, such as automated drilling and truck operations, enable the command of entire processes including the loading and haulage cycles. Ultimately, full enterprise optimization will be supported by connecting tasks, processes, systems and people across the entire value chain to promote continuous sustainable production.

Komatsu’s mantra for MINExpo 2021 was “Creating Value Together.” The equipment the company had on display spoke to many of the achievements it has made since the previous MINExpo in 2016. Working with mining companies and others, Komatsu recently formed a Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Alliance for an emissions-free haul truck. That haul truck, which will powered by a trolley system and Li-ion batteries, was on display along with the new D475A-8 dozer, a ZR 122 rotary blasthole drill and a WE1850-3 wheel loader.

The company’s future vision for underground mining was equally ambitious. Komatsu sees underground operations of the future as highly automated environments where rapid development is possible by using continuous mining methods powered electricity, eliminating diesel emissions. Multifunction equipment will allow miners to do more with less. That equipment will self-diagnose problems and schedule maintenance avoiding catastrophic failure and downtime.

Komatsu was also celebrating its 100-year anniversary. “Since our founding in 1921, Komatsu has grown to become a $22.3 billion company that employs 62,800 people globally,” Komatsu America Chairman, President and CEO Rod Schrader said. “Since the last MINExpo, Komatsu has taken steps to advance mining environments toward interoperable ecosystems that bring together equipment and technology to empower innovation.”

Since MINExpo 2016, Komatsu acquired JoyGlobal, MineWare, Timberock and Immersive Technologies. “We recently formed a new mining technology solutions team that brings together experts from across our businesses to focus on rapid technology advancement, and that includes Modular Mining,” Schrader said.

The MineWare brand has been discontinued, but its equipment management products, Argus and Pegasus, have been folded into Modular Mining. “We’re not making these companies more like Komatsu,” Schrader said. “Instead, we are using them to enhance Komatsu’s capabilities by adopting their interoperable business models aiming to open up collaboration and change the dynamics of the entire market. We believe we are the first OEM to break the traditional mining support model.”

Komatsu has also developed strategic partnerships with Jennmar, Nokia, Cummins, Wabtec Topcon and Advantech. Working with Jennmar, they plan to further develop pumpable resign solutions for ground support on underground hard-rock bolting machines. The Frontrunner Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) is now qualified to work on Nokia’s private LTE mobile broadband technology. They have also worked with Cummins on engine monitoring and analytics, Topcon for high-precision GNSS receivers, Wabtec for electric drive systems, and Advantech in the IoT space with its computing systems.

“The strategic priorities facing our industry are a mix of old and new,” Schrader said. “We must continue to prioritize safety and the environment, and now we are able to do so in an innovative way leveraging automation, electrification and the use of connected systems.”

Jorge Mascena, senior vice president-mining technology solution for Komatsu and president and CEO of Modular Mining Systems, described how tomorrow’s miners will use data to transform the way they operate. “We are on the cusp of rapid change and innovation where automation and digitally connected and integrated technology intersect to optimize mine operations,” Mascena said. “We looked for a solution that cuts through the noise to provide a single source of information.”

Mascena was referring to Intellimine Synergy, an open technology platform that Modular Mining recently launched. Some of the solutions include advancements in optimization logic, integrated technology apps and a redesigned ecosystem architecture. “Data is not an end, but a means to create value together,” he said.

Mascena said payload management systems have already achieved a 5% increase in payload accuracy. It has also increased machine availability by 5% and extended the mean time between failure by 150%. “Using simulation tools and digital twins, we have now demonstrated a 23% improvement in cycle times for one mining operation,” he said.

In August, Komatsu formed the GHG Alliance to develop zero emissions mining equipment. “We are looking at power agnostic truck and we also have several parallel development programs testing power sources and technologies for the final truck platform,” said Juhn Koetz, president-surface mining. “We’re initially targeting trucks greater than 240 tons, which will enable a natural progression away from diesel.

As far as power source diversification, Koetz also discussed the trolley assits, Li-ion batteries, hydrogen fuel cells and the Kinetic Energy Storage System (KESS) installed on the WE1850-3 wheel loader, which leverages the selective reluctance hybrid drive to capture power during braking and retarding. “With these systems, we’re seeing as much as 45% less fuel consumption and 35% less CO2 generation and a 10%-15% advantage in total cost of ownership.

Diving a little deeper into battery-powered equipment, Jason Savage, senior vice president, soft rock, explained how Komatsu’s new Li-ion-powered BH18-A LHD can travel 136,000 ft (nearly 26 miles) per charge compared to 115,000 ft for lead-acid batteries. He said the Li-ion batteries can be recharged in less than 2.5 hours. “With the push toward further electrification in underground hardrock operations, we’re offering a mix of battery and electric bolting and drilling machines,” Savage said. “We have a new jumbo that has a modular battery-electric drive that uses the batteries to tram and electricity to drill and recharge the batteries. We’re looking at the complete elimination of diesel-powered machines underground.”

“We’re also helping miners expand their use of automation to help remove people from harm’s way, increase the reliability and productivity of operations and reducing their footprint,” said Shingo Hori, senior vice president for Komatsu’s Mining Technology Solutions.

Hori provided details on the plan for progressing from manned operations to autonomous mining by leveraging an open supervisory system. “Automation started with one truck at Codelco in 2008 and today we have 400 autonomous trucks operating in four countries and they have collectively moved more than 4 billion metric tons of material,” Hori said. “In 2022, we will launch an autonomous water truck.

What Hori said got him most excited was the development of tele-op systems for semiautonomous excavators. Twice daily, an operator using a set of controls in the Komatsu stand at MINExpo loaded autonomous trucks with a semiautonomous PC7000 at the company’s proving grounds in Tucson more than 400 miles away. “We’re trialing this machine at mine sites in 2022,” Hori said.

Komatsu Vice President for Underground Hardrock Mining Josh Wagner provided details about some of the advancements that he and his team have developed recently, including the MC51 (See Vale sidebar). “Dynacut mechanical rock-cutting system cuts rock with an accuracy of 50 mm,” Wagner said. “Our tunnel boring machines are being used for underground hardrock development.

The MC51 chassis is similar to that of a roadheader, but the cutterhead is a completely different concept that uses an undercut method rather than compression.

“We have deepened our commitment to underground hardrock mining,” Wagner said. “We unveiled two machines in the last year including a new drilling and bolting machine that uses a common platform. We are also developing innovative retrofit applications by working together with Montabert, Timberock and Jennmar. We recently started a new assembly line in Longview, Texas, to manufacture trucks and loaders.

“Beyond our focus on strategic product and technologies development to target digitalization, sustainability and automation, Komatsu is fully present in the underground hardrock space while also being committed to traditional markets such as underground soft rock,” Wagner said.

An ARFF (aircraft rescue and firefighting) vehicle arrives at Voisey’s Bay in northern Quebec.

Off-road Firefighting Vehicle for Mining

Fire and emergency response vehicle manufacturer, Rosenbauer, demonstrated the capabilities of its Panther aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) vehicle. These trucks are versatile, off-highway units with considerable speed and agility with practical applications for mines. Vale’s Voisey’s Bay mine, for example, originally purchased a 6 x 6 Panther to safeguard its airfield, but then realized it was also an ideal fit for mining applications.

“Being a remote site in Northern Labrador, we experience inclement weather, travel on dirt roads, and have limited water supply in certain areas of the site, so we need a fire truck that can respond to any emergency in a challenging environment,” said Patrick Boitumelo, head of mining and milling with Vale’s North Atlantic Operations. “We believe the new truck can handle anything from an aircraft emergency, to a [haul truck] fire and site accommodations fire safely.”

Built specifically for off-road use, the Panther disperses 9,000 liters per minute (2,400 gallons per minute) of water/foam a distance of more than 100 m (320 ft), and has the ability to extinguish a fire considerably faster than standard firetrucks, explained Duane Kann, Rosenbauer ARFF regional sales manager. “The Panther has a 30° angle of approach and departure, and it can pump/discharge from vehicle mounted turrets while climbing up a 40° incline.”

An all-wheel-drive system with rigid axles and coil springs designed for off road use gives the Panther a smooth ride even over rough ground and access to almost anywhere on a mine site. “The trucks, which are designed to be operated by one person, have a split chassis with separate compartments for the cab, the engine and the water tank,” Kann said. “It’s designed that way so it can flex.”

The Panther carries 1,500 liters (400 gallons) of foam for Class B fires, 225 kg of dry chemical and Halogenated agents, and it holds 11,400 liters (3,000 gallons) of water compared to 750 to1,500 gallons for a conventional on-highway firetruck. A mine in western Canada purchased a Panther and had a piece of machinery catch fire, Kann explained. “It extinguished the fire and saved the truck,” Kann said. “They were so impressed with the response they purchased another.”

Referred to as the Swiss army knife of off-road firefighting, the Panther has 54-ft boom equipped with a stinger, which employs a tool that can penetrate the shell of the plant or an engine compartment on a piece of machinery and discharge 250 gpm of water/agent without a firefighter on a hoseline or the operator leaving the cab. It also has forward-looking infrared cameras that allow the operators to see hidden interior hot spots as they arrive on the scene.

The purchase price of the Panther is more than a convention firetruck, but it is designed for this rugged environment and will have greater longevity. It’s better suited for fighting fires on large pieces of machinery, industrial plants and fuel farms. Most mines do not have a network of hydrants, Kann explained, so the 3,000-gallon tank is particularly useful. The Panther also employs a winterization package to keep the pump and tanks from freezing.

The Panther gets its power form a 16-liter, 700-hp Volvo D16 diesel engine that complies with the latest Tier 4 Final emission standards. “We have enjoyed a long relationship, 15 years or more, with Rosenbauer as their engine suppler for the ARFF division globally,” said Darren Tasker, vice president of industrial sales for Volvo Penta of the Americas. “This is a premium machine and it’s the type of equipment Volvo prefers to be associated with.” If issues arise, Volvo has a global network serving the mines. The Volvo Penta D16 engine provides enough power to split output between the fire pump and transmission to give these vehicles their unique pump and roll capability.

The rugged, skid mounted, FastCharge connector uses a 1-m long, 200-mm-dia. (8-in.-dia.) probe that would be inserted into a socket on a haul truck to recharge batteries in 15 minutes.

ABB Unveils eMine Platform, FastCharge for Haul Trucks

ABB used its MINExpo presence to showcase the launch of its Ability eMine portfolio of solutions that it said will help accelerate the move toward a zero-carbon mine. At one end of the stand, the company displayed the new eMine FastCharge concept, a fast, powerful charging system designed specifically for haul trucks. At the other end of the stand, the ABB theater demonstrated the full capabilities of its process automation business.

ABB positions Ability eMine as a portfolio of electrification technologies, which make the all-electric mine possible from mine to port with integrated digital applications and services to monitor and optimize energy usage. The company has been heavily involved in high-energy aspect of mining, such as hoisting, grinding, and material handling, and now haulage. The eMine FastCharge, which is currently in pilot phase, and the eMine Trolley System, which could reduce diesel consumption by as much as 90%.

“The global mining industry is undergoing one of the most significant and important transformations of our generation — and that is to become zero-carbon,” said Max Luedtke, global head of mining at ABB. “ABB Ability eMine is an exciting milestone to help convert existing mining operations from fossil fuel energy to all-electric. Mines can become even more energy efficient with vastly reduced levels of CO2 emissions, while at the same time staying competitive and ensuring high productivity.”

ABB developed Ability eMine as an open system by working together with other original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). “Mining companies do not want to be locked in to one supplier,” Luedtke said. “We have designed a charging system that can work with any piece of equipment. ABB already had experience from the automotive sector, primarily with fleets of busses and now we’re applying that know-how to mining.” Luedtke sees a natural transition from today’s trolley-to-diesel application to trolley-to-battery powered haulage.

“Today, we talk with mining executives about power, but tomorrow we will be talking to them about energy consumption per ton of ore,” Luedtke said. “Power management will be more important. For more than 130 years, the mines have trusted ABB with electrification and its more recent connection with automation and digitalization. Moving forward, it will be about collaboration.”

Luedtke believes the key to success in this area is early involvement in the decision-making process. “With both brown and greenfield operations, mines are looking closely at long lead-time items, but they still look at power management separately,” he said. “We need to move that discussion forward and include automation and digitalization. Leveraging our know-how at an earlier stage, we can talk about energy efficiency and optimize the design for efficiency and possibly reduce the capital spend.”

ABB had the pilot FastCharge system on the show floor. The rugged, skid mounted, connector terminal module contained a 1-m-long, 200-mm-dia. (8-in.-dia.) probe that would be inserted into a socket on a haul truck. On site, system would consist of a separate power house attached to the electric charging module by an electric cable that could be located as far away as 130 m. As the truck approaches and identifies itself by Wi-Fi, a height adjustable platform raises to the level needed, a retractable door opens and the probe is extended into position.

The system has been designed to charge any electric truck without human intervention at up to 600 kW. Charging time will depend on the battery capacity on board the haul truck and the operational profile. However, in many instances, a suitable state of charge could be reached within 15 minutes.

“We took a charging system for buses and ruggedized it for the mining environment,” said Nic Beutler, global product manager, power system and charging solutions at ABB. “We based this on open standards such as ISO 15118 for the vehicle-to-grid communication and implemented the pin connector system to accommodate the higher current carrying capacity. This unit is headed to Canada, so it is set up for 600 volts input with an output of up to 1,000 A/920 volts-dc powering the connector terminal.”

With additional equipment, ABB could connect it to a medium-voltage grid. Embedded into the Ability Ecosystem, ABB has developed a software application to monitor and control the charging operation, e.g., it sets a charging limit of 80% based on the next tasks of the mining cycle.

The system has been designed so that there is no risk of electrocution, Beutler explained. There is a considerable amount of flexibility in the probe (25 cm left and right and 20 cm up and down). The protective housing prevents the ingress of dust. “We are developing a standard and this could be it,” Beutler said.

“This is just a starting point on our journey,” Luedtke said. “These are exciting times for us. We are embarking into a new area of the mine and adding an area to our distribution system that has been powered by fossil fuels.”

The ABB digital theater demonstrated how all the mine-wide applications could be brought together. The system is based on ABB Ability 800xA platform and it is much more than process automation, explained Marcos Hillal, global product line manager, automation and digital. “It’s a comprehensive operational technology platform integration,” he said. “We can overlay more applications and promote more useful collaboration between operations, maintenance and electrical engineering to allow the mine to achieve more.”

“Ability 800xA brings people together across locations and disciplines,” Jerome Rosse, ABB’s global product manager-automation. “We are using the same process controls and electrical controls. We can also perform process automation, advanced process control (APC) and asset performance management.”

Intelligent cameras are making the system more intuitive. The control room operator, for example, clicks on the face plate for a fan and the camera pans to and zooms in on fan. The cameras are running image analytics. If a miner would enter the frame without the proper safety gear, an alarm would sound. Similarly, the cameras watch conveyors and can spot problems, such as belt tracking, an over-heated idler or over-sized material.

“We also use this system to mass deploy drawings in the engineering environment,” Rosse said. “That type of motor has this type of connection. We use the same tool to mass generate code as well, which allows us to be consistent with automation and electrical engineering. Drawings can be viewed by multiple people in multiple locations, while they collaborate to solve a problem.”

Hillal described some of the optimization advantages. “The mill requires an expert system for grinding,” Hillal said. “What we have here is the traditional PID loops with a second autopilot layer on top. This is the same platform operating in the same environment. Operators see the same system, but engineers can run artificial intelligence and advanced algos to determine optimum set points for the grinding circuits.”

Engineers can also create a digital model of the physical equipment and simulate water flow, mill power consumption and particle size distribution. “They look for a target range that produces the most with the least amount of energy,” Rosse said.

With eMine, ABB is extending its capabilities to the electrification of mining trucks and technologies for the full mining process. As more mines go electric, they will need more control and more power management and that’s the advantage of eMine, Luedtke explained. These two groups, who traditionally did not work in the same environment, can now collaborate to advance the mine.

LiDAR Sensors Generate Mapping Data

Fairly new to the mining industry, Quanergy Systems Inc. attended MINExpo to showcase its optical phased array (OPA)-based solid state LiDAR sensors and smart 3D solutions for automotive and IoT. It showed off its latest 3D LiDAR solutions, which provide advanced situational awareness for heavy equipment and mining vehicles, as well as intelligent navigation, localization, mapping and bulk material volumetric scanning. The LiDAR sensors can be paired with a warning system to protect workers, according to Tony Rigoni, director of industrial markets.

In addition, Quanergy’s high accuracy LiDAR sensors generate rich 3D point cloud data for bulk material measurement, 3D mapping for surveys and more.

Quanergy introduced the S Series solid state lidar sensors, which are designed to withstand rugged environments and potential jarring vibrations that might damage other types of sensors. One of the biggest issues in mining’s harsh environments will be vibration, Rigoni said. These lidar sensors are silicon and chip-mounted and do not use mechanical moving parts. The sensors can provide a detailed image of the environment, people and equipment.

These sensors have a shorter range, but the company is developing a longer-range version, which is expected to be released soon, Rigoni said.

Weir, Henkel Announce New Adhesive

At MINExpo, Weir Minerals and Henkel debuted its collaboration that was years in the making. Weir Minerals, manufacturer of Linatex, partnered with Henkel to develop LINATEX LOCTITE-LINA 88 adhesive range, which is a new solvent-free and zero VOC adhesive range for rubber lining.

The product was in response to customer demand and the objective for Weir Minerals was to offer a solvent-free adhesive for rubber lining applications with zero volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a feat that represents a mining industry-first, according to Mark Doyle, global product manager, Linatex Rubber and Hose. Designed specifically for Weir’s Linatex rubber products used to line mineral processing equipment, the adhesive enhances sustainability and delivers best-in-class bond strength at the same time, according to the company.

After testing the product for three years, the final product exceeded performance expectations and is an industry-leading, breakthrough product, according to Weir Minerals Division President Ricardo Garib.

McLanahan offers elevated thickener fro mining applications.

McLanahan Offers Thickeners

Since the last MINExpo, McLanahan has introduced a line of Elevated Tank Thickeners. Their thickeners are no longer used just for aggregates. The company has now made its way into the mining industry. The company has already sold and installed these Elevated Tank Thickeners into gold and nickel tailings applications, according to Scott O’Brien, director of process engineering.

This line joins McLanahan’s other tailings management equipment, such as filter presses and centrifuges, as an option to recover fines while reducing the need for tailings dams.

The expansion of their tailings and water management product lines reiterates McLanahan’s dedication to the sustainable future of their customers and it continues to expand in the space, said Cory Jenson, executive vice president of sales and business development.

The Power of One

Hexagon’s Mining division introduced the Power of One, describing the concept as a holistic, life-of-mine smart solution connecting sensors and software, infield apps and cloudware to empower digital transformation. For mining professionals, it offers the scalable, platform-agnostic answer to challenges previously addressed by point solutions and multiple vendors: drill-and-blast, collision avoidance, operator alertness, fleet management, operator assist, machine control, asset health and more. It points the way to a safer, more productive and sustainable future.

“The Power of One marks the next step in Hexagon’s convergence journey and the fulfillment of a commitment to connect all parts of a mine,” Hexagon Mining Division President Nick Hare said. “By harnessing data from multiple sensors in a simple and consolidated software architecture, we empower mines to become situationally aware, self-learning and autonomously connected in the field and in the cloud.

For the mines, the Power of One approach means reduced cost of ownership, reduced deployment and training time, reduced supply chain complexity and increased operator adoption. “This is a landmark enabler for next-generation autonomy, offering mines a uniquely intelligent approach based on open architecture,” Hare said.

“This is a milestone in a journey that began during the last MINExpo, soon after we announced the mining division,” Hare said. “Since then, we have assembled a team and established the brand, now we’re doing what the industry always expected, bringing all of this technology together on one platform.”

Hexagon Geosystems COO Josh Weiss knows the challenges firsthand. Before moving to Hexagon from the mining industry, he had to maintain 50 different applications including some DOS apps. These systems were complex with different technical details and architectural strategies, Weiss explained. He encountered a similar situation at Hexagon and in 2016, he led an effort to organize all the disparate technologies, breaking down silos to connect what’s planned in the office with what’s happening at the mine site.

“With this path toward automation, we are optimizing the process by connecting the mine plan to the fleet management system and connecting that to the truck,” Weiss said. “With the Power of One, there is the culmination of the technology and now the evolution of it.”

For the mines, however, the return on investment needs to be quantifiable. “Each application has its own tangible approach,” Weiss said. “With autonomy, we know the industry had some technology hurdles to address, so we developed a building block approach with various semiautonomous capabilities to address immediate needs, such as reverse assist, which automates the truck spotting process to prevent metal-to-metal contact. This has now become a cycle time optimization tool. With the building-block approach, we are also calculating the optimal path for autonomy if the customer decides to eventually move in that direction.”

As a technology provider, Hexagon’s biggest advantage is its safety ecosystem — collision avoidance, fatigue monitoring and personnel alerts. “Our safety portfolio is by far the market leader,” Hare said. “We have 45,000 to 50,000 vehicles equipped with collision avoidance and 10,000 miners protected by operator alertness systems.

“We came to the realization a few years ago that convergence, as in bringing it altogether, was the best approach for the future,” Hare said. “Convergence combines everything in one common platform, which saves money and time, especially when you consider that a haul truck has eight GPS antennae, four computer boxes and an operator display. If six different vendors were supplying those systems, the truck would experience a great deal of downtime with system installation, trouble shooting and maintenance.”

Hexagon serves many different industries and it has a centralized group called the Innovation Hub. They perform pure research and try to solve industry agnostic challenges, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), Weiss explained. “We can draw on those resources and the company’s experience with the construction and automotive sector,” Weiss said. “People used to say the mining industry lagged 10 years behind in technology adoption. In the last five years, we have not only caught up, we have leap frogged other industries especially with this path of intelligent autonomous mining. We also lead all other industries when it comes to safety programs and procedures.”

During MINExpo 2021, Hexagon’s Mining division and Liebherr announced a global framework agreement that advances the next generation of mine automation. Hexagon technology, including its autonomous mission management system, will be used in the mine automation options offered by Liebherr to customers. The autonomous mission management system will orchestrate autonomous fleet and unmanned mine traffic movements throughout the mine for optimized autonomous haulage. Integrating the power of Hexagon’s technologies with Liebherr’s interoperable solutions will enhance on-board intelligence, reducing dependency on site infrastructure and centralized supervisory systems.

Hexagon’s Mining division also announced a partnership with Hard-Line, a leading supplier of automation, teleoperation and remote-control technology for underground mining. Hard-Line’s TeleOp product allows for the teleremote operation of trucks and LHDs from a control station in a safe area on the surface or underground, regardless of distance. Hexagon will distribute TeleOp, further strengthening its market-leading portfolios for safety and autonomous solutions.

Hexagon also launched HxGN Mine-Measure, a tailored solution combining blast design software, high-precision drilling, blast movement monitoring, fragmentation analysis and enterprise analytics. Backed by a consultative team of dedicated technical experts, the company said MineMeasure would bring accuracy and precision to every step of the drill and blast (D&B) process with the potential to save companies millions of dollars.

Kal Tire’s Magnet Clamp is a remote-controlled clamp that secures and then releases the last two wheel bolts.

Improving Tire Safety

At MINExpo, Kal Tire introduced a new tool to allow tire technicians to safely perform one of the most dangerous tasks of removing an off-the-road tire and wheel assembly. The Magnet Clamp is a remote-controlled clamp that secures and then releases the last two wheel bolts. Usually, a technician has to stand underneath a tire manipulator forklift that bears the weight of the assembly. When the Magnet Clamp locks the studs, the technician can remove all the other lug nuts. The technician can step back and the tire manipulator then approaches and secures its grip on the tire/wheel assembly. The technician presses a switch on the remote control, the clamps’ jaw loosens, and the tire or wheel assembly is dismounted.

For Kal Tire, it’s all about every team member returning home safely at the end of the day, Senior Vice President Dan Allan said. “We’re developing offerings that don’t exist so we can protect people from risk and bring mining operations even greater safety, productivity and sustainability,” he added.


ESCO’s ToolTek System presents a safe way to install and replace Nemisys points and adapters.

ESCO Offers Full Line of GET

ESCO displayed its bucket offering at MINExpo, which includes buckets, dippers, ground engaging tools (GET) and the ToolTek System for replacing GET.

The company’s Production Master dipper lips are single-piece castings poured in premium alloys for extra toughness and weldability. Production Master’s innovative door and pivot point results in lower impact truck loading and reduced likelihood of truck cabin shock. The short travel door provides an expanded target dump zone in the truck body.

ESCO produces reliable, performance-driven face shovel fronts and backboards for 120- to 800-ton machine classes, sized to match site payload specifications. ESCO face shovel fronts feature reliable cast hinge necks made from durable ESCO alloy 12T provides high strength to low weight ratio compared to fabricated hinges.

Engineered to deliver payloads meeting site production requirements, ESCO’s wheel loader buckets are available in extra heavy-duty (XHD), heavy-duty (HD) and general-purpose (GP) duty classes. Attachment lugs wrap under the bucket to spread stress loads evenly. Single-beam HD or triple-formed XHD beams are engineered to meet application demands.

Custom wear packages are also available. ESCO’s options include Infinity chrome white iron button and blocks, ESCO AR 400 and 500 plate, Infinity chromium carbide overlay plate, Kwik-Lok II cast steel wear runners, as well as cast corner wear shoes and cast Nemisys and Toplok wing shrouds.

Developed in a collaborative effort with key mining customers, the ToolTek System offers a safer way to install and replace Nemisys points and adapters. The system includes a boom crane mounted tool head that is remotely operated, well out of harm’s way during replacement of worn components. New parts are pre-staged on racks conveniently positioned on the flatbed truck outfitted with the hydraulic crane. The system can remotely engage and disengage the GET locking mechanisms during a changeout, making the process truly touchless for mining maintenance personnel, increasing safety.

Terelion Adds DTH to Offering

Terelion, a leading manufacturer of rotary drill bits for the mining industry, is expanding into the down-the-hole (DTH) market. In addition to the existing rotary bit range, Terelion now offers the Warrior product line of DTH hammers and bits in 4- to 8-in. sizes. The company had the full Warrior product line on display at MINExpo.

Traditionally, DTH is used for drilling up to 10-in. production blastholes. Being able to drill fast with minimum hole deviation in hard and fissured rock has earned DTH its popularity. It is also used for drilling pre-split and buffer holes in large surface mining operations where production drilling is done by rotary.

“This makes our new Warrior DTH range a perfect complement for our customers, who mostly use our Rotary tools in their production drilling,” said Rahul Obla, DTH product line director at Terelion.

Introducing the Warrior DTH product line with a full range of hammers is a natural step for Terelion’s new growth strategy, Obla explained. Having both rotary and DTH offerings allows Terelion to be the productivity partner of choice for mines that use both methods of drilling.

“Our rotary drilling customers appreciate our premium product offering and committed way of doing business,” Obla said. “Now they can get their DTH tools in the same way from us as well. And of course, we address any operations using DTH also for production drilling that seek an agile and committed tools supplier.”

Hitachi Highlights Reliable Solutions

Hitachi’s product experts highlighted the company’s reliable solutions at MINExpo, including Hitachi’s new EX-7 Series mining excavators, haul trucks, sustainability, technology and more. “Hitachi has a full line of reliable solutions for the mining industry,” said Brian Wells, division sales manager, Hitachi Construction & Mining Division.

One way that Hitachi brings reliable solutions to life is the EX-7 Series of excavators, which are available as electric or fuel-efficient models that help reduce total costs of ownership, Wells explained. Customers can choose from a Cummins or MTU EPA Final Tier 4 (FT4) engine option. For non-regulated countries, customers can choose from a Cummins or MTU engine option that features Fuel Consumption Optimization (FCO) technologies that contribute to improved efficiency.

The EX-7 Series features improved hydraulic systems with a flow regeneration valve to reduce power requirements from the hydraulic system and engine, lowering fuel consumption and improving pump life. Additionally, these excavators focus on safety features such as a newly designed cab, a folding stairway, an emergency evacuation system and optional Aerial Angle, which is popular among customers and works as a 360° vision system.

Sustainability technologies within these excavators also contribute to efficiency. The newest model, the EX2000-7, features main pump electronic regulators, high hydraulic efficiency regeneration, and a cooling package that work together to help reduce fuel consumption by up to 20% compared to the previous EX1900-6 model with Cummins configuration.

Hitachi offers several solutions on its road to zero emissions. Trolley and retrofit battery trucks will be highlighted, including how the sustainable and environmentally friendly products can be leveraged to optimize mining operations. Hitachi’s trolley technology uses DC-powered overhead lines to power trucks up hills. When the truck operator connects to the line, the hauler switches to trolley power, resulting in an increase in speed up the grade and reduced emissions when compared to engine power alone. The system integration is all packaged through Hitachi — from components to support.

“Equipment that is going electric has the opportunity to demonstrate greater reliability and efficiency,” said John Schellenberg, Hitachi mining product manager. “With ‘Reliable Solutions’ being a big part of the Hitachi brand, that’s important to us. We continue to focus on integrating technology to reduce emissions.”

Another key product line is the EX-7E (Electric) Series mining excavators, which includes the EX2600-7E, EX3600-7E and EX5600-7E. These electric models run directly off substations and build on the proven efficiency of Hitachi’s existing EX-6E Series excavators.

One of the key benefits of a Hitachi EX-7E Series mining excavator is efficiency. For example, a high torque motor replaces the conventional combustion engine. Electric motors are able to produce high torque with greater efficiency with fewer service intervals than a diesel engine. Also with the new electronic pump regulators, pump control is taken to the next level with higher precision in matching hydraulic power to the load demand.

Hitachi’s line of haul trucks, the EH3500AC-3, EH4000AC-3 and EH5000AC-3, feature Hitachi’s Advanced AC-Drive System propulsion technology, which outperforms previous systems through its simplicity, improved efficiency and enhanced dependability.

Liebherr debuts its Mining Technology Product portfolio, which includes machine automation, digital services, and assistance systems.

Liebherr Displays New Equipment and Technology

Liebherr presented the latest editions and upgrades for its mining product range at MINExpo, including equipment from its hydraulic excavator, haul truck, dozer, components, and rough-terrain mobile crane product lines. The OEM’s product developments have been driven by modern technology to improve safety, sustainability and performance for the mining industry.

The newest generation of the 130-metric-ton (ton) R 9150 was on display with a 565 kW (757 hp) Liebherr V12 diesel engine, equipped with an 8.8 m3/11.5 yd3 EVO bucket and Liebherr ground engaging tools (GET). The R 9150 G7 matches well with 100-mt trucks.

Liebherr presented its 305-metric-ton (mt) T 274 haul truck, which provides fast cycle times, higher production rates, low fuel consumption, and a low cost per ton.

A wide range of options are available for the T 274, and the machine on the show floor was equipped with the Liebherr Trolley Assist System and the newly announced Liebherr next generation, interoperable machine automation. It was also equipped with a new Liebherr D9816 engine, which marked the beginning of the engine series integration into Liebherr mining equipment.

The Liebherr Trolley Assist System uses an overhead pantograph to connect the electric-drive system to a mine site’s electrical network. The potential for significant reduction of diesel fuel consumption and carbon footprint by decreasing the truck fleet’s CO2 emissions, demonstrates the Trolley Assist System as an effective first step on the road to zero emission mine sites of the future.

Specifically designed for the mining industry, the D98 series engine completes the already existing Liebherr engine portfolio for mining equipment and expands it to the upper power range. The series will be offered as an alternative option to the already existing engines.

The company also displayed its PR 776 dozer, a 70-mt-class mining dozer featuring a hydrostatic travel drive. With an average fuel burn 38 liters per hour, it offers best-in-class efficiency, according to Liebherr. To withstand the ambient temperatures in different regions, the PR 776 dozer can be equipped with an arctic package. Operators appreciate the convenience of a single joystick. Safety is enhanced via 360° blade and ripper visibility, provided by large panoramic windows and integrated ROPS/FOPS in the cab structure.

The LiReCon system offers increased safety, comfort and productivity for the operation of Liebherr’s mining dozers.

The PR 776 dozer can be operated by teleremote using the Liebherr Remote Control (LiReCon) teleoperation system. The system consists of a teleoperation stand, a state-of-the-art operator workspace with all required controls, and onboard dozer installations: cameras for all different angles and views, microphones for recording machine sounds, radio link receiver and transmitter. The high-resolution main screen provides a complete view of the worksite and around the dozer. The optional active person recognition system identifies people and obstacles in the work area further enhancing safety.

During the show, Argonaut Gold purchased a 72-mt PR 776 and three 53-mt PR 766 dozers for its Magino mine project in Canada. Partnering with Liebherr-Canada ensures that Argonaut Gold receives expert technical knowledge and experience to maximize the performance of the dozers through the long term.

Liebherr also debuted its Mining Technology Product portfolio at MINExpo, which the company said defines its interoperable and scalable approach to their equipment, technology and service product offerings. The portfolio includes machine automation, digital services and assistance systems and onboard analytics product lines.

Mine automation has become increasingly important, with the approach enhancing safety, improving operational efficiency, increasing productivity and reducing operating costs. For automation of Liebherr trucks, excavators and dozers, the company is developing the next generation of autonomous solutions with the utmost safety and operational efficiency, supported by an open and interoperable mine autonomy platform. Interoperable autonomation provides mines with the freedom to choose their preferred combinations of equipment, onboard autonomous solutions, and central control platforms.

Liebherr’s interoperable autonomy products for mixed fleet applications have the capability to interface with multiple traffic and fleet management systems. The company said it has developed and proven the world’s first open software interface between its autonomy kit and independent suppliers of its traffic management systems. The protocol will not only enable customers to choose their preferred traffic management solution, but will also enable autonomous machines, including autonomous light vehicles, to coexist within a common autonomous ecosystem.

During MINExpo, Hexagon’s Mining Division and Liebherr announced a global framework agreement to advance the next generation of mine automation. Hexagon technology, including its autonomous mission management system, will be used in the mine automation options offered by Liebherr to customers.

“From the beginning, our approach has focused on developing machine automation solutions that are truly interoperable,” said Scott Bellamy, head of product management, mining trucks, Liebherr Mining. “As a result, our system architectures enable seamless integration at multiple layers to unlock value for mine operators that has not been possible until now. We’re looking forward to making some more exciting announcements in that regard as we continue to work with our business partners.” Integrating the power of Hexagon’s technologies with Lieb-
herr’s interoperable solutions delivers the next generation of mine automation with enhanced onboard intelligence, reducing dependency on site infrastructure and centralized supervisory systems.

Liebherr also offered a roadmap to expand its current offering to achieve low carbon solutions in 2022, along with fossil fuel free solutions for the majority of applications by 2030.

The Zero Emission Program strives to deliver long-term sustainable products and services, providing different options centered on environmental sustainability, safety, cost, flexibility and maintainability. Modularization, along with an energy agnostic approach to drivetrains, are key elements in Liebherr Mining’s strategy, easing the transition for mines with the possibility to retrofit modules.

The Liebherr Trolley Assist System is an effective first step on the road to zero. The company said an electric drive R 9600 will soon be available. To offer better machine mobility and safety for the workforce on site, Liebherr has developed a cable reel option for all electric drive excavators. The cable reel is completely autonomous and has a capacity up to 300 m depending on the excavator type. Furthermore, Liebherr proposes an operational concept for excavators with cable reel in backhoe application, particularly in double benching operations.

Liebherr signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with ABB during MINExpo to develop solutions for mine electrification, which will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with heavy machinery in mining.

The two companies will explore the development of state-of-the-art technology and equipment for overall electrification of mine sites, with a particular focus on trolley support.

As second step, Liebherr is now targeting to offer completely fossil fuel free mining equipment for hauling, digging and dozing by 2030. This development will take into consideration the GHG emissions over equipment’s full lifecycle, as well as the overall well-to-wheel energy ecosystem. The company is also taking into account the operational mining process conditions that influence the right energy type choice.

Liebherr will develop three drivetrain options to achieve near-zero emissions for its off-highway trucks: battery power module, internal combustion engines powered by renewable fuels, and hydrogen fuel cell-battery power module. Drivetrain electrification through battery combined with trolley assist is already under way. Hydrogen combustion engines are also currently being tested in Liebherr’s factory in Switzerland.

To accelerate the process and ensure the best solutions will be offered, Liebherr is partnering with industry experts for their Zero Emission Program. ABB, a leader in power and automation technologies, develops state-of-the-art technology and equipment for overall electrification of mine sites and supports our customers and Liebherr with a particular focus on trolley assist infrastructure deployment. ENGIE, the global reference in renewable hydrogen, low-carbon energy, and services, will jointly with Liebherr evaluate the different renewable energy solutions, in particular renewable hydrogen and hydrogen-derived fuels, for loading, hauling, and dozing processes.

With concept studies nearly finalized for trolley-battery hybrid, and ammonia and methanol for internal combustion engines, Liebherr expects to undertake field validation from 2024-2026, followed by the integration of proven fossil fuel free solutions from 2026-2030 into the entire range of mining machines.

Sandvik unveils three new underground drilling solutions at MINExpo, including a new battery-powered bolting rig.

Sandvik Launches Broad Range of New Solutions

Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions introduced several new products and services along with some new technologies at MINExpo. Henrik Ager, president, Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, described how the market has changed from mines simply adding equipment to fleets to trying get more from existing equipment. “We agree with that approach,” Ager said. “We take pride in making the best equipment and making it run better than anybody else. We’re often very successful at that.”

The company unveiled its Sandvik TH550B, its latest 50-ton battery-electric truck. The new truck features Sandvik’s patented self-swapping battery system, including the AutoSwap and AutoConnect functions, for improved availability and safety. The company also showcased the LH518B — the industry’s largest battery-electric loader — and launched the DS412iE, its first battery-powered rock bolter that rounds out the company’s first full-zero-emissions offering for all underground drilling applications.

Sandvik is attempting to make the conversion to electric drive as easy as possible. When it comes to total cost of ownership, Brian Huff, Sandvik’s vice president-technology, explained that new equipment and technology often comes with a higher price tag, but the mine will be able to recoup those costs in the offset for diesel fuel alone and there are other cost saving advantages, such as reduced electrical demand at the fans. “Yes, implementing an electrification program could reduce electrical costs,” Huff said.

Some mines worry that battery-powered equipment, such as trucks and loaders, will not be as productive as diesel. Sandvik is now demonstrating that is not the case. Huff said the trucks travel about 10% faster than diesel-powered trucks. The new 518B LHD completes a cycle in 4 minutes compared to 9 minutes for a similar-sized, diesel-powered LHD. “As far as recharge, the batteries do take time to recharge, but Sandvik’s AutoSwap system has reduced battery change times to 3 minutes and the operators do not leave the cab,” Huff said. “The operator positions the LHD close to the recharged battery and the AutoConnect process takes care of the rest.”

Huff offered up a scenario of a 13-km haul (26 km roundtrip), where the battery charging station was located halfway up the ramp (or decline). The equipment would swap batteries at the station, dump its load at the top of the cycle, then use the gravitational energy to recharge the battery on the backhaul, which would provide enough energy to reach the recharging station again. “Even with the battery swap, it will complete that cycle in less time than the diesel-powered equipment,” Huff said.

Sandvik also launched several new rock tools. Its new Tundo RH650 DTH hammer can reduce fuel consumption by up to 15% while increasing penetration rates by up to 20%. The company also introduced its heavy-duty top hammer drill bits, the new Autobit and its Charger RR450 rotary drill bit, which can achieve up to a 90% increase in bit life compared to other premium sealed bearing bits. It also displayed the Sandvik LT90 top hammer tool — part of the Top Hammer XL system — and launch the new Sandvik RD212 and Sandvik RD315 rock drills at the show.

Sandvik’s Remote Monitoring Service analyzes underground mining equipment data to identify abnormalities and develop predictive solutions to increase uptime and reduce operating costs.

On the surface drilling side, Sandvik had the DR410i rotary blasthole drill rig, Leopard DI650i down-the-hole drill rig and Pantera DP1600i top hammer drill rig, part of the Top Hammer XL system. The company also discussed its AutoMine Surface Drilling and the system’s new AutoCycle functionality that enables a fully autonomous drilling cycle.

Sandvik unveiled three new underground drilling solutions at MINExpo, including a new battery-powered bolting rig, an accompanying portable training simulator and a new mobile application for enhanced drilling.

The new Sandvik DS412iE is equipped with an electric driveline system and battery package with electric motor for zero emissions while tramming and drilling. The rig’s iSeries platform offers various levels of automation for rock support drilling as well as providing component commonality through the 400i drill range.

Sandvik’s Digital Driller training simulators provide a compact and flexible solution to safely train underground drill rig operators or maintenance teams. Use of the simulator is estimated to increase annual productivity by 5% due to increased rig availability alone. In addition, training costs are reduced by up to 35% through less energy and consumables costs and reduced rig damage.

The new Sandvik DrillConnect app seamlessly and efficiently transfers drilling reports and MySandvik machine data in environments where network coverage is inadequate or not available. The app also provides easy access to the machine’s manuals and is designed to be scalable for future development.

Vale plans to trial the Komatsu MC51 (above) in 400-m development heading at its Garson mine in Ontario during 2022.

Vale Puts MC51 to the Test

For about 10 years, Komatsu said it has been looking at ways to break rock mechanically in a predictable way using a fully electric system. The DynaCut mechanical rock-cutting capabilities on Komatsu’s new MC51 machine is the culmination of those efforts. The chassis for the continuous mining machine looks like a chassis for a roadheader, but the cutterhead assembly, the Dynacut system, is completely different. The cutterhead uses an undercut technic rather than compression to break rock.

More recently, Komatsu has been working collaboratively with Vale to bring this technology forward and the two companies made a joint presentation at MINExpo.

“The MC51 is currently in operation at one of our mines, the Garson mine in Sudbury, working at a depth of about 2.5 km underground,” said Dino Otranto, COO for Vale’s North Atlantic operations and Asian refineries. “It’s critical that we work together to solve some of the very real challenges that we have. This technology does away with the drill-and-blast step. Many miners are exposed to that risk every day. This is a fantastic collaboration that solves a safety problem.”

Both Komatsu and Vale see the MC51 as a safety and productivity driven solution. “Not only does the DynaCut technology provide a very controllable way of cutting rock — within 50 millimeter (mm) accuracy — the machine itself, the MC51, is designed to advance more sustainable mining methods by reducing the amount of equipment required to get to the ore body,” said Rudie Boshoff, director of hard rock cutting systems at Komatsu.

The mechanical rock cutting trial at Garson will be the largest of its kind ever undertaken. “Our intent is to not only test the ability to cut the hard rock found in the Canadian Shield, but to challenge the technology to compete commercially with conventional drill-and-blast. The ability of the cutter to integrate with existing infrastructure and equipment within our current processes at the mine is key to implementing this technology,” Otranto said.

Vale plans to demonstrate the ability to cut rock at a commercial rate, quantify the cost and make comparison with conventional drill-and-blast techniques. “At the same time, we will assess the health and safety, and environmental sustainability of the mechanical rock excavation process for the future,” Boshoff said. Vale plans to test the machine on a 400-m (1,300 ft) development heading over the next year.