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Bauer completes cutting technology milestone at Rio Tinto FalCon JV

On June 17, Bauer Maschinen GmbH, together with a joint venture partner, successfully completed the first 228 m cutter bulk sample on the Rio Tinto- and Star Diamond-owned FalCon project in Canada, marking a new global depth record.

“This depth has never been reached by a trench cutter in any commercial application worldwide before and proves that Bauer cutter technology cannot only be used in specialist foundation engineering, but is also suitable for the exploration and mining industry,” Bauer said.

The FalCon project, owned jointly by Rio Tinto Exploration Canada and Star Diamond, aims to prove up the commercial viability of the Fort a la Corne kimberlite fields in Saskatchewan, Canada.

“Due to the low grade of the kimberlites, Rio Tinto decided to use Bauer trench cutter technology to provide large-volume, high quality kimberlite samples for the final evaluation of the project in regards to diamond content and recovered diamond quality,” Bauer said.

A Bauer BC 50 cutter on a Bauer MC 128 duty-cycle crane is used for bulk sampling to a maximum depth of 250 m. In addition to the cutter and the base carrier, Bauer Maschinen GmbH supplied a BE 550 desanding plant and other accessories from its branch Bauer MAT Slurry Handling Systems.

The equipment was delivered to site on time and tested in September 2018. After a long winter break, operation started at the end of May 2019.

As part of this process, the kimberlite is washed and bagged into bulk bags for further evaluation in multiple steps by Rio Tinto, according to Bauer.

The Star kimberlite on the FalCon project is covered by around 120 m of overburden, which poses a significant additional challenge to the project.

Bauer, together with its local joint venture partner, Nuna Logistics Limited from Edmonton, achieved the 228 m milestone.

“Groundbreaking, in more ways than one, this is a significant milestone in using proven technology for a very different application,” Gary Hodgkinson, Project Director at FalCon, said.

“For us it means that we will be able to make important exploration decisions on what has been one of the most challenging diamond evaluation projects in the industry.

“We look forward to continuing working with Bauer to embed this technology and other new innovations in our program.”

Under the present contract, Bauer will execute several more bulk samples in 2019 on the FalCon project with the option to be extended into 2020.