Vale and Komatsu’s mechanical rock excavation (MRE) collaboration has moved into another gear, with the Komatsu MC51 machine featuring DynaCut mechanical cutting technology now operating underground at Vale’s Garson nickel mine in Sudbury, Canada, Vale’s Dino Otranto confirmed at MINExpo 2021, in Las Vegas, today.
Speaking at the ‘Creating value together: Special one-time presentation with Vale’ event on Monday, Otranto, Chief Operating Officer of North Atlantic Operations and Asian Refineries for Vale, said the machine was in operation, 2.5 km underground at Garson after recently being assembled.
The machine is scheduled to carry out a 1,400 m initial test run at the mine, according to Komatsu, with the exercise seen as a way to bring the technology to market quicker for Vale and other customers, Rudie Boshoff, Director of Hard Rock Cutting systems at Komatsu, said during the presentation.
Andy Charsley, a Principal Mining Engineer at Vale, says this trial is the largest hard-rock cutting trial Vale has ever committed to.
Through more than 10 years of research and development, Komatsu says it has determined how to break rock continuously and precisely through a fully electric system that outputs zero emissions. By automating and controlling processes so the machine can be operated remotely via line of site, Komatsu customers have the opportunity to move their operators further from the cutting face and from harm’s way leveraging DynaCut technology and the MC51 machine. DynaCut technology, which has previously been tested at Newcrest Mining’s Cadia underground mine in Australia, is billed as offering cutting accuracy of within 50 mm to plan.
Otranto says the partnership with Komatsu is the first step to “really prove and understand the technology, while meeting our high standards for safety”.
Last year, Charsley and colleague Luke Mahoney spoke to IM about this partnership, which is part of the mechanical cutting demonstration within the CMIC (Canada Mining Innovation Council) Continuous Underground Mining project.
Vale said back then that the trial planned to demonstrate the ability to cut rock in excess of 250 MPa; cut at a commercial rate of more than 3.5 m/shift; quantify the cost per metre of operation and start to look at the potential comparison with conventional drill and blast development; assess the health, safety and environmental suitability of the MRE process; and gain insight into the potential of an optimised MRE process.
Charsley says the integration of the MC51 with bolters, trucks, scoops and other equipment at the operating mine will be included within the company’s assessment of the technology.
Since announcing this collaboration, the South Australian Government has awarded a A$2 million grant to Hillgrove Resources to trial the new underground mining technology being progressed by Komatsu.