An innovative new tunnel boring system is due to arrive at the NorthParkes copper mine in Australia’s central western New South Wales within weeks. Global mining equipment supplier Aker Wirth has developed the new system with Rio Tinto, under its ‘Mine of the Future’ program. The machine was freighted from Aker Wirth’s production facility in Dusseldorf, Germany in June and will be ready for use in the company’s underground mine on arrival.

Aker Wirth says the machine combines the flexibility of a roadheader with the robustness of a tunnel borer. The company had previously developed and tested a similar version in the 1990s.

Aker Wirth’s chief executive officer Einar Brønlund says, “We will revolutionize safety and efficiency in underground mining with the new Mobile Tunnel Miner. With this tunnel boring system Aker Wirth will play a decisive role in shaping the future of the mining industry.

The Mobile Tunnel Miner is very flexible and versatile, and especially efficient with tunneling in extremely hard rock due to its undercutting technology. Another feature of the tunnel boring system is its ability to cut - in addition to circular tunnels - rectangular or horseshoe-shaped cross-sections of up to 6 metres bore diameter, eliminating the need to backfill the lower section of the round cross-section. 

The machine can be moved flexibly forward with a walking mechanism and backward with a crawler. Aker Wirth engineers employed several swivel joints to attain a radius of just 30 metres which is extremely small for a machine of this size and capacity.

The Erkelenz-based company was able to draw upon more than 40 years of experience and expertise in underground hard rock mining and tunneling to develop the new machine.

Since 1895, Aker Wirth has been supporting the establishment of a modern and efficient development of natural resources and infrastructure, promoting growth and improving the standard of living.

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