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Zero emissions machine works without blasting

Komatsu electric tunnel boring machine
Komatsu electric tunnel boring machine

A foreign mine equipment company claims its new machine operates underground without harming the environment, or requiring explosives.

Japan-headquartered Komatsu recently confirmed it will trial a new electric mining tunnel boring machine (TBM). The equipment is touted to excavate rock with disc cutters and discharge chipped rock backwards with belt conveyors. It is promised to fortify excavated tunnel walls too.

“Excavation with disc cutters improves tunnel strength and stability by creating a circular tunnel shape with smooth walls, with less damage to the excavated tunnel compared to drilling and blasting methods,” the company said in a public statement.

“Previously, use of TBM has generally been limited to excavating nearly straight tunnels. This new technology improves the flexibility of the equipment and enables excavation of tunnels according to the more unique designs of each mine.”

Komatsu also claims the machine also does not require the target area to be blasted, allowing different tasks to be carried out with the same equipment. This is promised to improve employee productivity.

“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,” it said.

“Komatsu has been focusing on the development of equipment for the future of underground hard rock mining under the slogan of ‘no blasting’, ‘no batch’, ‘no diesel’. The Mining TBM and the new method embody this forward-looking approach and seek to help customers improve safety, environmental friendliness, and productivity (shorter tunnel construction period and lower tunnel construction costs).”

Codelco will help Komatsu trial the new tunnel excavation method sometime in 2024 at the state-run Chuquicamata Mine, 1552km north of the Chilean capital of Santiago.

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AMSJ April 2022