PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Global diversified miner Rio Tinto is planning to expand its next generation technology programme, Mine of the Future, to develop new equipment and systems for deep underground mines.
The miner has selected Aker Wirth, Atlas Copco and Herrenknecht to work with it on the project, it said in a statement on Tuesday.
Aker Wirth, an equipment supplier, and Atlas Copco, an industrial solutions provider, would individually work with Rio to develop two new tunnelling concepts, which it hoped would lead to fast and cost-effective tunnel creation.
Herrenknecht, a mechanised tunnelling specialist, would develop a new shaft boring machine, which would combine three separate processes - rock excavation, rock transport and structural support - into a single system.
All three new concepts were a result of civil tunnelling industry technologies, combined with input from Rio mining experts and contractor partners Redpath and Cementation.
Rio head of innovations John McGagh commented that at the heart of the company’s Mine of the Future programme was industry-leading work to pioneer new technologies.
“The partnerships announced today, will help us fundamentally change the world of underground mining by further improving safety and allowing more rapid construction of new underground mines. Our new partners will be very valuable in helping us to solve the challenges of developing block cave mines.”
Rio Tinto’s Mine of the Future programme was unveiled in January 2008 and initially focused on the group’s Pilbara iron-ore operations. The programme is designed to create next generation technologies for mining operations that result in greater efficiency, lower production costs, improved health, safety and environmental performance, and more attractive working conditions.
Projects such as the Resolution copper project, in Arizona, and the Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold project, in Mongolia, would use an underground block cave mining method, which requires construction of significant underground infrastructure prior to ore production.
In anticipation of this need, Rio’s technology and innovation division has been engaged in a long-running development programme to improve significantly both the safety and speed of constructing underground infrastructure such as shafts and tunnels.