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The Warsaw Voice » The Polish Science Voice » December 21, 2012
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Copper Giant Pioneers Mining Technology
December 21, 2012   
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Polish copper giant KGHM is developing new technology for extracting copper ore based on the mechanical excavation of rocks in mines—a first in the global mining industry.

The aim of the research and development project is to launch a system of extracting thin mine ore deposits as a technical and economic alternative to traditional mining methods.

A stage of work involving industrial research has already been completed, and work is now in progress to build and test individual components of the new system.

A pilot unit has been launched at the Polkowice-Sieroszowice mining plant, equipped with the necessary infrastructure, including electrical power supply and ventilation. Staff are being trained to maintain this equipment.

“From a technical point of view, the unit is ready for delivery, installation and commissioning,” said KGHM spokesman Dariusz Wyborski.

The new method involves the use of a supercombine in what is a pioneering project internationally. So far combines have only been used to mine soft rock such as coal and salt. The cost of one such system, comprising the combine and related facilities, runs into tens of millions of zlotys. If further trials are successful, KGHM says it will expand the project to cover more mines.

These days a growing number of jobs in mines are created at a depth of over 1,200 meters below the surface where the temperature of the rocks reaches 50 degrees Celsius. That is why it is important to use remote controlled systems to monitor the production process, thanks to which people operating mining machines do not put their life at risk. This makes it possible for workers to monitor the production process and control the machine from a workstation on the surface or a place where the working conditions do not pose any threat. At KGHM, remote-controlled systems for monitoring production from the surface are now standard: electricity transmission and distribution, conveyor belts, fans and pumping stations, and ventilation are all remote-controlled. The parameters of the work environment are monitored on a continuous basis. The company’s data transport and communications infrastructure includes about 150 km of fiber optics, thousands of kilometers of telecommunications lines, data concentrators and telephone exchanges.

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