Epiroc: Tunneling Opportunities on the Rise

Anirban Sen, Underground Business Manager Asia Pacific & India, Epiroc Mining
Anirban Sen, Underground Business Manager Asia Pacific & India, Epiroc Mining, shares information on the tunneling challenges in mines and the equipment required, and why the company is optimistic of demand rising for tunneling equipment.

What are the major tunneling jobs in a metal mine and what are the equipment required?
For tunneling in an underground metal mine, the first job when you open the portal is to drive the decline or incline, which is done to reach the ore body. Once the ore body has been reached, you develop the ore body based on your underground mining methodology, which will depend on various factors such as size and width of the ore body. So, you have to develop the levels, sub-levels, crosscuts and other structures.

For the equipment required, you need to start with face drills (boomers), and you will need low profile dump trucks and load haul dump (LHD). The LHD will take the muck and dump it into the trucks, which will take it outside the mine to the ore passes and dump it. Through the ore passes, the muck goes to crushers, and then needs to be evacuated through the LPDT etc. In a nutshell, the basic tunneling activity in underground metal mining involves development of a ramp, levels and sub-levels, stock phases, crosscuts, and other structures.

What equipment and solutions does Epiroc offer for tunneling jobs?
Epiroc offers ground-breaking technologies and innovative, safe, and sustainable construction equipment and tools for the mining and infrastructure industries. It also provides world-class services and solutions for automation and interoperability during tunneling. Epiroc’s Underground Division develops, manufactures, and markets a wide range of tunneling and mining equipment, including drill rigs, loaders, mine trucks and ventilation systems, for applications worldwide, besides innovative product design and aftermarket support systems for added customer value. The division’s production facilities are in Sweden, India, and China.

Epiroc: Tunneling Opportunities on the Rise

Epiroc has various types of boomers - both for mining and civil works - from single-boom to four-boom, besides bolting machines, LHDs ranging from 4 to 18 tons, and low-profile dump trucks from 20 to 65 tons. Our tunneling machines are also used in underground drilling for civil construction of roads and railway tunnels, hydropower projects, and in many other applications. Our machines are working in India and globally in many underground heavy civil projects.

What are the key challenges in tunneling?
The first major challenge is the geology. If the geology does not support your underground tunneling methodology, then there can be accidents during civil construction and underground mining. So, we need to first assess the geology and the nature of the rocks. If you know the geology well, then you can plan your support program accordingly, like what kind of bolts you will need, whether you need to go for shotcreting, and check for any other problems.

For civil construction, land acquisition is a major challenge. For instance, when you are constructing a dam, you are displacing a lot of land and people, which are socio-ecological challenges. Availability of experts is another challenge since in India, you may have the people in big numbers but there is a dearth of trained people and experts in the field. Plus, proper training of the operation and maintenance crew is required.

Underground mining is a capital-intensive project, and you need to have deep pockets to start such a project, because even if you start the mine, you may get the ore after 3-4 years of operations, which means that during the first 3-4 years of mine development, you are not earning anything. Thus, sustainability with respect to finance is important.

What are the safety measures for tunneling?
For mining, there are regulations such as DGMS in India, while globally, there is the stringent US regulation of MSHA. Generally, emission levels also need to be controlled during mining and the ventilation has to be good. Machines should have safety features like the standard FOPS and ROPS canopies/cabins for operator safety. The sound level inside the cabin/canopy should be equal to or lower than the permissible level. Operators should use proper PPEs while operating the machines.

Epiroc machines, which are being supplied not only in India, but also in global markets, are well equipped with the necessary safety features as per the standard, sometimes even better than the standard.

Epiroc: Tunneling Opportunities on the Rise

What is the current demand for tunneling equipment?
The demand for tunneling machines has started picking up with many civil projects coming up in the country. The government is investing heavily in border road projects like the Atal Tunnel, and the Zojila tunnel project has also been started. The Char Dham project of RVNL is going on, and some hydropower projects have been planned.

Epiroc: Tunneling Opportunities on the Rise

In the mining sector, our customers have invested in equipment and automation for their operations, taking forward the concept of ‘mine of the future’. We are discussing with them the requirement of equipment for other mineral operations too. Some mining companies are also planning to modernize their old equipment. All these are opportunities in the making for tunneling equipment players.

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