Aker Wirth and Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, have signed a contract to test a Mobile Tunnel Miner (MTM) mid-2014 at the Chuquicamata mine in Chile, where future underground mining is planned. The Aker Wirth MTM will bore tunnels for the Chuquicamata underground mine in advance of copper mining.

“Previously, tunnels of this type were blasted out of the rock in copper mines,” said Ulrich Frenzle, vice president, mining and construction, Aker Wirth. “These will be created mechanically for the first time with the MTM4, thus improving tunneling efficiency and safety in the mine significantly.”

The machine will cut tight curves with an exact profile, a particularly demanding operation based on the machine’s maneuverability. The MTM combines the flexibility of a road header with the robustness of a tunnel boring machine. The self-propelled machine excavates rock with four hydraulic arms with disc cutters. The muck is conveyed to the rear of the machine by a loading apron with disks and via a chain conveyor.

The MTM also costs 30% less than drill and blast, according to Frenzle. “We expect to set new standards in mine development,” he said. “Its development fully reflected quantifiable customer benefits and safety issues.”