How tech improved a mine’s efficiency by 50%
By Andy Brown30 March 2023
Construction technology has helped boost mining capacity by 50% at Minas de Ríotinto in Spain, Europe’s largest mining pit.
The mine is reported to produce some of the highest quality copper found in the world, but with extraction costs that reach €6,000 (US$6,500) per tonne, efficiency is vital.
The company Atalaya Mining wanted to increase mining capacity from 9.5 million to 15 million tonnes per year. To achieve this, they turned to construction firm Sánchez y Lago and Topcon.
The construction firm opted to use Topcon’s MC-Max machine control and Sitelink3D technologies. MC Max systems were fitted to the seven excavators used on the project.
Juan Carlos Ramos del Viejo, sales manager at Topcon Positioning Spain, explained, “Operator fatigue is a serious problem on mining projects – if machine operators drop the ball at any point, the results can be disastrous. The 3D automatic mode on the MC-Max reduces the strain on operators, keeping them on track and at the level of performance that gets the job done and keeps everyone safe.”
GNSS positioning technology
While the MC-Max’s GPS and GNSS positioning technology ensured the different layers were levelled correctly, flexible mounting solutions helped operators load the extracted materials on the excavators quicker. The resulting flatter surfaces helped speed up extraction operations as entry and exit times became shorter.
The Sitelink3D web-based platform was used in combination with the MC-Max to allow real-time data synchronisation between all the site’s machines. This allowed teams to manage and update designs remotely, reducing the number of supervisors needed on site.
When things did change, operators in the cab were given a precise view of their new task, meaning instructions couldn’t be mis-communicated as they travelled down the chain of command.
“The system from Topcon has helped us maintain gradients in the best possible condition, which has resulted in savings in auxiliary machinery such as tyres and wheels. With this being an ongoing project with no definitive ending, it’s really useful that the products are flexible and can grow as our needs expand,” said Manuel Paredero González, production engineer at Sánchez y Lago.