Experimentation of a new tunnel excavation method using Komatsu's newly developed mining TBM, is being implemented by Japanese machinery manufacturer Komatsu Ltd and Chile’s state-owned mining company as well as the world’s largest copper producer, Codelco.
Commencing in 2024 at Codelco's Chuquicamata mine in Chile, this trial intends to speed up the potential introduction of the new technology. The collaboration is with Komatsu subsidiary, Komatsu Cummins Chile Ltd.
It is expected that, the demand for underground mining equipment increases along with the global demand for mineral resources that require increasingly deeper mining operations.
Following the advancement of the first TBM for rock digging in 1963 for use in civil engineering in Japan, Komatsu has introduced more than 2,300 TBMs, including its micro tunneling machine, to the market. Due to equipping with new technologies, this mining TBM enables adaptability to small curves, reversing, and passing intersections in hard rock tunnel excavation. In accordance with Komatsu's claim, the intended technology progresses the flexibility of the equipment and causes the excavation of tunnels according to the more unique designs of each mine.
Enabling the new machine to run off electricity, not requiring the use of blasting, and performing a series of tunnel digging processes with a single machine, reducing the number of vehicles required overall, are done in order to support clients’ needs for increasingly sustainable ways of mining. Additionally, as Komatsu says due to explore of a new excavation option, a decrease in the creation of greenhouse gases and particulate matter emissions for an improved underground environment is undeniable that requires less ventilation than other methods, while it increases workforce productivity at the same time.
To mitigate climate change and use more environmentally sensitive approaches, Komatsu has been focusing on the development of equipment for underground hard rock mining under the slogan of No Blasting, No Batch, No Diesel.