Komatsu and Codelco to conduct trial of new tunnel excavation method

8 July 2022

Japanese machinery manufacturer Komatsu Ltd and Chile’s state-owned mining company and the world’s largest copper producer, Codelco, are to trial a new tunnel excavation method using Komatsu's newly developed mining TBM.

The aim of the trial, which will start in 2024 at Codelco's Chuquicamata mine in Chile is to speed up the potential introduction of the new technology. The collaboration is with Komatsu subsidiary, Komatsu Cummins Chile Ltd.

Demand for underground mining equipment is expected to increase along with global demand for mineral resources that require increasingly deeper mining operations. 

Image Credit: Komatsu

Komatsu developed the first TBM for rock excavation in 1963 for use in civil engineering in Japan. Since then it has introduced more than 2,300 TBMs, including its micro tunnelling machine, to the market. The mining TBM is equipped with new technologies that enable adaptability to small curves, reversing, and passing intersections in hard rock tunnel excavation. Komatsu says the technology improves the flexibility of the equipment and enables excavation of tunnels according to the more unique designs of each mine.

To support clients’ needs for increasingly sustainable ways of mining, the new machine runs off electricity, does not require the use of blasting and performs a series of tunnel excavation processes with a single machine, reducing the number of vehicles required overall. Komatsu says the result is a new excavation option that reduces the creation of greenhouse gases and particulate matter emissions for an improved underground environment that requires less ventilation than other methods. At the same time, it increases workforce productivity.

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”.